Monday, November 09, 2009

I Can't Read Your Mind AND I'm Paranoid: A Recipe For Disaster

It's really tough to read Body English and other non-verbal clues when bicycling. Where some might take offense to an aggressive move and feel they need to take up the challenge, whether one was intended or not, another rider might think that the faster rider was just training hard that day or perhaps has been riding for years and decades to build such strength.

Yesterday, BalticTiger and I were riding north of town -- in the treeless boonies, basically -- and though it was touching the 60's temperature-wise, the sun was behind the clouds, it felt chilly, and we were riding crosswinds to a 10-mph breeze. BalticTiger and I were taking turns pulling. Another rider was maybe 50 yards ahead of us. He was older than both of us and he was quite stocky, but had the telltale thick, muscular calves of an avid cyclist. Over the next mile, we barely closed 40 or 50 feet on him. We weren't trying to catch or pass him.

At the next intersection, we all turned right and were riding into the wind. Very gradually we closed the gap, as I was doing all the pulling now with BalticTiger holding my wheel and very large wake. We were moving at about 19 mph, but the rider ahead, despite his bulk, was riding almost that speed too. For some reason, I don't like to pass other riders too gradually. Either pass them "with authority," I tell myself, or just stay put. But then as the wind finally got to him, the rider in front of us slowed noticeably. As we caught up and passed him, we both said hi, I commented that the wind had picked up, and BalticTiger said how nice a day it still was to ride. And on we went.

But after a couple of minutes, the bulky rider was passing me and I was wondering what was up. Here's where a bit of verbal communication comes in handy. As his front wheel pulled ahead of mine, he said, "I'm gonna take a pull for a minute." And that's what he did. For one minute, after which he pulled over to the left and dropped back. I have to admit that I would have felt a bit challenged if I didn't know he just intended to take a short turn at the front. And if he had sped up even more, I would have stayed with him, even though BalticTiger might have been redlined already. I also have to admit that I really didn't want him to pull because I was "in training" by riding hard into the headwinds. I don't get many opportunities for "training time" when I ride with BalticTiger. (Don't tell her I said that... although she already knows.)

If the guy hadn't pulled over after a minute, I would have passed him anyway... which might have communicated something non-verbally that I didn't intend. Fortunately, everything was copacetic because he spoke up as he passed me earlier.

He went straight at the next intersection, we turned right, and we both went on with our rides.

Lesson to the story: Speak up.


Post a Comment

<< Home