Cliques & Vibes

Clubs and associations always tend to form cliques. Bicycle clubs are no different. The question then becomes: are you in “the in group” – hereafter known as TIG?
(TLCs rule)

Are the vibes good, bad, neutral or downright ugly?

Why do we do that to people?

There is nothing wrong with being in TIG. In some rides I am and in some rides I am not.

The point is we should all make TOG (the out group) feel welcome anyway.

You could do this to be nice or civil, but, there are more important reasons .

Self Preservation. Without TOG, TIG would be the only group, and, therefore, no longer TIG. Round and round.

In Group Dignity. TOG may really consider TIG to be TSG (the snooty group).

Practicality. If all the good bike mechanics are in TOG, it only makes sense to be nice.

Some riders are around forever, others come and go. The best rides, however are the ones with good vibes all around.



You are not going too slow. You are doing a recovery pace on purpose.

You are not going too fast. This is your training ride.

You are not lost. You are exploring.

You are not tired. You are just smelling the roses.

You are not bonking. Yes, you are.

You can too climb the hill as fast as everyone else. You are just trying to keep an even pace.

You do not really need to chase anyone who passes you on a hill and try to pass them. Really, you don’t.

You are not riding today because the spouse said no. You have just been over training and need to back off.

As always, reader participation is welcome.


The Car Drivers Pique

Most of the time, riding with groups, I find fault with my peers . . . primarily for not riding single file when there is traffic.

The error does not all lie with the motorless two wheel riders, however.

The other day I was out with my wife and a woman hollers from her car “Ride single file like you are supposed to.” At the light I spoke with her — or tried too — she was near hysterically angry. “We were riding single file” I said. She denied it,

Only after she pulled away did I realize that her pique was that we were NOT as far too the right as the road allows. The gutter is all chopped up and unsafe on that road. Maybe next time when I speak with driver I should ask what they really meant.

. . .

A few years ago, a car squeezed up on the left of as we neared an intersection . . . causing some heated words on both sides. This time, however, the driver said to us “If you had expressed yourselves (us the bicyclists) more civilly, I’d probably have agreed with your point. But, by using the language and tone you did the conversation degenerated.”

One of the riders did take the time to clear the air . . . but I did not forget the driver’s point. Verbally insulting language will never win. While reasonable language may not win either, it does have a better chance.

. . .

But sometimes it does lie with us.

One day a police car came up the road to find our group of 15 scattered all over the place. He stopped us all and gave a deserved chewing out. He did not ticket anyone. Everyone was duly chastened.

When the police car drove off, the group rode off single file . . . but not more than a quarter mile.

And we wonder why some drivers get so angry at bicyclists.


Riding With Spouse

My wife and I often ride alone together — just the two of us.

Its different than a group because WE decide everything about pace and terrain.

Well, that’s not exactly true, she decides about 97% of everything.

But, that’s okay. Susan rides slower than I do, but not that much slower.

She also worries more about weather and how she feels, but that’s okay too.

Alone together we do shorter rides (30-40 miles) and slower speeds.

She had an insight at some point that changed her attitude about cycling.

No matter how hard she was willing to train or push, she was never going to be as strong as the guys in the group. I understand this. Our group is mostly 55-65 years old, with a smattering of younger and older. For MOST women a man of the same age and bent will be a stronger cyclist.

So, she said, Stop Trying so hard and enjoy the damn ride.

Which leads to riding with spouse. In a group ride, for her, it is usually more work, because someone is often pushing the pace. She enjoys the people and doesn’t mind pushing now and then. However, it can’t always be about pushing.

Riding with me is easy, because I take the attitude, if Susan is riding and enjoying the ride that is what counts.

It also gives me a new perspective…i.e. its not always about setting a pace.


In The Beginning

In the beginning…circa 1997.

The Trek Hybrid Bike

Back in the early 1990’s, my wife and I were riding 25 year old Schwinn English Racers. A “ride” covered about 2-3 miles and many stops at tag sales along the way. A big “ride” was the 4 mile round trip to the local library. We were happy in our ignorance.

However, the bicycles were getting a little shabby around the edges, so my wife told me she was going to buy me a new bike for my birthday. Of course, she wanted me to pick it out myself. We figured $250 would cover it nicely — because we had seen all the bikes at the major discounters for $150. What did we know?

I went to a few bike stores and tried out some bicycles. Frankly, the $250 Trek Hybrid wasn’t half bad (at that time). The $375 version seemed to shift smoother, however. This required a discussion, since we tend to spend money cautiously. I dragged Susan (my wife) down to the bike shop with me and had her try the various bikes. She not only agreed with my initial reaction, but also ordered a new bike for herself as well. So, my $250 birthday gift now cost $750! (Her birthday is 2 weeks after mine).

Our new Trek 750 hybrids arrived a short while later. It started an odyssey that was totally unexpected, but ultimately satisfying beyond our imagination.

First, a side bar: The Schwinns that would not die.

We gave our Schwinns to two of our friends, whose bicycles looked like they had been dropped from a cliff and left out in the rain for five years.

They rode them for awhile . . . then bought new bikes for themselves . . . and sent the Schwins to one of their married children. The kids rode the Schwins, then bought new bikes for themselves and sent the Schwins back to us.

We next gave them to another couple we know. They are still being ridden.

Back to the Treks

We didn’t know about the importance of bicycle weight at this time. Like children in a candy store, we bought big mirrors, saddle bags, bells and panniers. If you think clams are happy, you should have seen us.

The rides, however, began to get got a little longer — still on the quiet local streets around town — until one day, when, we decided to try the bike trail nearby.

The trail is about 6.5 miles each way, with one or two “hills” that would now be classified as rolls.

Our big ride now was to ride about 4 miles down the trail, have a snack and ride back. Not to laugh. At that time, we loved it. The trail was through the woods and paved. Susan still had to walk the hill sometimes, but that didn’t bother her. She was having too much fun. In a short time, however, we were pros. We could do the entire 13 mile round trip and live to tell about it!

The bike trail became a regular experience. We were becoming tired of it, however.

Fortunately, at about that same time, we saw an ad for a sponsored ride for 15, 25 or 50 miles on closed highway. We seriously wondered if we could actually ride 25 miles.

This was a ride where part of the Meadowbrook Parkway on Long Island, NY was closed from about 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The rides were 15 miles, 25 miles (down and back) or 50 miles (down and back twice).

With 3,000-4,000 riders, it took us about 20 minutes after the start before we could actually get on our bicycles and another 10 minutes before the traffic thinned out a bit. Fortunately, the outbound part was a gentle descent of about 150 feet over 12 miles. This gave us much encouragement.

The 12.5 mile point was in Point Lookout Beach. On a sunny fall morning, it was a pretty spot to ride to. The return ride was harder — we were a little tired.

However, we did the ride, thus completing a new milestone and some additional confidence.

It was time to move forward.

Why does everyone ride faster than we do?

At some point I joined one of the local bike clubs — and Susan and I did our first sponsored ride, on roads not closed to traffic.

We did planned on 50 miles, actually did 35 miles, and got passed by everyone, it seemed.

The little roll was a hill to big to climb, and became our turn around point.

It got us thinking…about “us and our bikes” vs. “them and their bikes.” We still weren’t savvy enough to understand that a 35 pound bicycle takes more effort to ride than a 20 pound bicycle, but we did understand that our thick tires put more drag on the road and that our gears did not give us the same high gears as a road bike. To this day I wonder why we understood the gear and tire aspect, but not the weight aspect.

We had both bicycles re-fitted with 30 cc tires (the smallest we could put on that wheel) and a larger ring set on the front.

Our $375 bikes were now $750 bikes, bringing my $250 birthday present to $1,500 — but this did help with speed.

When I started riding with the bicycle clubs, I rode this hybrid for two or three years. Susan, who joined the club later, did the same.

Everyone still rode faster than we did, but not as much.

Somewhere during the hybrid years we started riding rail trails more and more. One of the best that we rode and have re ridden was the Erie Canal trail. With a mixture hard pack dirt and asphalt, it was wonderfull riding.

We also explored other rail trails in NY State and nearby states.

Now that I was riding with the bicycle clubs I was able to ride more miles — though I did need to ride with the slowest group, because of my 35 pound bike.

more later…

How many cyclists does it take to complete a ride?

The leader starts out somewhat faster than the posted speed for the ride. Of the 12 starters, two assume this IS the ride pace and decide to go off by themselves.

The leader soon runs out of steam and slows the pace down too much. Two riders decide to ride ahead and miss a turn on the route.

Gratuitous Hills (hills for the sake of climbing hill after hill — or designing the route to include as many hills as possible) — leave the two sane riders with the attitude of why? They go off on their own.

Finally its pit stop, lunch, snack time. Two riders decide they need to hurry back and leave the group.

Back at the lot the leader says “Where are … and names all the people who dropped off”

So answer to the question in the title is: the number depends on the color of the leader’s helmet.

Another normal, or not, group ride put to rest.


The Bicycle Tragedy

In May of this year, a biking buddy of mine was riding his new Orbea carbon fiber bike to a rest room, on a flat road.

The frame collapsed and he fell in such a way that he was paralyzed and on various support apparatus.

He died this month.

I have some thoughts on this.

Life is short and shit does happen.
Don’t muddle it by being pissed off for no good reason.
Don’t waste time on obsessing about things over which you have no control.
Don’t put off the things you want to do any longer than is absolutely necessary.

As bicycle riders, we face dangers we can control.
Be a safe rider. It is NOT uncool to say “on your left”, “standing”, “stopping” or, if you must “on your right”
It is wise and prudent to single up in traffic even if the conversation you are engaged in is that important.
It is foolish to know nothing about how your bike functions or not check the basics — wheels secure, brakes working, tires inflated, etc. — every time you ride.

Life is short, but we make make it longer without too much effort.


You ride what you eat.

Okay, this is making me nuts .

  • Eating and riding. EVERYONE — when you ride you are burning fuel (energy, carbs, calories, sugar, protein, etc.)
  • When the fuel runs low, you need to refuel, stop riding or stall.
  • Simple truths are not, it seems, obvious to all:
    • You do not skip breakfast before the morning ride. Get up earlier if you must. You are not on a diet today.
    • You do not skip the snack, power bar, chocolate milk, etc. during a ride of any distance. Your body needs the fuel.
    • Enjoy your after the ride meal. Your body will use the food to build muscle…not fat.

In a group ride, not eating properly is also rude — unless you are the strongest rider in the group, in which case it is fine.

If you are bonking you are spoiling the ride for everyone else.

nuff said,


Speed vs. Roses

I am constantly torn between seeing how fast I can ride, especially if pace lining with people I trust, or just chilling out to “smell the roses”.

Both seem to have their merits, depending on your perspective.

In “roses” mode I certainly to not get the same work out, but on a nice day, I think of nothing more relaxing than cruising along at a comfortable pace — no pace lining — taking the hills without concern about how long they take — and finishing the ride completely relaxed. As my wife (main riding buddy) says “You ARE allowed to just enjoy the ride.” Being male, I did not realize this until I did it.

In “pace” mode, I absolutely miss much of the scenery, unless you consider the spinning back wheel of someone else’s bicycle, scenery. However, besides being a tremendous workout, if I like my pace, there is a real sense of accomplishment.

I seem to move back and forth. Depends on the day and who I am riding with.

Anyone care to share their opinions?

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