7 things non-cyclists should know about road cycling
I only got into road cycling last June when I decided to train for a triathlon, and there were a number of things that caught me by surprise. I realized that I had been an utter asshole at times to cyclists, and I want to share how you may be an unintentional asshole too. Obviously there are some entitled cyclists that are assholes themselves, but they are in the minority. Give a cyclist the benefit of the doubt. You’ll usually be right.
1) Road cycling is scary
Listen. I’m not a wuss. I’ve jumped out of an airplane. I’ve bungeed off a 20-story bridge. I’ve stepped into boxing rings and wrestling mats to train and compete in things like boxing, MMA/Ultimate Fighting, Judo, and submission grappling. I’ve hung off cliffs climbing tall peaks at altitude with a thousand feet of air underneath me, and much more. I’m a lot more risk tolerant than most people. I feel more in danger road cycling than I have in most other situations I’ve gotten myself into. I try to forget that a distracted driver texting a smiley to a friend could kill me at any minute. It’s hard to feel safe most of the time with how most cars drive around cyclists nevermind the random rager that seems to come around every month or so.
2) If I’m not close to the very side of the road, there is a reason for it
As a driver, I know it can frustrating when a cyclist is impeding your progress. It’s not just something we do on a whim. You may not see that glass, sand, gravel, or the sharp edges and potholes on the roadway, but we do. All of them could end our day pretty quickly and cause serious injury or even death. We’re constantly weighing the option, “What is more dangerous right now: being further out into the street or staying close to the side of the road?” The side of the road is different than the middle of it. All water is directed there, so the majority of water damage (potholes/cracks) and debris is there. Give us time to find a safe spot to move over. Saving twenty seconds isn’t worth both our lives since I could die, and you could end up in prison.
3) Buzzing by a cyclist is extremely dangerous
It’s really just a percentage game, and I hope I never win the unlucky lottery. Road obstacles may cause a cyclist to swerve unexpectedly. That could be the same exact time you are buzzing by us closely. All we are doing is trying to get a workout in and travel along the roads. Even if it annoys you that shouldn’t carry a death sentence, right? I’d hope you aren’t a sociopath and that you’d actually mind murdering somebody for cycling, so please give us a little more space when passing.
4) Cutting off a cyclist is a dickhead move
We are past the major safety hazards now and into some etiquette ones now. I know you want to make that right hand turn NOW and not 5 seconds from now. I know you want to come out into the roadway NOW and not 5 seconds from now. Try to be a little courteous though. Pressing your little footsie on your little pedal is a lot easier than braking a bike and then trying to get back up to speed. Biking may seem like effortless cruising at times, but it’s hard damn work. I used to just be a runner, and I’d see cyclists fly by thinking “psh. take the easy way out”. That’s not the case. It’s not easy at all, and it’s hard getting up to speed. It’s akin to a runner needing to sprint all out for 20-30 seconds every time they start running from a stop. Please don’t cut us off.
5) Getting mad at a cyclist for not obeying every traffic law is cherry picking and hypocritical
Admittedly this is debatable. I know in the eyes of the law, a cyclist is like a car. That is ridiculous though. A cyclist on a 20 lbs bike isn’t the same as a driver in a 1 ton car. There are special rules for both of us. You get to pass us on roads with or without a solid yellow line. That’s fair. We are different than cars. For YOUR convenience, we generally ride on the very side of the road and even the shoulder when available and safe (the shoulder is technically not considered part of the road by law in most states). Again, we are different than cars and realize this. We may run through a stop sign or continue through a red light when traffic allows and it is safe. Don’t get mad at that. Some cyclists may make a poor decision on when this is “safe” just like some drivers may make a poor decision on when it’s safe to take a right on red, when to proceed through a stop sign, when to merge through a yield sign, etc. If you think a cyclist should obey every single car law, then would you mind if we follow your idea and ride in the middle of the lane instead of the side of the road, and you can only pass us when you are allowed by law to pass other cars? I didn’t think so. I guarantee you the middle of the road is a lot better quality there. Let’s be courteous to each other and realize our differences.
6) Cycling clothes may look silly, but they are functional
Now this doesn’t include the people decked out in their cycling hero’s jersey. That’s like a guy wearing a full Celtics uniform to a pickup basketball game. The clothes themselves are very functional though. Those goofy shirts… Those tight shorts. Those weird looking helmets. They all serve a very important function that “normal” clothes don’t. Before I started cycling, I laughed at the clothing. When I started, I first tried not to wear the typical cycling gear. I quickly adopted it though because it just makes life so much easier and more comfortable. Try not to judge us. Oh ok. I know that’s hard. Laugh away. Just try to keep in mind that it serves a purpose.
7) Cycling is hard damn work
I know it can look easy. You look at me and see me pedaling away, not sweating much, and not having painful grimaces on my face. Well, a constant 20mph breeze does a lot for cooling and for drying sweat. Pedaling is hard work. It may be because I’ve been running for so much longer, but I find cycling more strenuous on the legs than running. Starting from a stop is like doing heavy lunges for reps, climbing long and/or steep hills is a lesson in physics (and futility), and your thighs burn on a regular basis. Yes. This is fun.