The Runner and I were in Park City last weekend. Mostly, our objective was to give the kids a fun last weekend before school, as well as to broil my frontside.
Thanks, however, to the happy coincidence that all of our kids are late sleepers and The Runner and I are early risers, there was a beautiful little window in the morning where we were able to (on morning one) go for a nice three-hour mountain bike ride or (on morning two) on a ten mile trail run.
On each of these outings, we came across lots of other people — cyclists, runners, hikers — and each and every one of them were nice.
Well, each and every one of them . . . except one.
As we get into late August, trails start to show a little wear. They’re looser than at the beginning of the season, and any section with a meaningful grade is going to have at least a little dust on it.
Not enough to be a problem when riding, but probably enough to mean you need a few extra feet to stop.
The above is relevant to my story. Trust me.
So The Runner and I were on the Mid-Mountain trail, and after about 1500 feet of climbing, were enjoying rolling along the top. Along the way, each time we encountered a rider, an exchange like this would take place:
“How’s it going?”
“Awesome. Perfect riding day.”
“Yeah, for sure. Have a good ride.”
“Same to you.”
If the trail were wide enough (not common), this exchange (yes, this exact exchange, every single time) would happen without anyone stopping. Usually, though, whoever was going downhill would pull over to the side, letting the climber go by.
But then, one time, as we were descending around a corner, we came across a woman, climbing.
The Runner — who was in front of me — got over to the side and stopped. I got over to the side but — due to the (cleverly aforementioned) dirt on the trail, had not come to a complete stop by the time the woman climbed by.
Let me be clear: I was in the process of stopping, I had moved over to the side, and she had ample room to get by.
The woman said (as she rode by, unimpeded and without having to change her line in any way whatsoever), in a disgusted voice, “You’re supposed to stop and move over to the side to make room for people climbing.”
I was stunned. Speechless, momentarily. Flummoxed.
And then, when I had regained the ability to speak at all, it was only enough to make a weak reply.
“I was trying to.”
And that was the end of the exchange. She went on uphill, and we went on downhill. Every single other person we came across — cyclists, runners, hikers — did the “hey, how’s it going, have a good ride” exchange with us.
But I kept going over that moment with the snotty rider. And I kept getting madder and madder.
So, after half an hour, I told the Runner, “That woman got under my skin. I’m still pissed.”
“Me too,” said The Runner. And we agreed: we had moved over as soon as we had seen her, and had stopped as quickly as we could. The woman had been able to continue her climb completely unhindered.
She had simply been rude. And smug. Snotty, if you will.
Had we been in a big city, that kind of pissy in-your-face self-empowerment wouldn’t have bugged us. It would have been expected, even.
But this was on singletrack. And we were all mountain biking. And when I’m out mountain biking, I expect everyone to be cool. And that expectation is so very nearly universally met, when it isn’t, I’m thrown for a loop.
How To Be Nice
So, for the one-in-one-thousand people who don’t intuitively grasp this, I’d like to now spell out what I believe has heretofore been the unspoken cardinal rule of mountain biking:
This rule, I believe, encompasses and supersedes all other rules of mountain biking. So yeah, descenders yield to climbers, because that’s the nice thing to do (because it’s easier to restart going downhill).
But climbers, be understanding if the descender can’t defy physics and stop on a dime.
When racing, if you’re going to pass someone, sure, say “On your left.” But how about saying, first: “How’s it going?”
Because that would be nice.
Don’t litter. Because that would not be nice.
Don’t poach trails. It’s not nice to steal.
If you see someone who needs help, help. That’s the nice thing to do.
And, basically, leave any corporate boardroom, big-city, in-your-face behaviors at home. You’re on a bike now. In the mountains. On a trail.
So just be nice.
PS: As an example of “How to be Nice,” check out the email I got from Liz C yesterday afternoon:
I did the Livestrong Challenge in Philly this past weekend…was supposed to do the century but got diverted to the 70m mile course. However, about mile 30, right on a steep climb I got a flat tire. About that time the skies opened up with pouring, pounding rain. As I was taking out my new tube and getting the wheel off my bike I was in complete misery. I’m not the fastest tire changer and knew I’d be there awhile, in the rain and losing time. I figured there was no way anyone was going to stop to help me in the middle of a climb while it was pouring rain.
How wrong I was!
Carlos from Team Fatty sacrificed his time and momentum on the climb to stop and help me! He not only made the change go faster, he also used his CO2 pump to ensure we inflated the tire with speed.
I’ve lost four uncles, an aunt, a cousin, and a grandfather to cancer. My own father is currently in the hospital after surgery, and is fighting Multiple Myeloma – so I set out yesterday to raise money and awareness for this great cause. But on the course I was not only buoyed by my mission of cancer awareness, but reminded of the brotherhood/sisterhood of not leaving a cyclist down on the road and the kindness of strangers in the most miserable of conditions.
I’ll probably never see Carlos again, but he’s definitely a great ambassador of your team. Thanks again for all you do!
Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.