I admit it. I have a competitive streak.
It came in handy during my brief career as a schoolboy defensive tackle; not so much when I took up tennis and would gladly slam the ball down my best friend’s throat just to win a point in a friendly game.
That was one of my motivating factors when I took up cycling.
When I ride, my only competition is within myself. Like challenging myself to ride just a little farther than I did last week, or climb that hill a little faster than the day before. Or tolerate those screaming muscles long enough to push a little harder and still make it back home again.
But just because I’m not competing with anyone else, that doesn’t mean some people aren’t competing with me.
Maybe they think I’m a racer, with my bright colored spandex and semi-fast bike. Although most racers seem to look no further than my hairy, unshaven legs before deciding that I’m not.
Every now and then, though, I’ll pass someone on the bike path, or another rider will come up to me at a red light — often half my age or less — and suddenly their highest priority becomes trying to catch and pass me, or beat me to the next corner.
Usually, I let them.
There’s no need to tell them that the pace they went all out to beat is the same one I’ve been keeping up for the past 20 or 30 miles. And if it makes them feel good about themselves, maybe they’ll keep riding.
Or if someone starts to annoy me, I can just slow down a little and let them think they’ve won, or shift up a gear or two and leave them in my wake, wondering what the hell happened.
Take today’s ride.
I let a young man draft on me on me for a couple miles, until his reckless riding got on my nerves. So I kicked it up a couple gears, and dropped him like freshman English.
A few miles later, I came upon a plump young woman riding ahead of me, her purse slung casually over the handlebars. I’d just finished a long stretch of hard, fast riding, and had slowed down to relax for bit and take in the view. Still, her pace was well below mine, so I swung around her and continued on my way.
A minute or two later, though, I noticed another rider coming up behind me. And sure enough, within a few moments the same girl passed me, pedaling as fast as her legs could carry her and tinkling her bell as she went by.
Then not far ahead, she pulled off to the side where a man was waiting for her. She pointed in my direction, then as I passed she I heard her exclaim, “I beat him!”
Of course, that raised the hackles on my neck. I had to resist the temptation to circle back around and argue that it’s not beating someone if the other person isn’t even trying.
Instead, I shoved my competitive demon back inside its cage where it belongs, and let her have her moment. Maybe it will encourage her to keep riding, and maybe the next time I see her, she’ll be a little slimmer, a little stronger.
And she might just beat me for real next time.
The LACBC is working to turn 4th Street into a real bike boulevard. The new transportation bill pending in Congress demonstrates the value of electing more cyclists to office. More bike-related ways to run your iPhone battery down. A Des Moines police officer runs down a cyclist going after a speeder; maybe he was upset that Iowa was picked to finish last in the Big 12. Alexandria, VA is working to become bike-friendlier, while the legendary bike-friendly community of Madison, WI, is struggling with the same issues the rest of us are. Vancouver removed a lane on a major bridge to add bike lanes, and the world did not come to an end. A writer notes that riders must respect big rigs, and not just because they can squash us like a bug. A London writer wonders what’s behind the rise in bike mutilation and slashed tyres. Finally, a writer complains that cyclists — other than himself, of course — flaunt the law, just like drivers do.