Some people consider bicycle riding to be a pastime. I don’t.
I do, however, have various things that I do which I would consider a pastime. A lot of these things I do while riding my bicycle. I’m going to share one of them with you. . .
Music listening and thinking about why my cadence is so fucked up aside, one of my favorite pastimes while on a bike ride is Jogger Watching. Not to be confused with Bird Watching or T.V. Watching, Jogger Watching is a pastime that never fails to provide me with a healthy dose of giggles and smiles.
“Jogger Watching? What in the heck is that?” you might ask. . .
Well it’s pretty much what you think. While out on a bicycle ride, you watch for and take note of the different types of joggers and runners that exist here in North America (while I’ve never been Jogger Watching outside of North America, I am fairly certain that there are completely different species altogether in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere). Though this may sound like a simplistic and rather boring pastime, I would argue that it takes a great deal of practice and patience, but the reward is well worth the effort.
Allow me to offer the beginning Jogger Watcher a few tips.
Note: The wisdom that I am about to impart upon you pertains solely to the Bicycle Riding method of Jogger Watching. For information on the Automobile Method, Walking Method, Tree House Method, Picnicking Method, Pretending-to-Nap-but-Really-Watching Method, Watching from your Own Home Method, and Watching from Behind Tinted Sunglasses Method, please look elsewhere.
Location, location, location.
One, if not the most important piece in your success as a Jogger Watcher comes in where you choose to do your watching. Too many beginning Watchers (as we call ourselves) make the mistake of going to the nearest school or public track. This is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! Do you go to a zoo to experience bird watching? No. Do you go to a museum to experience indigenous people and their cultures? No. Do you go to a university to experience life? No. These places cater to a very specific group of people: those who are unwilling to go out and get their hands dirty. To be a successful Watcher, one must venture out to the jogger’s natural environment to truly experience these unique creatures in their element. Where you venture, though, will be determined by the specific type of jogger that you are hoping to see. Later on I will discuss a few of the different types of joggers and provide recommendations for where to experience them.
It’s not about the bike.
Some Watchers will try to tell you that having the right equipment will enable you to be more successful in your endeavors. Those people are lying to you. Having the latest and greatest bicycle and gear will NOT help you be a better Watcher, infact it can do the opposite. That new, high-tech, uber-lightweight carbon road rocket that you purchased for way too much money will only make you faster, thus making your job of observing the jogger that you are flying by all the more difficult. Similarly, by purchasing one of those All Mountain bicycles with 5+ inches of front and rear suspension, gravity dropper seatpost, disc brakes, fancy names, and a Garmin GPS computer will only motivate you to go on bicycle rides in way the heck out of the way places such as the Alps. Or the moon. Or something. Allow me to let you in a little secret. . . there aren’t any joggers in the Alps. Or on the moon. Or wherever an All-Mountain bike is designed to take you. At best you might cross paths with a rare Trail Runner on some foot-traffic-only trail, such as the Pacific Crest Trail. Also, you run the risk of running into the in denial-Luddite (more commonly known as an equestrian) and trust me. . . you don’t want to run into one of them on a trail (especially one “designed” for foot traffic only). They’ll give you an earful about how harmful your mountain bike is to the environment, as their vehicle is taking a shit on the trail and their diesel-powered contraption to transport said vehicle sits at the trailhead, waiting to contribute to it’s owners carbon footprint. No my friend, Watching is best left to the urban jungle and a more simple bicycle.
Time, time, time, is on your side. Yes it is, yes it is.
Worry not, dear Watcher in the making, for you can go Watching at almost any time of the day (or night!). Luckily for you, joggers (as a species) do not come out only at certain times. You will have as much luck Watching on the beach in California in December, as you would in a mall in North Dakota in February (though I do not condone riding your bicycle in a mall), as you would Central Park in July. All that you have to do is get out there and start Watching.
The risks of Jogger Watching.
There are not many things in this world that don’t come with some sort of risk. Blinking might be one of them. So might reading (though you could strain yourself and get a headache if you read too hard for too long). Watching is no exception. The main danger that Watching presents to cyclists is the danger of distraction. Novice Watchers (using the Bicycle Method) are the leading cause of biker/runner, biker/biker, biker/automobile, biker/curb, and biker/parked car collisions in North America. While some radically minded Luddites consider texting while Watching to be the main cause of said collisions, studies have shown that more people crash while Twittering than texting. The only reason why said radical Luddites do not oppose Tweeting while Watching, like they do texting is because they do not know what it means to Tweet. At any rate, here are some things you can do to ensure that you are as safe as possible while Watching from your bicycle.
Wear a helmet. Any sort of helmet will do (in theory), but a bicycle helmet with a good retention system that is rated to some sort of safety standard (the European ones are less strict than the North American ones) will do you more good than a hockey helmet or a fighter jet helmet. Bonus style points if you choose the fighter jet one, though.
Maintain your bicycle. This means keeping the tires aired up and the chain well oiled. A quiet chain allows you to Watch more effectively since you will not be scaring the joggers off with the squeaking and crunching of a rusty, loud chain.
Refrain from listening to music or using mobile devices while Watching. Although many enthusiast-level Watchers enjoy Watching to a soundtrack (80′s rock and monster ballads seem to be the most popular, although there is a growing segment that prefers John Mayer), limiting all possible distractions will help you focus on your riding and your Watching. Leave the multi-tasking while Watching to the more experienced.
Always let someone know where you are going and for how long. This is pretty self explanatory.
The most common types of North American Joggers.
Feel free to use this as a reference.
The North American Trophy Wife Jogger
Indigenous to more affluent and white-upper middle class neighborhoods, this jogger is a common sight and easy to identify. Usually seen during the day, while it’s mate is at work, the North American Trophy Wife Jogger is marked by brand-new looking running shoes, name brand running wear (although Yoga clothes are becoming more and more common), and a large metal band around the fourth finger on the left hand, usually containing a bright, shiny rock of some sort. This jogger can have any sort of gait, although a pace slightly above a jog is most common. Usually spotted within one or two miles of a Starbucks location or a Lulu Lemon shop. Also, many Watchers report seeing the North American Trophy Wife Jogger stretching or “resting” more often than actually jogging.
The North American Attention-Whore Runner
Typically male, this variety is known for it’s slow gait (it’s easier to look at a slow attention-whore than a fast one) and it’s lack of clothing. Similar to the peacock, this variety of runner is more “show” than “go”. Usually seen in areas where large numbers of people go to “recreate”, such as public parks or multi-use paths, the North American Attention-Whore has an unusual running behavior. While most joggers follow a loop of some sort, this type of runner favors running back and fourth on the same path (usually infront of a group of the opposite sex). The biggest identifying feature of this runner is the movement of it’s head, as it will continuously scan side to side to take note of who is watching.
The I-Hate-Running-But-I-Do-It-Anyway Runner
This variety of runner does not belong to any specific group and can be tough to spot, as it is typically confused with the North American I-Look-Constipated-When-I-Run jogger. Found all over North America, you can spot this runner at any time of the day, although it will usually be within 3 miles of it’s dwelling. Identifying features include a sour look on it’s face and hands that are tightly clenched.
The North American I-Actually-Enjoy-Running Runner
One of the most beautiful and striking runners of North America, the I-Actually-Enjoy-Running runner is easy to spot and a sight to behold. Characterized by it’s fast gait and steady, even breathing, this variety of runner is the only one that will actually pass you on your bike. Generally robed in practical, generic running clothing, the real beauty of this runner is it’s physique. Well-turned calf muscles, hamstrings that actually resemble the first three letters of their name, and trim bellies combine to create a real treat for the eye. The I-Actually-Enjoy-Running runner can be found almost anywhere in North America, and after the popularity of barefoot running and books such as Born to Run, this variety is making a comeback.
The Triathlete in Training Runner
Generally found in warmer climates, where it can run, bike AND swim, this variety is most easily identified by it’s clothing. Fond of wearing apparel from past triathlons while training, it is easy to confuse with the similar I-Did-A-Marathon-And-Want-The-World-To-Know runner (a close relative to the I-Did-A-Century-Can-You-Tell-By-This-Jersey cyclist). At times known to wear spandex like triathlon garb, this runner will always have on a hat (light in color and breathable) and sunglasses (generally of the Rudy Project make). An in-the-know tip for spotting this odd runner is to look for a small tattoo of boxy looking “M” with a circle on top. Apparently this is the universal advertisement that the runner has completed an Ironman Triathlon and is usually found on the ankle, shoulder, or small of the neck. Occasionally it can be seen on the top of the head.
Those are a few of the most common types of runners that you will find in North America. Although I could spend time mentioning runners such as the I’m-Trying-To-Run-But-I’m-Only-Jogging, the North American Feet-Flare-Out-At-Odd-Angle, the Power-Walking-Counts-As-Jogging-Too, and the poor, misguided Running-On-A-Treadmill-Is-Just-As-Hard runner, I honestly believe that half the fun of Jogger Watching is finding different varieties for yourself. Good luck!