When it comes to the practical aspects of living life, I am a pretty cautious individual. As far as exposing yourself to physical harm or legal liability, there’s a spectrum: on one end is Keith Richards, and on the other end is Mr. Rogers. And while I’ve engaged in some naughtiness over the years just like most of us have, overall I’m decidedly way closer to the sneakers-and-cardigans end of the spectrum.
For this reason, I’m always amused when certain types of people get upset when I’m flippant about bicycle helmets. In a world where people take drugs, race around on motorcycles that can go from 0-60 in less time than it takes you to sneeze, and go wingsuit flying–sometimes all in the same day–hopping on a bike without wearing a foam hat doesn’t even move the needle. And hey, I’m not judging people who do drugs, ride really fast motorcycles, or like to emulate flying squirrels. I’m just saying if you’re worried about people getting hurt while recreating, my lifestyle should not be keeping you up at night. (That’s not to say I don’t realize I could die at any moment, I’m just saying I’m not exactly begging for it.)
All of this is by way of saying this morning I headed out for a ride in Palisade Interstate Park, on what local cyclists colloquially call “River Road.” As it happens, bicyclists are required to wear helmets when riding on River Road. Usually I comply, because if I’m getting all dressed up in stretchy clothes and dance shoes anyway it’s certainly no trouble to add the helmet, nor is it worth wasting precious riding time by getting stopped by the park police. However, this morning I deliberately and flagrantly decided to forego the helmet. To be perfectly honest, the reason I did so was because in our current climate of rules upon rules I felt a deep and abiding need to break one by saying “fuck it” and riding my bicycle through a park with nothing covering my bald spot but a cycling cap. (Take that, authority! I guess I really am Keith Richards.)
Anyway, I rode through the park without incident. I was even passed by the park police at one point, and they took no interest in me whatsoever. However, after the final climb by the ranger station, as I was leaving the park, another park police car rolled on me from behind. I didn’t notice it at first, so the *click* of its PA system engaging startled me so much that, if it weren’t for my clipless pedals, I would have leaped off my bike like it had an ejector seat. Then the officer spoke: “Please wear a helmet next time, you have to wear a helmet in the park.”
I gave the officer a friendly wave and a thumbs-up. Hey, he doesn’t make the rules, and he certainly could have ticketed me if he wanted, so he was doing me a favor. For the return trip, I took Route 9W instead of the park. There’s no helmet requirement on that stretch of 9W, though you are roughly 1,000 times more likely to get run over by a truck than you are on River Road, where there are hardly any cars and trucks are banned. But, you know, you’ve got to follow the rules. Hey, it’s for your own safety, right?
Speaking of injury, I’m sorry to report that longtime commenter Leroy has had a crash. He reported the crash to me himself with his usual good humor, so you’ll be relieved to know that both his faculties and his spirit are intact. However, his injuries are bad enough that he’s going to need some surgery, and no doubt he’ll be forced off the bike for some time.
I’m not sure Leroy would want me sharing any of this, but I feel compelled to report it, and also to give you an example of what a good-hearted person he is. Not too long ago, I wrote a column for Outside magazine about how they should run simultaneous men’s and women’s Tours de France. This didn’t strike me as particularly controversial, so I was shocked to receive the following email:
TDF & Cunt Equality – Eben Weiss | Outside Online
You must have gotten beaten up every day of your childhood existence. And if not you should have. You represent everything that real cycling men (and women) hate in Millennial SJW cunts like yourself.
In sum, you’re a huge douche Muppet fag that couldn’t make it as a pro cyclist or a professional in business.
Shove your equality bullshit up your waxed ass…
At my age I’m always happy to be mistaken for a millennial, but this did not redeem the overall tenor of the email. But here’s the thing: the email included not only the sender’s name, but all the contact information for his law firm. This allowed me to quickly learn everything about him, including the fact that his very active Strava account consists entirely of hikes.
My first impulse was to publicly lampoon him for this (not that there’s anything wrong with hiking, but maybe have a few decent bike rides on your Strava before you impugn someone’s cycling chops), and to post a screenshot of the email complete with contact info to Twitter, where such sentiments would be red meat for the Twitterati. (Metaphorically speaking, that is, since the kind of people who get outraged about stuff on Twitter generally don’t eat red meat.) However, I soon realized I’m sick to death of online fighting, and of Twitter outrage, and since he was a lawyer it occurred to me maybe I should just bring it to the attention of his local bar association or something like that. (I’m not a lawyer, but sending unsolicited emails like this to strangers struck me as the sort of behavior they’d frown upon.) So I consulted Leroy, who is not only well versed in the law, but also has an unerring sense for navigating the high road. He suggested I respond, and went so far as to compose a reply for me. Here’s what it said:
Dear Mr. [Redacted],
Please see the attached email I recently received.
I thought you should know that the email account you use for your law practice appears to have been hacked by someone representing your area of expertise, specialized training, or education in a manner inconsistent with Rule 7.4 of [Redacted]’s Rules of Professional Conduct.
There’s no need to thank me for calling this to your attention or to even reply to this email. In fact, I would prefer you not reply.
If, however, you wish to express your appreciation, please consider a contribution to former pro cyclist Kathryn Bertine’s Homestretch Foundation. You can read about them here. I think you’ll find it illuminating and inspiring.
I never heard back from the incensed attorney. Maybe he accidentally sent the email from his work account rather than his burner email, and was deeply embarrassed. Maybe he never received my reply, will see this post, and come after my “waxed ass” with redoubled vigor. Or maybe he really was hacked. (Ahem.) Regardless, the point of all this is that Leroy is a class act, so hold an aluminum seatpost to your forehead and send him some good vibes.
Ride safe this Memorial Day weekend, and consider your good fortune while you do.