5.28.2004

PACE LINES AND DRAFTING AND SHARING THE TRAILS

Okay, it may be true that I have enough pet peevs to open a pet store, but the ones pertaining to cycling are close to my heart as many of them effect my health and my future...

Each day after work I take a ride around the city to "lose my day." Most often I get away from the traffic and point to any number of the bike paths that surround Washington DC. It may be the Capital Crescent Trail, The Mt Vernon Trail, or Rock Creek Park. On each day I am forced to contend with the same sets of annoying variables and dangers. But one of the dangers that frustrates me the most is the PACE LINE (when a group of cyclist ride single file, the first rider blocking the wind so that the following riders can maintain the same speed with less work.) Pace Lines bother me primarily because they are dangerous, they often are too fast for the trail, and more so because the riders are more concerned with the invigorating race-like feel rather than the obstacles ahead. Only the first rider can see what is happening ahead, and the following riders are forced to trust their decisions. FIRST AND FOREMOST! This is a bike path, which is more similiar to a road than a race track...with that logic a pace line is not drafting, but rather tailgating (there are two different types of drafting that are distictly different, that latter being more dangerous) People can draft off their friends and training partners or they will latch onto a stranger's back wheel. OOOHHHHHHHH, that pisses me off! Drafting should be left for the road and for the races, and certainly never off the wheel of a stranger.

let this rant move to a story....
I am not proud of it, but it did happen, and I will tell you before hand I am happy that no one got hurt and will never repeat this action

One morning I was going for a prework spin. I was on the Mount Vernon Trail on a mountainbike with 2.1 knobby tires. I passed a cyclist on a roadbike. Soon after passing them I could sense him on my back wheel. I turned back and asked him not to draft, he smiled a geeky grin. I asked again that he did not draft off me, I picked up the pace, made no effort to drop him, but faster just the same. This to him was some sort of "cat and mouse" game, but to me it was a fly swarming around my face game, just wanted to swat him and have him be gone already. After the third request the rider informed me that he was in control, knew what he was doing, and was following with safe following distance. We each turned onto the 14th Street Bridge crossing from Virginia into DC. I am not sure what came over me, but I got tired of this parasite on my rearwheel so I slammed on my brakes. Clearly the rider behind me was not in control and did not have safe following distance, cause he rear ended me and fell over. I never took my feet out of the clips, stayed upright, said..."Ooooops, thought there was a snake in the trail." Took another look to confirm that he was okay and finished my ride back into the city and into to work. Upon arrival to work I rethought my actions, I regretted my behavior. My actions were not going to help things, nothing positive could become of all of this, sure it was a tad funny, but all in all it was the wrong way to handle things. Like a black cloud these actions loomed over me for days, I went out of my way to take the same route to try and find this guy again and make amends. Sure enough a week or two later I ran into him, made my apology and he accepted. It was a funny exchange, he had no idea that he had contribute to the situation. I am sure that he is still drafting off other riders on the trail. But that is the ediqutte of the trail weenie. We both laughed that I was an asshole, I made no effort to debate or discuss as this encounter was to apologise. We each had a laugh and went our separate ways.

After this encounter I moved to the single speed for the bicycle paths, the smaller gearing had a lower maximum speed and did not allow me to get involved in the insecure male competion for the crown of KING OF THE TRAIL or TRAIL KING OF THE DAY. That is not to say that I do not get on the trail and exceed the 15MPH Trail Speed limit, cause I do. But I try to do this courteously. I always give an audible warning, which tends to be offered on the actual pass more as a hello than a get out of my way (and it gets a thank you almost everytime, people deserve the basic respect) I slow for unpredictable trail users, such as dogs and children, and I stop for anyone in need; cyclist with mechanicals, old men having heart attacks, tourists needing directions, and Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders in need of massage.


need to get back to work
do some work and leave early
if I leave early I may be able to go for a quick bike ride
maybe I can be KING OF THE TRAIL today?

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