Cyclist are a misunderstood breed. More often than not, the misunderstanding stems from ignorance. Ignorance is such an ugly word, and in this regard, I'm merely referring to the general populace's lack of knowledge about the sport. This lack of knowledge manifests itself in many ways, whether it be a shout from a passing car to "ride on the sidewalk!" an odd look from a co-worker when you head out in your spandex for a lunch-time workout, or a family member commenting that "you look a little gaunt", these are all par for the course.
There's one kernel of cycling knowledge that if conveyed to the masses, would help clear up the misunderstandings and improve cyclist/non-cyclist relations everywhere. That nugget of insight? To truly know how difficult this sport really is. I would want them to experience the suffering and sacrifices that we go through just to be pack fodder in our local race series. They should know what it feels like to physically go above anything you thought you were capable of, just to secure a top ten spot in a cyclocross race. I would like them to know that fifth place is pretty damn good and doesn't even come close to reflecting the time and effort or the sacrifices made for said achievement.
If they could only walk a kilometer or two in our Sidis...
And, as if the physical challenges weren't enough, cycling exists in the U.S. (and, especially here in Michigan) as a fringe sport. If I were playing for a local (American style) football team and needed some additional time to train for the "Big Game", hell, my boss would be tripping over himself to give me the day off. But, since it's cycling, I have to sneak out the back door to ride on my lunch hour to meet my weekly training goal. This may go beyond misunderstanding and into the realm of cycling being an accepted form of sport here in the U.S., but if people understood the sport, that next step of acceptance isn't that far off.