By Coach Robert Wilhite
As I start with the final installment of this series, it’s been a relief to finally take the time to get these thoughts from my head (and heart) to you. As with each previous article in the series, I’m going to paint you a picture based on reality and share what I believe is the safest response. It’s up to you if you agree with and embrace it or disagree and ignore it.
Needless to say, riding with a cyclist mentality is a good thing — it’s just that when we stay so focused on only ourselves that potentially dangerous scenarios can present themselves. A recent group ride serves as my final scenario in this series. I think that you’ll immediately relate.
It’s All About Mentality
Visualize yourself in the middle of a group ride. You are flying down the road and life seems great, for the moment. After many miles of no turns, no traffic lights, no stop signs, or in other words, no interruptions, your group comes up to an intersection where a right turn is on tap. As I mentioned in part 1 of the series, too many cyclists ride with the follow the leader type mentality, so whatever the guys at the front do, is typically what everyone else behind them does.
With this mentality, your group slows down for the upcoming turn. Instead of those at the front coming to a complete stop, they look to the left at all the traffic coming and realize there’s still enough room for themselves to dart out, so they don’t lose all their momentum. Hey, I get it. It’s like flying down a long descent, only to find an intersection at the bottom and the light just turned red. Bad timing, and I hate to lose all that momentum, just like many of you.
However, in this real-life scenario, the actions of those at the front create immediate confusion for everyone else following behind and open up the door for some potential rear-end bicycle collisions, too.
Let me break down all the potential scenarios:
- Because those at the front of the group never came to a complete stop or communicated anything to the group, everyone behind them was under the impression the whole group could go, too. And, that’s probably exactly would have happened, except the fact that there were vehicles coming and not enough time or room for the group to follow the leaders. That meant the rest of us had to stop very quickly without running into someone in front of us or around us. Yes, it was suddenly a bit crazy.
- From the perspective of the vehicles approaching from our left, can you imagine what it was like for them? That motorist up front, probably thought the rest of us were gong to jump out in front of them, just like the guys at the front did, so it’s no surprise that I saw them abruptly slow down. That creates the next ripple affect.
- Sure, the motorist did slow down, but they now have a couple of options. They could have continued to slow down (and or stop) and give us the ability to all pull out together in from of them.
But then you have to think about that vehicle behind him, who couldn’t see what the motorist in front of him saw, and all the sudden that vehicle suddenly slows down when they are nowhere near an intersection. You see, it’s not just about the guy up front driving, but it also affects everyone behind them.
- Or they could get right back on the gas and return to their previous speed — which would have been well within their right. So, what did they do? To me, it looked like they hesitated to speed back up, wondering if anyone else from the group would dart out in front of them. When I yelled out, “Stopping!” it became obvious to that motorist the rest of us were staying put. Then, I saw that car speed back up.
Can you see all these different scenarios playing out? If you ride long enough, you most certainly will, if you haven’t already. This is a perfect example that there is almost no scenario where our individual actions doesn’t affect others, and in most cases, it’s negative.
Keep Your Antenna Up
So, what should this scenario teach us? Unfortunately, I’ve known and currently know some cyclists who, if they are on the front, will pull out in front of oncoming traffic as long as there is enough room for them. They could care less about all of us behind them. Not only are they not riding with a cyclist mentality, but they most certainly are nowhere near a motorist mentality, either.
It’s an “all about me” mentality. To me, that’s a dangerous cyclist. Any time I’m riding in a group with any of these guys at the front, my antenna is on high alert. I automatically prepare myself to come to a stop. I don’t trust them.
If you know of any offenders like these, I certainly hope you carefully pay attention to what the scenario is when they are on the front. After all, it’s your safety at stake.
As I close this series, my hope is that you’ve come to see having just one perspective while riding, may not be the best, or the safest. I hope it’s beginning to work it’s way from my blog and into your head when riding your bicycle. We don’t have air bags. We aren’t surrounded by thousands of pounds of steel. We don’t have seat belts. All we have is lycra and a helmet.
In a former life, Coach Robert helped to develop (and race) a motorcycle road racing team, reaching speeds of 200 mph. Next, he gained invaluable insight from his swing coach into biomechanics while playing professional golf. When he started MyCycleCoach.com in 2005, he merged his handling skills of racing motorcycles, the principles of biomechanics from golf, along with him being a natural-born teacher, to create the most unique approach and effective philosophy to cycling that you could ever find. His 250,000 miles ridden on a road bike doesn’t hurt, either.
Don't miss his eBook that is as unique as Coach Robert: It’s NOT About SPEED: The Lost Art of Group Riding. An all-encompassing look into how group rides should function and real-life examples why most fail.