opinion

The epiphany : "Ride of Silence" AAR

Yesterday was the "Ride of Silence". It's an international ride in memory of fallen cyclists and as a statement to motorists to share the road with cyclists. But for me, the event has the opposite effect.

I get it.

Last night I rode my tour bike. Practically, it's more comfortable on a slow roll but also it's set up to be seen. I have a reflective flag and some VERY bright lights on the back. I also wore the most bright and obnoxious jersey / shorts combo I own with the knowledge that he upright position of my tour bike makes my silhouette more visible. Also the stickers on the back of my helmet glow in the dark AND reflect "cat eye" style along with the other hyper-reflective stickers on there. In twilight conditions I'm a freaking laser light show to a headlight. I stayed in the back knowing that I was probably the most visible rider in the pack and drivers would see me.

My position allowed me see the whole group. Something about my background is I spent 20+ years part-timing where my job was to keep irresponsible people safe in spite of their best efforts to not be, so I notice things. And a few things I noticed can be seen in the pic I've attached to this post. In our group of about 15-20, several people were riding damn near the center line most of the ride. Many were riding 2-3 across, holding hands (romantic, ok...) or otherwise taking up the whole road.

What the picture DOESN'T show is behind us, where there were 3-4 vehicles backed up terrified to pass the group. This isn't the first year I've seen this happen, last year I routinely broke the "ride of silence" rule by screaming "CAR BACK" so we didn't cause a major incident.


Let me address one other concern. "This is on a suburban street." This is where I felt safest to get the gopro out to get a pic or two. One segment had us on a pothole infested 45 MPH main road. We caused a traffic jam behind us, and several cars roared past us by going over the double yellow line. Frankly, circumstance and luck prevented major injury last night.

And I get it. I get why motorists hate cyclists. We're a slow moving object on the roads, and a lot of cyclists do just this. They don't leave room for the vehicles to pass, and if they choose to they break the law by jumping double lines or having to pass too close. And a lot of these people are ignorant, or they know better and just flaunt it.

I'm debating what, if anything, I can do. Last night I was too busy trying to keep the group safe by keeping my head on a swivel, signaling to drivers, and doing a LOT of catchup when my being in the back of the pack meant I missed a green light the leader made. I also know from experience that pointing out these problems when they happen never end well, because the reaction is defensive not progressive. (The "I do what I want" defense is common, as is the "Ok MOM." reaction) Group rides like last night are the exception, not the rule, but I can see why the friction exists because of these anomaly rides.

The best solution I can think of is making videos about road safety, because that's what I do. the hope being that they get spotted, and shared in the void of youtube. I find that people are more receptive to ideas when they're not in the moment, and they don't feel threatened that their fun is at stake. It's also possible to be a LOT more diplomatic outside of the moment and you're not trying to save them from being run over by a truck.

But I get it, I get the hate. But I also get that it can be changed. Drivers could learn that cyclists are just "slow cars", cyclists could learn now to share the road. I also get that the point of the event is to make a statement to drivers that we belong on roads too, but there's a difference between making a statement and making an unnecessary disruption.

An open letter to a "Roadie"

Dear "sir", and I use the term loosely,

I want to take more time to answer a question you asked me yesterday morning, because I was in a rush and I didn't have time to give you a PROPER response. As I was prepping "the Tank" for the fun ride (#NotARace) you went out of your way to roll up, and say "Could you possibly add MORE weight to your bike?" You asked it in the "down your nose with a side order of disdain" that text can't quite convey but is definitely there.

"The Tank", my tour bike

Now that I'm not rushing to prep a bike for a 62 mile ride, I can give you an answer. I could painstakingly detail that I was being the team mule, or that the more upright seating position is more comfortable on my back, or that its a touring bike designed to haul almost 600 pounds if need be and this is relatively light, but the reality is you didn't WANT an answer. You just wanted to be a snob.

In my years on this planet I've learned that there are snobs in every hobby. People who think that unless you do the thing exactly as they do you're worthless. People who scoff when they perceive that you haven't spent as much money as they have on the hobby. People who see others doing the thing differently and believe they shouldn't be there. People who really enjoy ruining other people's fun because it's not compatible with how you believe they should have fun. And considering your +$7000 bike, $750 skintight skivvies and $250 shades, I think you hit all of these prerequisites.

Snobs really only want one of a few things, confrontation, conformity or exile. I've been trying to figure out which one you wanted. Were you expecting me to stop mid pack, say "Oh wow, you're so right." and then tear all the bags off the bike? Were you expecting me to stop, look at the ground forlornly, and put the bike back on the vehicle while crying all the way home?

Or were you expecting me to confront you on it? That wouldn't be a smart move, as I could have probably broken you in half without breaking a sweat. (#ClydesdaleCycling) And if you were hoping for a battle of wits I'm afraid to inform you that you were SEVERELY outgunned. I say this because the answer I gave you, "Naw, I could pile more-on", the double entendre went so far over your head I'm shocked you didn't get a nosebleed.

Look, Mr Roadie, we all gain enjoyment from our hobbies in different ways. You're a middle aged man who likes to wear "distilled 1980's colors" skin-tight clothing and pretend you're as fast as a tour-de-France rider in a non-race fondo. I like wearing my tour "baggies" and t-shirt and being casual on a fun run. You want to drop people from your group to show how powerful a rider you are. I like helping my friends by carrying all the food, water, repair kits and first aid kits and we may never need. You like going fast and posting Strava KOM's. I like looking around and seeing the cool stuff on the route. And both are compatible on the same roads, even in the same fun run.

But you know what? You do you. Enjoy, have fun, but get over yourself. Just because I haven't dropped the GDP of a small country into a hobby doesn't make me less worthy to be here. And if I want to load my bike down carrying supplies, that's literally on me, not you. If you want to believe you're better than me for running a leaner bike and tighter clothing, sure, whatever bro. I wasn't there to break land speed records. I was there to be with friends and hang out doing something we all like. If you can't imagine people doing things for different reasons, you might want to reconsider your life.

A happy to be riding Clydesdale cyclist,

-Tyger