Smoking the Gear Addicts

September 20th, 2012

My wife and I own but one car. When we moved from the Twin Cities, we sold the second car. I became a full on bicycle commuter. When I need to wear a suit, I take the bus. Sometimes the bus drivers give me guff about wearing a tie. I prefer to bike. The cost of maintaining a bike as a regular cycle commuter beats bussing or owning a car easily.

The psychic cost is another thing. There are a lot of things that wear on a bicycle commuter, and while I expected drivers to be the biggest issue, I have been surprised by my fellow cyclists. We are not, as a group, as realistic with our abilities as we should be.

There is on group in particular that I am not particularly charitable towards: middle aged gear addicts. I’m sure you’ve seen the type. They range from a bit heavy to very tubby, they’re wearing bike shorts, have clipless pedals, a super expensive bike, and they aren’t going very fast.

Look, I’m sympathetic to the idea of buying the gear so that getting your money’s worth is motivation to keep at it. Maybe they want to lose some weight, get in better cardio shape, whatever. That’s great. But maybe just the bike would have cost enough to motivate them? Either way, this subsection of the cycling community seems to take the fact that I’m in jeans and a t-shirt or maybe a button up shirt as proof I’m going to be slow. They don’t bother observing my actual biking, they just plop their buts in front of me at stop lights and then proceed to poke along. Now I have to pass some guy who anointed himself a speedster because he’s wearing tight pants.

I bike out of the downtown core. Traffic is often fairly heavy on the path I take. I’ll take the lane if I have to, but it’s not something I’m excited about. Yet cyclists who only catch up with me when I stop for lights seem to think that getting stopped at the light means you need to get passed. They go popping out right after the light changes. Fellow riders, the intersection is often a bad place to pass. The cars accelerate faster than you do, so you’ll be forced back into the bike lane almost immediately. What does that mean? It means you’ll be cutting off the cyclist you were just ineffectively trying to pass. But despite the fact that this happens on about two of every three rides home, never once has one of these guys, as he huffs to try to put on a bit of extra speed to get around me, considered that he’s working awfully hard just to get around a guy who was pulling away from him a block before.

When will these guys learn that blowing almost 3 grand on a swank carbon frame did not automatically catapult them into Cat 3 racing circles? The racers pass both of us, and good on them. Me? I’m just trying to get home as fast as possible without breaking any traffic laws. I’m tired of getting caught behind these chuckleheads, so I’m going to the gym. My goal is to make sure I smoke them in the first 10 feet and don’t have to worry that my inferior commuter acceleration gets me stuck behind any newly minted gear addicts and their total lack of staying power down the stretch.

4 Responses to “Smoking the Gear Addicts”

  1. Colin Says:

    You may already know: the term for the passing at the intersection phenomenon is “shoaling.” One of the many self inflicted plagues of urban cycling.

  2. Ian Macleod Says:

    Yeah, tragically, people are terrible. I think I hate this more because as part of the cycling minority, I want fellow cyclists to behave really well and dispel the stereotypes of the urban cyclists that driver friends use to excuse their bad behavior.

  3. Mark Says:

    As someone who lives in a more bike-friendly city, and has bike paths for almost all of my commute I deal with this less, but it’s still recognizeable. (Admittedly, fifty year old three-speeds are a bit slower to get up to speed, so it’s also less aggravating since it really only happens on longer stretches, where there’s room to pass easily.)

    But what I’ve learned is that there’s a real, deep down satisfaction to having a bell on your bike. The more “little girl in the mid ’70s” style the better. That cheerful “ding ding!” as I pass someone spending their best to be a really intense racing cyclist always sort of makes my day. I can’t recommend it enough. The only thing that was better was, years ago, when I used to do it while smoking a cigarette.

  4. Ian Macleod Says:

    Few things call out someone for not being the athlete they think they are like someone passing them while openly spurning maximum lung capacity.

    Maybe you could carry a parasol with you and pop it open when passing.

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