Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Exercise the Right Muscles

You come around the corner and see him, less than a mile up the road ... a fellow cyclist, going your way.

And so you speed up.

Maybe you're just bored. It's a long empty road, and lots of cyclists use it for training. Having a rabbit to chase for a bit might be a nice distraction. If he's doing about the same speed as you, maybe you could make a friend. Who knows? You might get to talking and find that you have a lot in common, and end up with a new favorite training partner.

So you close the gap. You tuck in a little lower, focus on spinning circles and engaging the big muscles, and soon you're 500 yards back, and then 100 yards, and then 10 yards. Somehow, you've also tried not to shift gears much, staying quiet, being sneaky, timing things so that you catch up to the guy just as you're coming to a piece of road where you have a competitive advantage -- an uphill if you're a climber or a downhill if you're a descender -- so you zip by and keep hammering.

Did you even say "On your left" or "Good morning" as you went by?

Here's an even bigger question: What do you do if the guy happens to speed up and get on your wheel? Do you keep going the same speed? Do you really put the hammer down in an effort to drop him? Do you begin working together and swap off pulls until you either go your separate ways, simultaneously back off and introduce yourselves, or one or the other of you gaps off the front and thus proves himself the Alpha Male of this stretch of road for today?

Did you just miss a chance to make a friend because you were too wrapped up in proving how strong and fast you are?

Or maybe you're riding a specific profile today -- tempo or intervals or whatever -- and you're heads-down hammering along when you see another cyclist going the other way. He nods, or waves, or calls out "Hello" as you come even. Did you at least nod, or raise your fingers from the aerobars in a pseudo-wave?

But this one is the worst. You're way out in the country and you see a rider on the side of the road, struggling to change a tire or fix something on his bike. Maybe you're doing that profile again today, or you've got a long way to go, or you need to get home soon or you'll miss the first half of the game. Do you slow down and ask that fellow cyclist if he needs any help?

Do you ask as if you really mean it?

We don't really expect kindness from cars -- although I've had more than a few of them offer help when I'm changing a flat or riding somewhere in the rain -- but you would think that cyclists would at least stick together. Cutting your tempo ride short 15 minutes one time isn't really going to ruin your lactic acid threshold, but leaving that new rider with the flat stuck out on Hwy 100 until he finally calls his wife to come get him could just be the thing that keeps that new rider from ever getting on his bike again. In case you haven't noticed, there ain't that many of us to begin with. We need every cyclist we can get.

So, stop when you see somebody that might need help. Slow down a bit when you pass another rider, and maybe take a shot at making a friend. At the very least, nod or wave or grunt "Hello" at every other cyclist that you see.

It takes 12 muscles to wave at someone. You only need one not to -- and, yeah, that muscle is a sphincter. Exercise the 12 muscles instead.


  1. RB, don't think that I have read about exericise and sphincter since Mickey Spillane! Andy

  2. Then I'm in good writing company, Andy!