“Fred” is a derisive term used by cyclists to describe other cyclists, usually male, that appear amateurish and oblivious to cycling culture.
The exact qualities that define one as a “Fred” vary widely among regions and cyclists, but recently, particularly in the US, a Fred is somebody with higher quality and more expensive gear than his or her talent would warrant. For example:
- A person watches the highlights of a few Tour de France stages, goes to a bike store and buys a Trek carbon fiber Madone in Team Discovery colors, along with Team Discovery shorts and jersey, and then rides it on a cycling path at 15 mph (25 km/h).
Such a person would be a prototypical Fred, especially if the jersey is yellow, which is typically worn by the leader in a multi-stage race.
In the UK the earlier usage is more common—used by ‘serious’ roadies to refer to (often) bearded, sandal wearing, touring cyclists. The rare female Fred is a Doris.
This usage still survives in the US – David Bernstein, presenter of The FredCast says the term is “used by ‘serious’ roadies to disparage utility cyclists and touring riders, especially after these totally unfashionable ‘freds’ drop the ‘serious’ roadies on hills because the ‘serious’ guys were really posers.” Mostly, though, a Fred dreams of being able to drop a real cyclist because their equipment is nicer.
In the US the term is also used to describe the many bicycle riders who enter fun “tours” or “rallies” but tell everyone that they were in a “race” with actual knowledge that what they were in was not a true race. Bicycle racing is governed in the United States by USA Cycling.
Is a Fred just a poseur?
A Fred is generally too naive to be considered a poseur. A Fred is largely unaware of his or her status as an object of ridicule, and likely unaware of the Fred moniker. While it is common for cyclists to claim varying degrees of “Fredness”, such self-derision indicates a higher degree of cycling cultural-awareness and would indicate that the commenter is, in fact, unlikely to be a Fred.
The roots of the term “Fred” are unclear, though it purportedly originated from a grumpy old touring rider named Fred. A southern California bicycle store printed and sold “No Freds” t-shirts in the early-to-mid 1980s to local racing cyclists. This t-shirt depicted a hairy-legged, bearded cyclist (with bug-splatted teeth) wearing sunglasses and a Bell “Biker” hard-shell helmet (with rear-view mirror attached). At the time, very few racing cyclists wore sunglasses due to their (then) lack of functionality, and virtually none wore hard-shell helmets until they became mandatory in 1986. Few racing cyclists wore helmets outside of racing events until advances in technology allowed lighter, better ventilated helmets to exist in the market.
There maybe some relationship to the fact that amateurish surfers had often been referred to as “Barneys” by their more advanced surfing peers, and “Fred” may have been created to compliment this fact. Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, characters from the animated series “The Flintsones” often found themselves engaging (amateurishly) in numerous sports during the series run.