Monday, February 3, 2014

Please Don't Agitate the Bikeist . . .

Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks, and, especially, to the Mayor of Seattle, who does not have to give up this super-cool custom-made "Rodriguez" bike in his obligatory bet with his Denver counterpart:

Love the custom detailing:

I actually had no rooting interest, but if I had to go with one team vs. the other, it would have been Peyton Manning's Broncos (he was such a good sport answering my inane questions in my last post).  So, if I'm a true red-blooded American male (and I am), I should be filled with unbridled rage at this moment.  Well, I'm not.  But, if I was, this would be a good time to list the biking faux pas that really get my goat.  So, in a state of mock-rage, here goes:

(1) The "Wanna Race?" Bikeist:  As my loyal readers are already aware, I'm a devoted bike commuter.  I take the ferry downtown every morning then take the Bayshore Bikeway "all the way around the Bay" every night.  I also do long rides every Saturday and at least one week-long trek every summer.  I am not a sprinter, racer, or wanna-be racer.  With all these miles, I tend to fall into a fairly steady, consistent cadence and pace.  It varies a bit for wind, grade, and how many burpeees I may have done that day, but tends to be pretty regular.  So, with all this time in the saddle, I often come upon riders who go at different paces.  Some (typically triathletes in full aero-position - more on them later) are faster and go right by me.  More power to them.  I am happy for their ability to cut through the air like needles.  More common, though, are the folks I inevitably overtake from behind on my rides.  The fact that I often see them in the distance and, eventually, overtake them would seem to indicate that I'm going at a consistently faster pace.  For some, though, this magically changes as soon as they sense my presence.  Their calf muscles tense as they try to lay harder into their pedals, and I can hear their breathing quicken as I overtake their back wheel.  This is especially annoying when I have easily caught them and they begin to pedal for dear life just as I'm passing.  Really, dude?  I'm not looking for a race.  I'm going at the exact same pace that allowed me to overtake you in the first place.  This is exactly what happened as I was approaching Swami's on Saturday.  I was actually feeling pretty good at mile 47 and had a good head of steam as I picked off rider after rider on my way into Encinitas (en route to Leucadia).  I actually overtook an aero-bar guy like he was standing still, but, just as I had a half a bike-length on him, he went into full anaerobic mode and pulled back ahead of me.  Fine.  Maybe I woke him from a day dream.  Not so.  He gained about twenty yards on me, resumed his previous pace, and did a slow U-turn to head back south as soon as he got to Swami's.  How tedious.  His precious triathlete psyche couldn't bear the indignity of being passed by The Bikeist, so he desperately broke out of his rhythm for a minute to be spared the indignity.  Gimme a break, dude.  I should have turned around and ridden the South-blowing breeze to decimate him, but the Regal Seagull awaited.  

(2) The "I Just Exhausted Every Fiber in My Body to Catch You, But Now I'm Going to Just Slow Down Right in Front of You" Bikeist:   This is a close cousin to #1 above - but even more annoying.  I can usually anticipate #1's, by holding off and gauging them a bit before attempting my pass (doubling my annoyance when they suddenly quicken their pace just as I make my move).  #2's, though, just come out of nowhere.  Their heavy breathing and wobbly line are hints that they have over-exerted themselves for the grand achievement of having caught me, but I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.  If they are faster than me, so be it -- they can do their pace while I do mine.  No shame in that - especially as I get a little older.  But no -- the dude is suddenly going 3-5 mph slower than the speed it took to pass me, and slower than the nice, steady pace I had been maintaining.  How annoying.  I'm now off my rhythm, and this dude thinks he's something -- as he catches his breath.  I could just casually pass them and return to my previous pace, but that is likely to result in a #1 situation the rest of the way up the Strand with him catching his breath and continually trying to re-take me.  So, I do the only sensible thing:  I blow him out of the water.  I pass him twice as fast as he passed me, and maintain that pace for at least a mile or two.  They never have two big surges in them, so this is the most effective way to be rid of them so I can return to my preferred pace.  Plus, it's somewhat satisfying.  I know - I know -- I said I didn't want to race, but sometimes I'm left with no choice . . .

(3) The "Silent Assassin" Bikeist:  Do they cut the vocal cords of all "serious" cyclists and triathletes?  I ask only because of how rare it is for these folks to show the courtesy of letting you know they're coming as they overtake you -and- perhaps, the gaggle of joggers, dog-walkers, beach cruisers, etc. you're getting ready to pass yourself.   Under normal, clear conditions on a bike path, I don't fault my spandex-clad, shaved-leg brethren for zipping on by in the left lane as I continue to plug along in the right.  No harm no foul, as I should have no reason to suddenly lurch into the on-coming lane.  However, the dudes who get in my blind spot as a group of cyclists is coming the other way and/or as I am preparing to pass a group in front of me (especially on the 101) need to communicate.  I know it must seem completely un-cool for a "real" cyclist to interrupt their serious training to call out "on your left" or a simple "passing" (I mean, come on - do you think Bradley Wiggins lowers himself to such niceties when he's prepping for Le Tour or the Olympics?).  But, I don't care.  Buying a racing "kit" (even if it does make you look like an alien of some sort) doesn't exempt you from basic human etiquette.  Let me know you're coming.  Maybe even do what I do in the same situation and let me pass the obstacle first with a "you're clear" or "you're good" rather than acting shocked that I've stolen your precious momentum when I announce my pass to the folks in front I'm concentrating on and begin to execute it.  The absolute worst, though, are the mute cyclists who try to plow through a line-up at an intersection.  So much going on at intersections - pedestrians, cars stopping, starting, and turning - some cyclists starting from a dead stop - some coming up from behind.  If you are lucky enough to hit the intersection with a full head of steam as everyone else is clicking back in - get out in the lane with the cars.  Don't try to squeeze past me and the car next to me as I'm just getting back into gear.  Worse yet, don't try to squeeze past me on my right -- leaving me with no leeway vis-a-vis the cars to my left.  Be patient. Let's all clear the intersection together and then let pedaling Darwinism sort itself out as we regain room to maneuver. 

Wow -- I can do this all day (and, pretty much have)!  I can feel all that negative mock Super Bowl rage surging out of me as I vent about my favorite poseurs.  Need to save something to vent about on future posts, though, so I'll add just one more for now ---

(4) The (Dreaded) Headphoned Bikeist:  This may be controversial for those of you who just can't seem to enjoy and appreciate getting out into your natural environment without a thumping beat rattling your brain.  Now, don't get me wrong -- I love music and cherish it for getting me through many a treadmill or spin workout.  However, there is a time and place for everything and hugging a narrow shoulder or navigating busy traffic on a bike is no place to take away one of your key senses.  Face it - as much as we like riding bikes, it is an inherently dangerous activity.  I have way too many friends who are expert riders who have broken bones (and worse) through unfortunate encounters with our four wheeled friends.  When you are riding, your attention is focused forward.  Quick glances backward are simply no substitute for your good old ears when it comes to detecting and tracking threats coming from your "six."  One of the aspects I love most about cycling is that it engages all my senses at once while testing my body's strength, speed, balance, and resilience.  When I'm in a good rhythm, all of these functions work thoughtlessly in unison.  Taking any of them away, though is a recipe for disaster.  Even if it's just so you can hear me calling out my pass to you on the bike-path, please take out those headphones and save them for your post-ride recovery.  We need to work together out there fellow bikeists to keep those driveists from turning us into piles of carbon-fibred, spandexed road-kill.

Editor's Note:  Female bikeists out there may have noted that I have only referred to the above tools in the masculine.  That was intentional.  For some reason, the women I encounter on the road just don't seem to exhibit these selfish, over-bearing behaviors.  Sure, I have encountered plenty of clueless women (as well as men, of course) clogging the path on beach cruisers and such, but that's much different from the self-serious folks I have tried to capture above.  The women I see out biking for exercise/fitness/competition/etc., almost universally seem to bring their good manners with them for the ride.  If only we all could do the same . . .

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