Thursday, September 25, 2008

This hurts me more than it does you

My wife will be the first to tell you that I am not the strict disciplinarian of our household. In our little domestic scene that we have going on here in McKinney, I am definitely the "good cop". Trish is almost always the one metering out most of the punishment that Michael has undoubtedly earned. I'm typically the one defending the boy. I mean, what do they expect? If you don't want kids hitting each other with hockey sticks, then don't hand out hockey sticks to a gym full of thirty 3rd grade boys. That just seems like common sense to me. What did they think was going to happen? So, while this pains me, you have left me no choice.

Over this past year of cycling, it has become apparent that a significant portion of you out there, have either never been taught proper cycling etiquette, you were taught but have since forgotten, or have chosen to ignore your teachings. While I am certainly not without sin, I'm going to go ahead and throw that first stone.

In this posting, we are going to speak specifically about your cycling etiquette towards other cyclist. In later postings, we'll talk about cyclist etiquette towards automobiles, and in the interest of equal time, we'll then speak to automobile etiquette towards cyclist.

I have certain Buddhist beliefs that I try and adhere to. One of the things that I like about Buddhism, is it's simplicity. If you want to boil Buddhism down to a single, simple rule, it would be "be nice". That's it, just "be nice". The same can be said about how to behave towards other bicyclist when your out riding. Just "be nice". I am of the belief that most of the worlds problems can be solved if people would follow my incredibly simple edict to "be nice".

Now, for those of you who require a little more detail in your instructions than that, then allow me to expand on my "be nice' mantra.

Rule #1 - Communicate with the cyclist around you. If you've ever been out on a bike ride, and you've become confused when someone rides by and announces "On your left", let me explain what they're doing. And apparently, the vast majority of you out there are unfamiliar with this phrase, given the responses that I have witnessed on the road when I have made this announcement. Those responses range from shock, to bewilderment, to out an out anger. The purpose of this announcement is to simply let you know that "I am approaching on your left and will be passing you momentarily. Please try and avoid doing anything sudden or stupid for the next few minutes". If someone makes this announcement in your general area, no action is required on your part other than to not do anything sudden or stupid. Another thing, for all of you fake TdF racers that I see out there, making the "On your left" announcement, does not require the slower cyclist in front of you to ride into the ditch and abandon their bikes, thereby clearing the road for you. And you can just save the condescending shaking of your head as you ride by for someone who gives a rat's behind. That type of behavior doesn't fall under my "be nice" guidelines. Another thing in the "communication" vein, when riding in a pace line or group, please call out and/or point out the oncoming road hazards to the cyclist behind you. You see, since they are behind you, they cannot see the hazards until it is much too late to do anything about it. And while no one appreciates the humor in hearing the "UNGH" sound that the cyclist behind you makes when he squarely hits the pot hole that you failed to call out, it's really just not a nice thing to do. Funny, but not nice.

Rule #2, Don't pass on the right. I can't tell you how many times I've had the cr*p scared out of me out on the road by someone who passes me on the right. I'm minding my own business, riding along on what I think is the right hand side of the road, when someone comes flying by me on the right, on the 4 inches of the pavement between me and the ditch. And they always seem to be riding in stealth mode. They silently slip up beside you on the right, not saying a word, so close that you can smell the last energy bar he ate on his breath. If for no other reason than to preserve my shattered nerves, please pass on the left. If you just have to be one of those guys who has to pass on the right, at least wear a bell or something so we can hear you coming.

Rule #3, Move to the right. Whenever possible, please ride to the right hand side of the road. For some reason, some of you out there seem to take great pleasure in riding as close as you possibly can to the yellow stripe. Let me let you in on a little secret. That puts you as close as you can get to the very dangerous oncoming traffic. For me, I try and keep as far away from the dangerous oncoming traffic as I possibly can. That's just that pesky survival instinct of mine kicking in again. Riding to the right also allows the faster riders to pass on the left. (Please see rule #2 for a detailed explanation as to why this is so important).

Rule #4, When riding in a paceline, be sure and take your pulls. There is absolutely nothing as aggravating as someone enjoying the pull of the paceline, who never seems to work their way up to the front, and put in a little effort of their own. I am reminded of a group ride I was participating in one summer. I was riding with Bikin Mike Keel and a group of somewhat inexperienced cyclist he was training for their first Hotter-n-Hell. This particular day, I was riding with Mike and one of the new cyclist. We were cruising along through the country side, me up front, Mike behind me, and the new cyclist sitting in enjoying the pull. I guess she had decided that she had ridden with us long enough, because she jumped out of the line and rode off on her own. No goodbye, no thanks for the pull, no anything. A couple of miles down the road, Mike and I rode up to her as she's waiting on the side of the road. We thought she might have had some sort of mechanical problem. But no, she was just waiting for us to catch up with her so we could pull her in the rest of the ride. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say, we both explained to her in great detail what was wrong with what she had just done. The only time this rule can be violated, is when you are riding with a group of friends, and you have agreed ahead of time on how much work is expected of each of you. Even then, they're still going to resent you, and more than likely, talk about you behind your back.

For this last rule, I must caution those of you with an easily upset stomach, you might want to skip this one.

Rule #5, All snot rockets must be announced well in advance. For those of you not familiar with the term "snot rocket", allow me to explain. If you're like me, whenever you ride on a cold day, for some reason, your nose will start running. For me, the constant sniffing and sniffing, can become quite annoying. In order to clear your sinus's, without having to stop and blow you nose, you will need to master a maneuver referred to as launching a snot rocket. You should first turn your head to one side or the other. Then, taking you thumb, press one nostril closed. Finally, blow out through the other nostril as hard as you can, whereby you launch the "snot rocket". You then turn your head to the other side and repeat, thereby clearing the other nostril. The danger in this maneuver is to those who might be riding behind you. They are in the direct line of fire of the recently launched snot rocket. For the benefit of those riding behind you, you should announce the upcoming launch well in advance. This will give your fellow riders time to move themselves and their loved ones to higher ground. Anyone who has not been taking their pulls are fair game.

In the upcoming days, as promised, we'll discuss the proper way to behave towards the automobiles out on the road. And likewise, what kind of manners that automobile drivers should extend towards cyclist.

This was certainly a very high level overview of the proper etiquette that you should follow when out riding on the road. I hope it has been helpful. Now, don't make me do this again.

Peace out.......Nearly Famous Fred

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