All the cool kids ride road bikes
My cheap, dusty bicycle recently made a cameo appearance outside the garage.After watching me ride up a hill last Saturday, my fiancé Rick rightly decided that I needed a lesson on how to properly use the various gizmos atop the handlebars. I marveled at the chain magically jumping from one ring to the next as he showed me how to correctly calibrate the little thingys on the grips. After the tutorial, I felt much less sissy-like while ably maneuvering between the various levels of granny gear going up and down inclines in our neighborhood. Learning how to correctly ride the bike I’ve owned for over two years didn’t help me ride perceptibly faster. But thankfully, I don’t actually mind being passed. I just prefer to be passed (in either direction) and acknowledged at the same time. When I go out running, other runners pass me frequently. Most times local runners will flip a wave, flash a smile, give a quick “hey” or a little nod of the head. The same cannot be said for the bikers. I can’t accurately speak about the salutation practices of mountain bikers because it’ll take several Fat Tires for me to mount an aluminum frame with two fat tires and attempt anything steeper than a molehill. On the other hand, I can say after having logged hundreds of miles running on paved trails on the Western Slope that rabid dogs are likely friendlier than the majority of road bikers whom I’ve encountered. The non-verbal communication of road bikers in mountain towns speaks volumes. While at the very least runners make eye contact with other human beings they come across on a trail, it seems as though that’s too much effort for roughly four out of five bikers. Turning up the corners of their mouths into something resembling a smile, lifting a hand in acknowledgement or uttering a single-syllable greeting appears akin to asking them to partake in a voluntary, un-Novocained root canal. One out of five bikers will offer a grunt, but only in response to one offered first. Most outdoor enthusiasts can calculate with little difficulty which half of the trail they’re meant to occupy. Even still, bikers often assert right-of-way behavior: When coming from behind, cyclists will holler warnings to runners, the urgent tone and elevated volume implying runners best scoot out of the way or risk inconveniencing those behind them. When two or more bikers riding side-by-side approach a runner head-on, the scene often plays like a game of chicken that most runners lose by jumping off to the side of the trail to make room for the bikers who failed to switch to a single line formation. One possible explanation for the ornery behavior of road bikers is their clothes. I’m not knocking the shorts – I’ll never pass up an opportunity to don padded spandex if it means my behind will look smaller. But cyclists proudly wear jerseys with large advertisements splayed boldly across the chest and back in various colors so bright they can likely be seen from Canada. Wearing shirts (for which they paid a small fortune) that resemble ones they might have received free of charge from a sponsor or by participating in a race seems to give bikers carte blanche to ride down local trails as if they were on one of the final stages of the Tour de France. Were that actually the case, demanding full control of the trail would be entirely understandable. Short of that, not so much. Besides, even cyclists in the Tour riding on the Champs-Élysées make eye contact and wave every once in a while, don’t they? Or maybe the bikers are just anxious and acting out because, like me before last weekend, they don’t really know how to properly use their bikes. If that’s the case, I’m more than happy to share my new gear-shifting skills just as long as they don’t forget to use the magic word. Actually, at this point, any old word will suffice.Basalt resident Meredith Cohen writes a Friday column. E-mail single words, full sentences, questions or comments to email@example.com.
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