How to fit in at Tulsa Tough

© Daniel Jeffries. All Rights Reserved

Don’t be alarmed by the pack of sinewy men in Spandex catching brunch at BBD or downward dogging in the Yoga Room this week. Starting Friday, cyclists from across the country are congregating in the 918 for Tulsa Tough, an annual cycling festival sponsored by Saint Francis that features three intense races, a few leisurely tours, some sweet live music, and hopefully for observers, a corn dog stand or two.

“Athletic” probably isn’t a word someone would list if they were describing me in a finite way, but you all should know that I’m absolutely stoked for this event. Any excuse to pitch a tailgate tent and sip on cold ones before 5:00 has me sold.  Okay, so this festival is supposed to focus on “healthy living,” but designations such as this has never stopped me before. Factor in the slight potential to witness a bowling ball-esque collision, and the premise is even more exciting! I know it’s hard to get excited about any other sports event during the NBA playoffs, but the race up Crybaby Hill Sunday afternoon is going to be awesome.

Events like these are known to round-up a motley crew of participants and visitors that you might not feel totally confident to interact with. Don’t worry Ogle-ites, I’ve gotcha covered. I’ve rounded up a few key pointers on how to a) appear as though you know a thing or two about cycling even if you don’t, b) fit in with the fit and crunchy crowd, even if you’ve been known to drive your Tahoe to your own mailbox, and both of these will ultimately c) maximize your chances of having a killer water cooler story at work next week. I mean, how much longer can people really talk about bath salts?

1. Know the audience. This particular crowd of cyclists are a little different than say, the kind of people who ride their bike to Shades of Brown, fashion their pants into capris, are teeters back home with their free-trade Americanos in one hand. The type of cyclists you’ll meet at Tulsa Tough are a little more jovial and a lot more hardcore than the Whole Foods crowd you might be thinking of. Talking about quinoa, kale salads, or last weekend’s Bon Iver concert won’t really impress these folks. When you bike twenty miles in a single day on a regular basis, subjects like “Chipotle burritos,” “peanut butter milkshakes,” and “Tiger Balm” become popular topics.

2. Look the part. Don’t worry if you don’t own one of those brightly colored Spandex onesies. In fact, wearing one of those when it’s obvious that you never have before is the perfect way to be immediately alienated by fellow festival-goers. Chacos, tank tops, neon accessories, and shades with croakies attaches should be safe bets. Don’t be the dude in the fedora and a capital V-neck– that’s wrong kind of bike enthusiast. Think Oakleys, not Ray-Bans. Gatorade, not Vitacoco.

3. Memorize a few ancillary cycling terms. Shout “Chapeau!” when a straggler finally makes it up Crybaby Hill, or if someone racing manages to maintain their composure like the ridiculously photogenic runner guy. If you hear about MAMILs, they’re talking about middle-aged men in lyrca–largely the subculture you’ll be dealing with. “Bunny hops” don’t refer to a form of line dance. If someone is “on the rivet,” they are going maximum speed, and the flamme rouge is the red flag alerting racers that the end is near. Try using one of these terms in a sentence while waiting for your turn at the Port-O-Potties.

4. Collect some swag. I’m talking chafing ointments, Gatorade powder, sport beans, bananas, and more! Runner’s expos are pretty great, but I imagine a biking festival should have even more free goodies. Fair warning though–those little packets of “sports energy gel” might look cute, but the consistency is similar to a substance that…never mind, I won’t go there. Fill up on bite-sized chunks of Cliff bars, strange smoothie concoctions, and take advantage of whatever deal Lee’s is offering. You might not know a thing about cycling, but having bike gear strategically placed in your home is sort of like how I have Jack Kerouac books on my shelf–a great conversation piece. Right?

5. Keep the Lance Armstrong uniball jokes to a minimum. Come on, you’re better than that.

Follow Chelsea on Twitter at @xCawoodstock