It's often been said that if you have two cyclists travelling in the same direction, then you have a race. Maybe, but not if I'm one of the cyclists. I just don't give a shit. On the rare occasions that I'm in the mood for competition, the only person I'm interested in getting the better of is myself.
I'm simply not interested in how I "perform" against some random stranger who happens to be going my way. In fact, I've never understood why there are so many commute route racers out there. I don't know the first thing about some other cyclist—if they're a "serious" cyclist, if they're riding within themselves or really pushing it, if they've had a bad day or if they're feeling pumped, if they're sick or injured or having a mechanical—so why should I care if I'm faster or slower than them?
That said, for someone with an attention span as short as mine, the presence of other riders on the route can be helpful for keeping mind and energy focussed—if I'm in the mood for a workout. For example, if someone passes me at a pace that I think I can sustain, I might jump on the back. Or if there's someone up ahead that I could catch by pushing myself a little bit more, that might provide a target that I need to get going.
But it's never a race and it's never about "beating" the other person. I'd far rather work cooperatively, ride with someone (rather than against them), and enjoy some good conversation. So if I've decided to "draft" someone and I reckon I can sustain the pace out front, I'll take my turn (for what it's worth). Conversely, if I really am a passenger just struggling to hang on, I'll stay put and say "thanks for the tow" when we go our separate ways.
Apart from anything else, I'm so clearly built for comfort not speed that it's a perpetual puzzle to me why anyone would want to take me on. Big hint: if you're a club rider and you need to race me either to score some pathetic points in your mind or for a training hit-out, you probably want to reconsider your choice of sport.
Anyway, to my point. I encountered just such a boy-racer on the Yarra Trail last night. I saw him coming up from behind for quite a while—a young-ish fella in what looked like team gear (but I don't really pay attention to that sort of thing). When he passed, I liked the look of his pace and thought I might follow. Rather than tight drafting, I'll often follow at a few bike lengths back just to let someone else set my pace, basically so that I don't have to think about it (remember that thing about having a short attention span?) And that's what I decided to do.
But boy-racer clearly decided it was a "challenge", and took off like a startled rabbit. I didn't really mind because he was still riding well within my speed range and I was actually quite pleased to pick up the pace a bit. I was enjoying the workout but it seemed that boy-racer was playing for sheep stations: when he squeezed between a slower rider going our way and another approaching cyclist, I was alert but not alarmed—anyone can make an error of judgement (hell, I make mistakes all the time). But I backed off a little just the same, maintaining the pace from a good five or six bike-lengths back.
Then half a minute later I saw him do it again: this time squeezing between a pedestrian and an oncoming cyclist inside the confining railing of a bridge. It was then that I knew this dope was not going to take any responsibility, so I'd have to: I sat back and let him go. It caused my absolutely no pain to let him "win"—I was just happy that no one would get hurt in his mad dash to stay in front and "beat" me.
And that's the crazy thing. Even if I had been interested in a race, where would the victory be for me if the rider I was chasing had been slowed down by riding carefully and considerately of slower traffic? That is possible the stupidiest thing about bike path racing—it proves absolutely nothing, but if you go at it with reckless disregard for other people, it's downright dangerous.
So just for the record, if you see me out there on the roads or trails, I am most definitely not interested in a race.
Well said, I'm the same way. I'm decidedly uncompetitive, and I like it that way.
As you say, while it isn't about 'beating' them, other cyclists can definitely be 'performance motivators'.
I might think that I'm moving along at a decent click, and then someone blasts past me - usually on something in 'celeste'. I watch their chamoised behind sashay into the distance for a moment, and then ask myself, "well, Simon, can you do that?". Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But it's always for my fitness, and never at the expense of anyone's safety. I'm not going to squeeze past you between the bollards on Canning St, and I'm not going to overtake on a blind corner on Merri Creek trail and take out some poor afternoon jogger. You're absolutely right - it proves nothing.
I have to say I've never really said thank you for drafting - I'm not sure whether the person will know what I'm talking about, and if they do they, might not take kindly to being drafted by a guy on a straight-gauge aluminium fitness bike with hairy legs and Hi-Tops (I'll move on to clipless shoes when I master the ever elusive trackstand - I don't fancy keeling over onto someone's bonnet when standing at the lights)!
I don't care if people faster than me pass me. I'm quicker than a lot of riders, and a lot slower than a lot of riders. All I want is that people hold their line, and if they're passing me they let me know they're there so I can move left a bit...
What I hate is overtaking a slow rider, then waiting at the next lights and they queue jump the waiting bikes (possibly running the red in the process) and I have to pass them again... and then again after the next set... I finally said something the other night after the same guy did that 3 times - "Do you have any idea how rude that is?" - which possibly confused the hell out of the culprit, but maybe he'll think twice next time...
I get passed by all sorts of riders all the time and it's never a problem from where I sit—not interested in racing. And when I get passed by someone wearing Dunlop Volleys I always smile because they were my (somewhat inappropriate) choice of cycling shoe for a long time. And when I pass others, if breath allows, I always say a cheery "hello", and if they choose to take that as some kind of smug point-scoring well that's their problem (and a little bit sad, really).
In the end, I don't care what other riders do except in the case I described above where my presence—at quite some distance back—seemed to be motivating the young racer (and he was racing) to do stupid things that put other people at risk. Possibly he'd keep doing it if I wasn't there, but I didn't want to contribute to his recklessness. And that's my whole problem with commuter racing: it's rarely a safe and sensible thing to do.
When I pass other cyclists and give a friendly nod, it's not a "ha I beat you" as Tom presumes. It's just a greeting, a hello how are you.
And if I'm passing you, it's not because I'm racing. I'm just, well, passing you -- there's no need for attitude from the passee. When cyclists pass by me, it's no big deal either, whether they're in full team kit or they're wearing jeans and riding a beater.
The most hilarious thing I saw on this topic was posted by local racer Sabine Dukes. I can't find it now, but she had a hilarious story about her commute on her cheap tricycle, and how she blew past all of the commuters on their fancy commuter bikes with dynamos, mirrors, chainguards and bells as they rode decked out in fancy ankle straps and expensive helmets.
man I just want to echo.... of course i don't hate these racers, in some ways they make me smile. sometimes they pass me and give me this nod that says... ha, I beat you in this race. WHat race? I smile, and they pass. Its kind like when i pass a car...i give them a nod that says.... ha I beat you in this race.
Pathletes. They're as weak as piss and probably couldn't win a real race. I hate 'em.
I'm exactly the same. Last night I flicked a guy to pass on Royal Parade when it was safe, then managed to catch his wheel. When we eventually caught a red light, I was able to pant out "Thanks for the tow, mate - I'm too batted to lead though...". He laughed and said "cool", and then we had a bit of a natter. It's about the social side, about commuters who ride 'cause they just love to ride and have a bit of cameraderie. I can't stand people who try to time trial on city streets...
Bravo! Well said.
I may just have to post a link. :)