Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lingo lesson for the masses: Squirrel...

Squirrel (n) this term is used to refer to an individual in the peloton who rides in an unpredictable manner, possibly as a result of nervousness or inexperience. Riders new to the peloton and unfamiliar with riding in close proximity, and perhaps unsure of their own bike handling skills, may most often be categorized as squirrels. However, a squirrel is not unique to the class of newer, less experienced riders. Long-time riders in the professional peloton can, time to time, suffer from a case of ragged nerves. The first week of a major tour, such as the Tour de France, is often riddled with crashes as anxious racers adjust and settle in. Even the early miles of single day races may serve as an adjustment period. 

If the term squirrel refers to an individual rider, then squirrely (adj) refers to the act of riding in an unpredictable manner. "Watch that Wagner guy, he's riding really squirrely today" or "man, things were really squirrely out there today" are a couple examples of how to use the term. If someone should call you a squirrel, don't take it too personally, it is something that most people experience at some point, and it will most likely pass within a short period of time as you gain more experience and familiarity with the workings of the peloton, and as your own handling skills improve.

Why squirrel? I suspect it has to do with the apparent nervous nature of the little creatures. Their constant running around, and sudden changes of direction. Additionally, anyone who rides for any length of time will eventually acquire a squirrel story such as the time a squirrel ran out into the road, got itself in a wheel of a rider out front, and was flung up into the air, and over the head of a rider behind. Nothing else would provide quite as apt a description.

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