You don’t have to ride a bike very long — here in L.A. or anywhere else — to experience an unpleasant interaction with the driver or occupants of a car. And most of us have harbored more than a few fantasies of getting even somehow.
Some of us have even gone beyond the realm of fantasy.
I was reminded of that the other day, when Will followed up his story of an ill-advised, water-logged ride by recounting his efforts to even the score with a deflating tale of a Valley double-dunking.
To paraphrase a song from my blissfully misspent youth, you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger. And you don’t mess around with Will.
In fact, I’d say it’s probably the second-best story I’ve heard about bikers getting even.
The best came a few decades back, when I met one of the first competitors in the Race Across America — an ultramarathon cycling event in which the competitors ride from coast to coast in a little over a week. (I’m leaving his name out because it’s not my story to tell. And because the statute of limitations may not have run out yet.)
This particular rider lived in a small mountain town in the Colorado high country, and trained by commuting by bike to his job in Denver — a round trip of over 100 miles every day, rain, shine or snow.
Usually, he didn’t have any problems with drivers. In those days, at least, Colorado was home to the Red Zinger/Coors Classic bike race, and drivers were used to seeing cyclists on the roads. And since the winding mountain roads didn’t allow vehicles to go very fast, he seldom had a problem with impatient drivers, particularly on downhill portion, where he could easily ride at or above the speed of traffic.
This particular morning, though, he had to deal with a truck driver who seemed to be in a hurry. And was being a total jerk about it, repeatedly honking his horn and driving in an unsafe manner.
They traded the lead a few times, as the driver would pass on a straight section, then he would catch up and pass on the right when the truck had to slow down for a tight turn.
That continued through the entire length of the canyon.
Once they got to the bottom, the driver was in no mood to share the road. In fact, what he wanted was a fight. So as soon as the road widened, the driver gunned his engine and zoomed past, then screeched to a stop on the side of the road. And got out of the cab with his fists balled — leaving the door open, with the engine running.
So the cyclist came to a stop just behind the truck — but stayed on his bike, balancing with his feet in the clips, as they traded angry words. When the driver charged him, he would ride back and stop again to maintain the distance between them.
This continued for several minutes, until finally, they were around 3 0 or 40 yards from the truck. At which point the cyclist simply stood on his pedals and rode past the sputtering driver — then stopped at the open door to the truck.
Realizing his mistake, the driver sprinted back to the cab as fast as his chubby legs could carrying him. But not fast enough, as the rider calmly reached in and grabbed the keys, slipped them in his jersey pocket and rode until he was safely out of reach.
Then he stopped and turned around to make sure the driver was watching. And threw the keys into an empty field, as hard and far as he could, before continuing to ride calmly on to work.
And when he rode back home that night, the truck was still there, abandoned on the side of the road.
Streetsblog LA counts down to the upcoming Los Angeles Bike Summit. I’m marking my calendar, though I have no idea where the L.A. Trade-Tech College is. Green L.A. Girl suggests uglifying your bike to deter theft. And in case you missed it, the despised — and probably unenforceable — L.A. bike licensing program is semi-officially dead, despite the best efforts of many riders to comply with it.