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.
Sorry I haven’t read your previous articles, completely agree with this one. We really can be our own worst enemy, and group rides IMHO are the most likely place for that to happen. If you addressed the following in a previous article, then bravo… My HUGE pet peeve about group rides is how and where we regroup. When I am leading, I ALWAYS pull into a driveway or parking lot or pull-off somewhere just before or just after the intersection, always making sure we can be seen by those catching up. Nearly all group rides I’m on as a participant stop to regroup AT THE INTERSECTION, and the group spreads themselves across the stop bar at the stop sign. This causes immense confusion and frustration for everyone else approaching the intersection, since their very reasonable expectation is that if we are stopped, and traffic has cleared, we need to proceed through the intersection. Drives me crazy!!! You’d never consider doing that in your car/SUV/truck… why do groups automatically do this when on their bikes???
robert wilhite says
yup, your account is super normal….unfortunately. I do know a few ‘rare’ re-group points on some rides that aren’t at intersections. Bottom line, this has got to be discussed/agreed upon BEFORE a group ride starts. On the fly? Ain’t gonna happen; folks will always revert to ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ mentality.
Jeff vdD says
I disagree with the title, and specifically with the implied definition of “cyclist mentality.” The body of the post gets it right … but by then, it’s too late, the wrong message has sunk in, especially for those who at best skim the article.
Riding with an “all about me” mentality is dangerous. A “cyclist mentality” could very well be one that safely manages the intersection you cite.
Of course, the problem doesn’t take place at the intersection. It takes place well before the intersection, maybe years before the intersection. What matters is the protocol the group embraces, driven by the example the group’s leadership sets.
robert wilhite says
the intent was to cast a wide net on cyclists who ONLY think about themselves and ride with tunnel vision on only looking out for themselves. Yes, managing a cyclist’s mentality at intersections, etc. is important, but WAY too many cyclists manage intersections by disregarding the entire scenario and bolting here/there to get thru “as fast” as they can…..or to not disrupt their momentum and speed.
I can bore you for literally days/weeks of stories where cyclists, only focused on themselves, in many aspects, ends up putting themselves (and others cyclists with them) in potential danger.
Bottom line, we have to open our eyes WIDE OPEN and realize riding a bicycle on the road involves LOTS of moving parts (no pun intended).
In our group rides everyone is responsible for clearing their own intersections. We regroup at major turns, staying to the side allowing traffic to clear around us. At major road crossings we we regroup at the other side.
Big Ring Bob says
It seems most of your articles are in reference to Group Rides. Do you have a bible of group etiquette? Years ago, I had the opportunity to ride with a fairly sophisticated group out of Charleston, SC. They moved. They also broke their Saturday morning group into A, B, C and D. There was a briefing before the ride stating the route, the anticipated speeds of each group and each group had a designated leader. A and B started together and stayed together for about 25 miles. Relatively large group, 25 – 30 riders. When we approached intersections, they used a technique I learned in the military when moving troops on a roadway, they put out “Road Guards” at every intersection. The philosophy being help motorist recognize an unusual situation in front of them. It seems to me, that a list of maybe 15 to 20 “rules” would probably cover a large percentage of the situations similar to the topics of your discussion and could be a real asset to group rides.
robert wilhite says
Hey Big Ring Bob,
I hear ya brother. Yes, I do write about group rides a LOT, cuz that’s what the majority of cyclists experience. If I can share perspectives/experiences along the way that, even in a small way, helps to make group rides safer…AND more fun, that’s all the motivation I need.
Yes, I wrote an eBook on Group Rides, that has gotten a LOT of attention and activity. It took 2 yrs to write and film. Yes, you read that right. My e-Book has embedded video, to further explain and visualize a particular point being made. Apple Books is the ONLY platform that supports e-Books with embedded video, so that’s the only kicker (pun intended). You can grab your copy on my website, http://www.MyCycleCoach.com. I cover topics you’ll never hear anyone talk about….at least I haven’t after 255,000 miles pedaled.