By John Marsh, Editor & Publisher
My buddies and I often joke with each other (and about each other) on rides, giving nicknames or descriptives (rider types) to ourselves and others based on the way we (they) ride.
A couple weekends ago, my buddy Steve – who’s a tall guy – needed to spit a few times on the ride. As I was/am still in “recovery” mode, I wasn’t taking many pulls, so I was comfortably ensonced behind him with a clear view of his technique. Repeatedly, he would “gather his ammo,” cock his head and fire, like a bird pecking the ground in search of a worm.
From the second expectoration on, Steve became “Big Bird.” And he will remain so until either I recognize a new trait – or it drives him crazy to the point of demanding I stop calling him that.
Other descriptives we’ve come up with over time follow. Like they say on TV, any resemblance to actual events – or riders – is purely coincidental. See if you recognize any of these among your circle of roadie friends. And if you have any to add, feel free in the Comments below the Newsletter version of this article.
This one comes from another buddy and I immediately noticing the “style” of a guy we’d never ridden with before. The best way to describe him comes from boxing terminology. On every hill, he began to bob and weave as if avoiding phantom punches being thrown at him. The steeper and longer the pitch, the more his upper body swayed from side to side, and up and down, with each pedal stroke.
Granted, the best cyclist ever, Eddy Merckx, was known for serious upper body movement. But for most of the rest of us, especially the mere mortals, keeping upper body movement to a minimum is preferable. A little movement is natural, and actually helps you establish your rhythm, especially on longer climbs. But too much movement can waste serious energy. Save the boxing moves for the “sweet science,” and direct your energy to your legs instead.
At some point on almost every ride, this rider kicks into “bat out of hell” mode, pushing the pace to an extreme and causing much grumbling among the group. He invariably cracks on a hill, going from lead to last. And then he regroups and does it all over again.
The Cracker lacks the internal “governor” most of us instinctually follow. He (or she) can’t seem to understand the concept of pacing, which is vital to successful rides of any length. If you’re going long, especially, you must learn to mete out your effort and energy in relatively equal measures along the way. Going too hard, too soon, or in the wrong places, can doom you to crack under pressure.
This guy was on our weekend ride, too. Despite having an orderly pace line on the right side of the mostly traffic-free country roads we were riding, he chose to ride as far left in the lane as possible. When the occasional car would approach, he stayed over there and waved the car around him.
The Outlier doesn’t understand that he’s both endangering himself and making the entire group look bad. He was destroying any goodwill the driver might have taken from the orderliness and courtesy that the rest of the group was extending by staying right. Sure, we have the legal right to the lane in most cases. And there are certainly instances where it’s appropriate to ride on the left side of the lane (for instance, when you’re approaching a left-hand turn). But forcing a car to pass entirely in the opposite lane when it’s wholly unnecessary is just bad form.
We’ve all ridden behind this person, haven’t we? It usually only takes you about a minute to realize that this guy holding his line is about as likely as predicting which way a squirrel is going to dart when it’s in your path. In short, he’s all over the road, going this way and that, unpredictable and therefore dangerous.
Bike handling is a set of skills that can only be acquired over time, and with both practice and focus. Learning to ride in various situations (pacelines, big groups, fast groups, etc.) helps you improve your bike handling. Keeping your focus sharp while riding, and being predictable in your actions – and reactions – goes a long way toward helping you avoid the dreaded reputation of being “squirrelly.”
Feel free to add to the list or decriptives in the Comments below the Newsletter version of this article.
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