Well for the first time in a few months I'm airborne as a result of planned travel rather than a rolled cyclocross tyre or n ill advised attempt to "shred the gnar" on my road bike. I haven't blogged for a long time, I've been riding lots, racing a little, teaching a lot, desperately chasing money for another year of non profit work and wasting lots of time Googling potential facial hair configurations. Oh and I seem to have become deeply involved with a PhD thesis. I've also being writing about bikes elsewhere (. http://t.co/bpdKer9Hk4 ).That's part of why I haven't written anything, another part is that, in all honesty I'm growing increasingly frustrated with cyclists, not cycling, just cyclists. I love riding my bike and I don't think I ever won't but the people I love riding my bike with seem to represent but a small sliver of those who don spandex and go out to do battle on the asphalt, trails and (all to often) pavements (that's sidewalks for those of you ho only speak American).
Let me expkain my quandary, I know lots of cyclists who are fast, my issue isn't one of elitism, in fact it's the opposite. So many of the guys who are fast, not really fast mind but quite fast, are also so wrapped up in their diets, power meters and intervals that they seem to suck the joy out of what is, for ll of us, a distraction from real life. When I'm riding my bike, I'm happy, I like to talk, to laugh, to have fun n to have coffee. Sometimes I like to smash myself but not to win a bike race on the internet, or a sprint to a town sign, or even to win some much coveted UCI points. I like to ride hard because nothing makes me happier than how I know i'll feel after I've totally exhausted myself. It's all internal, it's about me, how I feel and why I enjoy. Increasingly I'm eeing guys out on rides who seem to be there to project some image of themselves which is neither factual nor particularly attractive.
This all rather came to a head last week in a couple of incidents. A group of my friends from Canada were in town for a week and I met them for the weekly Wednesday world champs (if you don't stalk me on strata you won't have seen my "Wednesday focused" training regime) . it's a fast ride and for the most part safe. There are a couple of very narrow gates and tunnels where, if so inclined, one can punch out a big effort from the front and make it very, very hard to get back on if you're at the back. Approaching one such section this week I took my north of the border buddies up to the front to avoid giving a bad impression. Sadly the zoo behind us proceeded to churn like piranhas around a pepperoni as I slowed down to negotiate the gate safely. One ting led to another and someone fell off their bicycle. After clearing the danger zone I stopped, next to me Janelle Holcombe of "better a bikes than all the boys" fame also stopped. Meanwhile roughly 100 middle aged men on expensive bicycles charged forth like the Mongol hordes ignoring their fallen brethren (or perhaps relishing the infinitesimal improvement in their non existent chances of winning THE sprint). Having assessed that everyone was OK we proceeded to ride back on, at a not unrepeatable 49kph average. Unsurprisingly we passed several of the riders who had neither the compassion to stop nor the capacity to sit on a wheel in the group.
On the return leg of the group ride, rather than slowing down for the sandy latch where the crash had occurred, the same weekday warriors launched (what I imagine they perceived to be) ferocious 300w efforts in order to emerge in front of the carnage of their own creation. Just as I had with the initial crash I held my tongue, I am happy to sit up and let the group ride off when they run red lights or act dangerously, I'm confident that I can catch them, I'm confident I don't want to. Following our miraculous survival of the tunnel of terror and fatigued from their soul crushing efforts, theusualsuspects returned to the safety of the group where one can happily turn ones compact chaining and, provided that One's helmet, wheels and frame are all sufficiently "aero" (see overpriced), remain undropped. Once we reach a hilly section these upgraded components count a little less and sadly the upgraded cake buying potential of many of the riders is fr from beneficial. But fern not, they are experts in the use of the wrong side of the road and the gutter in order to toke their mediocrity to the very front of the group (or to very near the front, lest they trigger their wind allergies) from where they cn leave cavernous gaps but rest assured tht the draft of the rest of us coming round them will be sufficient to grovel back to glorious retelling of their heroics to their long suffering families.
Witnessing one suchexploit, and enraged at the individual in question's lack of concern for the wellbeing of others or the reputation of cyclists in general I may have asked, nicely, if the gentleman would mind not splitting two wheels. His response "no, I like it here" didn't help and I asked him if his preferred location was in between two riders or off the back as the latter was where he seemed to spend mist of hus time but he neverlooked very happy in eithersetting. He responded by dribbling on his top tube a little bit and waving his bike wildly from side to side, seemingly he engaged the 11th gear on his super record groupset, the one labeled reverse. I sat behind him for a while, asking if he liked it more 5 yards off the wheel, after a while his failure to respond and now quite unnerving trail of dribble led me to seek conversation on the other side of the 100 yard gap he had created and so off I pedaled.
After the ride was over I turned around to check on my friends who had been dropped, doubtless still feeling the crash as they're strong riders. On encountering our protagonist I asked him if he was any clearer on his preferred position in the group having tried "in the way" and "off the back". At which point he proceeded to try to engage me in pugilist combat. Given that he lackedin the ability to pedal, steer or even enjoy his bicycle he was pretty easy to avoid but he continued to shout at me. I tried o explain that I didn't wan to hurt him, but that I would be very happy if he would kindly dope running red lights, chopping wheels, pushing people out of his way nd riding on the wrong side of he road. He responded that these were his choices and should I wish to "settle I" i should get off my bicycle. I pointed out hat this would settle nothing and hat he would sill be back next week and sill be dangerous. We all look bad when he makes these choices on our behalf and as a result we all have a right to ask him to reconsider. If he refuses to play by the rules of the game, we have a right not to let him ply with us any more.
I'm sure this gentleman is not the only one of his ilk, I see them every time I ride, people who have forgottenthat riding a bike is about having fun, and should be safe and enjoyable. Anything we can do to increase the safety and enjoyment of the sport, we should. If we continue to ride like hooligans anddisregard other cyclists and road user's wellbeing we cannot expect anyone to respects or our sport. If we really believe it's worth hurting someone, either by hitting them or by riding in such a way as to endanger them or by leaving them by the roadside then we really, really need to look at our priorities.
At the end of the day were all just weirdos in our underwear, nothing we do on our bikes is really of great importance. With the exception of what we do with non profit and cycling for health our riding and racing is really only important to us. We cycle for fun (even though may of us seem to find it herd to have fun whilst cycling).
Oh well, I'm off to DC to remind myself that, whilst middle aged people might want nothing more than group ride glory there are still young people who wntto change the world and make it better for others.