Reserving The Right To Complain

Firstly, I went for a quick spin on the old-timey mountain bike this morning:

Further to yesterday’s post, I performed an inspection, and the rear tire has indeed worn away some of the chainstay. Narrower tires are now on their way. I briefly considered firing up the Dremel and grinding a few millimeters off the tire knobs instead, but even I don’t have that kind of time.

Secondly, for the one or two of you who care, the Old Putnam Trail in Van Cortlandt Park looks like it’s almost ready to open:

This is exciting news for anyone riding from the Bronx to points north, me included.

Anyway, as I surreptitiously mentioned last week, I recently wrote something for Bicycling about how we have to hold on to all these new cyclists:

While I stand by everything I wrote, I should qualify it ever so slightly by saying that, unfortunately, there are also some new cyclists who do suck–not as cyclists necessarily, but as people. Furthermore, while there are certainly plenty of longtime cyclists who pass judgment on new riders for making honest mistakes, there is also no shortage of well-meaning and accommodating cycling veterans who must contend with assholes who took up bikes like three days ago but haven’t stopped being assholes. Such assholes could easily provide the basis for a follow-up Bicycling piece entitled, “The Next Great Bike Boom Is Here, But Some Of These New Riders Suck Ass.”

Take for example a rider I encountered in my neighborhood a few weeks back. My son and I had ridden to the grocery store to pick up anchovies or meatloaf fixings or whatever it was and were returning home along the main retail drag; I was riding a WorkCycles laden with anchovies and meatloaf fixings and all the other crap we’d gotten, and my son was riding his new BMX. (Purchased from esteemed blog sponsor Ben’s Cycle, use the discount code in the banner for big big savings!)

While I obviously keep a close eye on my son at all times when we ride (I ride behind him so I can see what he’s doing, call out instructions, and scan the road ahead), at 10 years old he’s become pretty competent at riding in traffic. Certainly he’s more competent than the Pando Cyclist in big baggy basketball shorts who passed me on my left and then moved across me and passed my son on his right, squeezing in between him and a row of parked cars. (Fact: you can easily tell a Pando Cyclist by their brand-new bike and their baggy basketball shorts.) Then, after passing my son in the stupidest manner possible, Pando Cyclist admonished him to “Watch where you’re going!” or something along those lines.

I wanted very much at that moment to roll up on Pando Cyclist and administer a wedgie by way of response (this would have been quite easy owing to his voluminous shorts), but instead I maintained my composure and pointed out that he himself might want to watch where he’s going. A brief back-and-forth ensued, but my heart really wasn’t in it, nor did I want to set a bad example for my son (though arguably it’s way too late for that) and instead I turned to him and together we picked apart Pando Cyclist’s poor cycling technique. (Passing in the door zone? What a putz.) Meanwhile, Pando Cyclist headed off down the road and executed some truly bizarre parkway service road salmoning maneuver. Then, he aborted said maneuver by means of a u-turn and salmoned back past us to who-knows-where. Writing about the advocacy side of cycling has made me keenly aware of the perils of victim-blaming, but despite myself, as I watched him, I caught myself thinking, “This is how people on bikes get hit by drivers.”

More recently–yesterday in fact–I was on my plastic bike returning home via a paved two-way multi-use path. (It’s the path that connects to the one I mentioned at the top of this post.) A family, all on bikes, was traveling towards me and heading in the opposite direction. As we were about to pass by each-other on this narrow-ish path, a rider behind them decided that this was the optimal time to make her move. “On your left!” she shouted at the family, placing herself between them and me and getting close enough to rustle the hair on the back of my hands. It was a truly boneheaded move.

Now, to be fair, I have no idea if she was a Pando Cyclist. It’s also possible she’s one of the cyclists I’m addressing in the Bicycling piece–namely, an impatient Frederica who can’t ease up for a couple seconds when rolling up on a slow-moving family. (Her use of the hated phrase “On your left!” would point to the latter.) Either way, it’s the sort of thing that causes my flowery view of the current bike boom to wilt, if only briefly.

But yes, instances such as these aside, I’m more than happy to share the roads and trails with wobbly kiddies and slow-moving parents and newly-minted Gravel Goobers with their disc brakes and handlebar bags and identical Rapha jerseys. I’m in no hurry. In fact these days I couldn’t ride fast if I tried.

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