If you were to meet me in person on a road or trail, a number of things would immediately occur to you:
- I am extremely good-looking, and above average in height (provided we define “average” as 5′6″). I believe I have made this clear in yesterday’s post, so will not belabor the point, but I thought it was worth bringing up so as to prepare you. Otherwise, you’re likely to stare.
- I am constantly surrounded by people. Many of these people are celebrities, some are press. A few are friends. And one is my faithful Sherpa. Every single one of these people adores me.
- I always know the right thing to say, and the right thing to do. It’s eerie, really, how well-suited I am for the cycling experience.
It’s this third item — knowing how to behave while on a bike, that I intend to address today. I recommend you read, memorize, print, laminate, and always carry this with you.
It is a sad fact of life that not everybody on a bike ride is going to go at the same speed. Someone’s going to have to wait up, and someone’s going to have to catch up.
- If you’re the person who is waiting up, it is your responsibility to not look like you have been waiting around for very long when the group arrives. They all know you’re faster than they are. Don’t rub it in. Please be aware that if you glance at your watch, ask questions like “Fixing a flat?” or are straddling your top tube, resting your forearms on your handlebars as people arrive, they have the legal right — nay, obligation — to punch you in the throat.
- If you’re last person to arrive, you need to understand that you owe nobody an explanation. If you feel you must give an explanation, it had better be interesting. You should know, by the way, that any explanation that sounds like an excuse is an excuse, and is automatically not interesting. So, if you’re last to arrive, simply say, “Thanks for waiting up,” immediately followed by a comment on what a great road / trail this is. In short, nobody minds a slow guy. Everybody minds a sad-sack, hang-dog whiner.
Oh yes, I should also say one last thing on this matter: I am assured it is impolite to turn around, ride back to the group, and then ride back with them. This message has been conveyed to me through the medium of a punch in the throat.
Sometimes bikes break, which is why I always have my full-time pro mechanic ride with me. You, on the other hand, probably do not have mechanic on staff, so must fix your own bike. How sad for you.
As you repair your bike, you should first offer to take care of the problem on your own. “Go on ahead, I’ll catch up when I can” is the proper phrasing. If your riding group has any ethics at all, they will decline. If they take you up on that offer, that’s either a statement about you or the group, and it’s not my job to figure out which. I can’t do everything for you. Sheesh.
As you work on your bike, you should be careful to accept offers of help, but only if the offers of help come from competent people. Which is to say, not everyone who says they know how to true a wheel has the same technique in mind. I.e., one person may get out a spoke wrench, the other may get out a very large rock.
As you repair your bike, stay focused. Don’t be chatty; it’s not the time. If you start talking up a storm, your co-riders are permitted to observe that you may want to spend more time fixing and less time talking.
On the other hand, anyone standing around while a mechanical issue is permitted and encouraged to offer observations and advice. This advice does not need to be practical, helpful, nor even relevant to the situation. I, for example, like to offer the following observation when others are fixing their bikes: “This wouldn’t have happened if you had been riding with a song in your heart.”
If the person repairing the bike complains that they in fact did have a song in their heart, I like to first offer the advice that it’s clearly time to choose a new song, and then observe that they might get done fixing the bike a lot sooner if they’d focus on fixing their bike and not on whether or not they had a song in their heart.
Occasionally, you will fall off your bike and get hurt. There’s no getting around that fact. So the question is, when you fall and sustain a compound fracture to your femur, will you scream like an idiot, or will you be prepared with a witty, self-deprecating phrase that will diffuse the tenseness of the situation?
Of course, you want to be able to say something funny and interesting when you’re injured, but the fact is it’s not easy to come up with clever witticisms when you’re writhing in agony.
The solution? Think of what you’ll say when injured ahead of time. For example:
- If you’re suffering waves of nausea due to blunt force trauma: “Hey, I think I’m going to barf. Can I borrow your helmet to catch it in?”
- If you’ve sustained a large puncture wound due to a large-diameter impaling object: “Cool, I’ve been core-sampled! Now I’ll always know how old I am!” [Note: Use this line only if your co-riders are intelligent enough to intuit the connection between the large hole in you and the fact that a tree's age can be determined by being core sampled and having its rings counted.]
- If you’ve sustained a concussion: “Darn! Now I can’t seem to remember where I’ve buried all the treasure!”
- If you’ve sustained a compound fracture: “Before you ask, yes, that’s my femur poking out of my shorts, although I am also happy to see you.”
This is just a sample. There are lots of other injuries you can and will sustain as a cyclist, and I can assure you there is a clever quip that can be made for every single one of them, if you’re willing to apply yourself.
Wear a clean jersey and shorts, for pity’s sake. And for my sake. I’m begging you.
Of course you have a great idea of where the group ought to ride today. But sometimes the group will want to ride somewhere else. When this happens, you should pout and make observations at every opportunity about how you’d all be having a better time if you had gone on the ride you had in mind. Example: “We wouldn’t be riding into this headwind if we were riding the Wasatch Boulevard loop.” Your friends will love you for that.
You should be aware, however, that your friends may choose to express their newfound love of you through the medium of avoiding you and never inviting you on another ride.
There are many kinds of love, after all.
When you ride with others, bear in mind this simple axiom:
“Every rider is allowed to give three pieces of unasked-for advice per lifetime.”
So make them count.
I, of course, am the obvious exception to that axiom.