The Columbia University Cycling Team, made up of a dedicated medley of graduate and undergraduate students with varying degrees of experience from former track stars to roller bladers, can agree on a few fundamental principles: Lance Armstrong is an ass, shaved legs are both a practical and aesthetic must, and unitards are sexy. On March 9th, the team’s first and only home event will lap around Grant’s Tomb to Claremont, for interested spectators of spandex.
The Cycling Team is living proof that people can still bike around New York City, although crashes into stopped cab doors and facial road rash appear to be common occurrences. When asked how to maneuver a bicycle around New York City without dying, Steven Bennett, secretary of the team plainly states “I almost died,” and Joseph Lee, president of the team, admits that the first time he rode with Steven, “he nearly saw me wiped from the earth”. The general consensus is that any cyclist, even if they’re clocking in anywhere from 100 to 300 miles per week as the team’s members do, should avoid cars, be familiar with all the bike routes, and practice laps in Central Park.
Several alumni have gone “semi-pro,” which is this case means that they race with professionals while working “day jobs.” To members of Columbia Cycling, this is an especially impressive feat considering that on top of the intensity and dedication required of the sport, many are graduates of Columbia’s Medical and Engineering schools. In addition to cycling for sport, the team members do also use their bikes for transportation. Cycling is quicker and cheaper than riding the subway—the interviewed members can confidently beat the local one train—and cyclists are unusually affectionate toward their bikes, happily sharing precious bedroom space with them.
To average 20 to 25 miles per hour and top out at up to 55 miles per hour downhill, the sport requires inhuman thigh strength and 6,000 calorie per day diets. Joseph complains that he “hasn’t been full since August,” and when he gets “busted for carrying eight bananas out of John Jay,” he has to explain “yes, I am actually going to eat them all”. Team bonding outside of racing usually occurs over potluck dinners, although most admit to eating full meals before and after. For grueling race days and practices consisting of laps and state-line sprints—considered “standard” drills—“[Thigh] size isn’t everything,” but shaving is essentially a requirement. In addition to being an issue of cleanliness and safety, it’s a sign of dedication that conveniently accentuates the muscular definition of which all of the team members are very proud. As for the spandex, the team members proudly announce “we love the spandex and the spandex loves us.” In a few weeks, as they race schools from the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference at Columbia, you can go see for yourself if their spandex adage holds true.