Monday, March 16, 2009


According to A.Word.A.Day by Anu Garg, the word "Subintelligitur" means "something that is not stated, but understood".

I confess that I had never heard the word "subintelligitur" and, frankly, I may never actually hear the word. I suspect that neither Phil or Paul will say it and if Bob Roll says it he will mangle it in a way that I won't recognize it. If it pops up on the Daily Show or The Soup, it will surprise me.

The point, however, is that it is a word that nicely sums up much about riding and racing a bicycle. Or at least it used to. In the "old" days, which means here at least 5 years ago and probably more like 10 years ago, if you wanted to ride a road bike and be taken seriously by the serious biking crowd, there wasn't a good way to know what you were supposed to do. It was much easier to tell what you weren't supposed to do. You weren't supposed to do anything that you were doing.

If you were out on the road and came across a group riding together, they would feel free to let you know, through various sneers, grunts and silence, not to mention occasional gesticulation, that you didn't measure up to their subintelligitur standard. You may not have had the right clothes or the right bike. And, even if you had these things, you still may not have understood how to properly wear the clothes and ride the bike. There seemed to be a dividing line that you were not welcome to cross.

One of the clear dividing lines between road riders and mountain bike riders was that all road riders were assumed to be snobs and all dirt riders were assumed to be friendly. To this day I have roadie friends who are convinced that all mountain bikers are hippies with multiple tattoos. It doesn't matter how often I tell them you can be a hippie OR be tattooed, and that you don't HAVE to be both, but they keep their roadie blinders on.

All of this reminds me of a class I took in college: deviant psychology. It was not just about the fun side of deviance, much to my chagrin, but it also included discussion of deviant subgroups and populations. It turns out that sociologists have studied closely how deviant cultures work, how you gain admittance and how they reinforce their standards. Mostly, this standard is subintelligitur, or unstated. The power of the group to self-regulate comes from the subintelligitur standard. If there were a guidebook, then we would all be able to become members of the group, or, importantly, be able to pose as members of the group. As an example, after Trainspotting, we all had a better idea of how to become heroin addicts. It took the mystery out of it, so we all felt free to pronounce the word "shight" and mainline a bit of brown sugar if we felt like it. I'm sure it was a disappointment to those genuine trailblazers of the heroin movement who didn't want every Tom, Dick and Ewan pretending to be doing smack.

And here is where we get back to cycling. I'm not saying, by the way that we are all deviants, but we are being examined. There are approximately 6 billion words every day being put up on cycling blogs (It is mindboggling to think of all the words being blogged when you add in the scrap-bookers, quilting guilds and Ann Coulter). And of these 6,000,000,000 words, many of them are examining, discussing and even deconstructing our subintelligitur. If one were to take, for example, multiple useful work hours out of each day and apply them to studying this world of words, it would be possible to put together a guide to how we cyclists act, how we train and ride, how we race, how we shave our legs and how we talk smack rather than doing smack. Maybe we should rename our blog "The Subintelligitur" and be that cycling guidebook.

While we ponder that though, thanks Anu Garg, for teaching me a new word that isn't Latin and helps me describe cycling.
Rider 3

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