Want to be "accidentally" left off the email list the next time a ride is organized? Of course you do! Here’s how you can ensure that—no matter your riding skill—other cyclists avoid you like the plague:
- Pull "The Elden Move."
OK, let’s get this one out of the way first, since it’s apparently been named after me (in some circles). For some reason—which I cannot fathom—some riders don’t like to have the first guy to the top of the climb turn around, come down to where they’re climbing, and climb up with them. Well, humph. To those people, I defend myself by saying that I’m not doing this to show that I’m a superior climber, I’m doing it because I just don’t like hanging around forever and ever at the top of the climb, and figure I’d rather come back down part way and keep riding, even if it is at your snail-like pace. Oh, wait. Now I think I see your point.
. Some people don’t have the knack of riding at the speed of the group. They drop back a little—maybe fifteen feet—and then surge forward to catch up. If you are the person who is lucky enough to be behind the surge-and-fade rider, you know that it completely kills any drafting effect you get from riding in a paceline. The best thing you can hope for is an opportunity to switch the riding order up. I have ridden behind a surge-and-fader for more than an hour once. It was the most draining hour of my life.
: If you’ve been riding for a while—or perhaps you’ve read a bunch of cycling magazines and books—you no doubt have valuable advice to offer those you’re riding with. And no doubt they’ll want to hear it. All of it. To the exclusion of any other possible conversation. I remember vividly when I was new to mountain biking, there was a particular person who gave me tip after tip after tip on riding, every time we rode together. Finally, I shouted, "No more tips!" Here’s a tip for those who love to give tips: No more than three tips per ride no matter what, and a maximum average of two per ride.
Almost all serious cyclists—road or mountain—have a certain amount of gear geek in them. But some people want to debate the virtues of Shimano v. Campy, or Ti v. carbon, or tube v. clincher endlessly. This is not just annoying, it’s dangerous: This kind of talk can hypnotize other riders, causing terrible accidents. Here’s a good rule of thumb, then, to help you recognize whether your chatter about gear is boring: If you’re chattering about gear, it’s boring.
This one probably applies mostly to riding groups of middle-aged people with jobs, kids, and lots of responsibilities: If you’re late to every group ride, it’s not funny or endearing. It’s indicative that you need some time management training, or that you’re living in Quad 4 or something like that.
Same thing applies in reverse: if you’re riding with a group of people who have jobs, kids and responsibilities, you’ve got to accept that everyone has 3-minute emergencies from time to time, and you’re just ruining the ride for yourself and others if you get in a twist about it.
If I’m bonked, or I think the weather’s bad, or I don’t like the ride, I expect everyone else to have the same reasonable outlook I have: that everything in the world sucks. If I’m not having fun, there’s no fun to be had. If we can agree on that, we can all get along.
: If I’m having a great time—feeling strong, enjoying the weather, liking the course—then clearly everyone else must be having a good time. Please don’t pretend like you’re tired or hot or hungry or bonked.
I know people who only rarely ride with the group, because Chris Carmichael has given them explicit instructions on how and when they ought to ride, and those instructions don’t make provisions for actually enjoying yourself. After a while, you stop inviting those guys, because what’s the point? By the way, I have noticed, in race situations, that I pass guys in CTS jerseys much more frequently than I am passed by those guys. I’m just saying.
If you’re not feeling well or you’ve had an injury, it’s OK to mention this before the ride. Once. You do not get to repeat it for the benefit of those who didn’t hear the first time, and you do not get to elaborate for those who did not really understand just how bad your case of consumption really is. Everyone has a bad riding day sometimes. We understand that. Let’s move on.
If you’ve chosen to ride a singlespeed mountain bike or fixed-gear road bike, that’s super. However, you do not get to point it out, and you do not get to use it as an excuse for doing badly on any part of the road. If someone points it out, you may acknowledge it and—if so prompted—even elaborate. But you do not get to call out your absence of derailleurs any more than someone gets to call out that they do have derailleurs. You’ve made your choice; don’t treat it like it was forced upon you.
I’m guilty of this one, big time. If I’m slower than the people around me, I apologize over and over for slowing them down. I have been told to shut up. To those to whom I have apologized too often for not being able to keep up, I apologize.
Remember that time you rode up that impossibly steep pitch in the "Toilet Bowl" move at Gooseberry Mesa, and nobody else was able to clean it? Well, the rest of us don’t, and yet we press on.