“That guy”

May 13, 2013 § 54 Comments

No one wants to be “that guy.” He’s the one who says to the person what other people say about that person behind the person’s back but won’t say directly to the person.

“That guy” also goes by nicknames like “ass,” “jerk,” and, yes, even “Wankmeister.”

But here’s the thing: I don’t do it because I care about you. I don’t do it because I care about safety. I certainly don’t do it to be nice.

I do it for me.

Long ago I learned that Dog created the universe and all the things in it for me. The minute I stop existing, poof! There goes the universe. So, since I’m confident my existence is getting briefer with each passing day, it’s important for me to say the things that need saying before the universe vanishes along with me.

The down side is that I’m often wrong. The down side is that I piss people off. The down side is that I ride alone more often than not.

The up side?

People sidle up to me at quiet moments and say, “Thanks for saying that. It needed to be said.”

This really, really needed to be said. So I said it.

First, about the weekly flailfest. The ride is a collection of every specimen of hobby bicyclist. We have the aspiring pro chick. We have Tweezly Smails, whose #1 goal is to pedal in a straight line. We have The Saint, who scrapes up the broken bodies and fixes flats. We have ER doctors. Mechanical engineers. Smokin’ hot babes. Portly old dudes still dragging around the spare tire they picked up at the frat house in ’69.

We got everything.

This is why it’s such a great ride. If you want to match pedal strokes with the legbreakers, Dog bless you. If you want to chase with the droppees with your tongue in the spokes, Dog bless you. If you want to lumber along with the deadwood at the back of the back of the back, Dog bless you.

There’s something for everyone, and at various points the gang regroups so you can start over again with whatever it was you started with. As The Saint said, “Get up there!”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because they’re ahead of you!”

“What happens when I get there?”

“Then you’ll have to get on up to whoever’s ahead of them.”

“Then what?”

“There is no ‘then what.'”

No more beating around the bush

So, this dude shows up with tri bars. He’s a good dude and has never been anything but nice to me.

Problem is, there’s a basic rule when you’re a freddy riding with freddies: Leave the fucking tri bars at home. No matter how good you think you are (and trust me, you aren’t that good), the minute you go full aero in the middle of a flailing pack of wankers is the minute that our collective rectums pucker up quicker than a raisin in a blast furnace.

So I’m watching this dude as he flails up the climb. He’s so far off the back that he’s with me, and even though there are only three or four people around him, his line isn’t that good, and it’s a really narrow road, and there’s traffic whizzing by, and then, when we crest the climb, he goes full aero, reducing his already sketchy line to the razor’s edge of wobbledom.

What’s wrong with me?

This is what I was thinking: “What’s wrong with me that I care? He’s not going to crash me out because I’m going to pass by and never see him again. He’s a grown man. These other people are sort of adults. It’s their risk, let them deal with it.”

The problem is that as soon as that thought finished, it was replaced with this one: “What kind of experienced athlete rides full aero in the middle of a group that includes plainly inexperienced wankers? I know what kind: The kind of person who doesn’t give one rat’s ass about crashing you out. The kind of person whose training includes showing off his tri bar prowess among people like me who are either terrified of him or, worse, not experienced or smart enough to be terrified of him.”

This led to the next thought: “Is anyone going to say anything? Or is he just going to keep rolling along, full aero, oblivious to the fact that what he’s doing is the social equivalent of smearing your hand with feces prior to shaking hands?”

And finally, this: “Well, if no one’s going to tell him…”

So I told him

I really need to work on my delivery, because sometimes how you deliver the message is just as important as the message itself. In other words, when I yelled at him with the veins popping out of my neck and forehead, “Hey dude, you need to leave the tri bars at home because you’re a fucking health hazard and an out of control menace and don’t know what the fuck you’re doing, okay?” he got really angry. People are just so darned sensitive nowadays.

He got so angry, in fact, that he paused for a second in disbelief before shouting back these immortal words: “Do you know who you’re talking to?”

He never got around to telling me exactly who he was, but since he didn’t look like someone whose last name was Zabriskie or Cancellara or Bordine or Rogers, I kept pedaling.

Pangs of guilt

Truth is, I felt bad for ripping into the dude (a little). But then I thought about every ride I’ve been on where some idiot shows up on a TT bike to “try it out” in the middle of a densely packed sardine can of flailers. I thought about the tri-geeks with horrendous bike handling skills weaving and wobbling in and around an already sketchy peloton.

I thought about how many curses and angry tirades I’d heard my fellow bikers unleash (out of earshot, of course) on the kooks who don’t know how perilously unstable they are when going full aero even with the best of skills–and of course these jackanapes never have the best of skills. They have skills of the most marginal sort, skills which are useless when they bump or get bumped by some poor slob who’s just trying to stay upright; when they hit a nasty chughole; when their razor-thin tires pop on a nail or asphalt chunk; or when they’re goofily trying to climb or descend a steep grade.

Finally, I thought about this YouTube video, proving everything you need to know about using tri-bars in a group when you don’t know what the fuck  you’re doing. I call it Crash of the Titans. (Warning: Graphically stupid content.)

Okay. “That guy” is done. You can crucify me now. And the next time you show up on a ride full aero, I promise to smile and just keep pedaling. Really.

§ 54 Responses to “That guy”

  • Mo'Nilla says:

    Reese Witherspoon?

  • Brian in VA says:

    Preach on, brother Wankster.

  • Leo says:

    that guy must really be a jerk.

    • Admin says:

      Ha! Not a jerk in the slightest! Good guy, solid rider, just in need of some guidance…like the rest of us.

  • Dan says:

    I too have a permanent shoe print on my tongue. I am elated to know I am not the only one. At least I dont go to bed wishing I said something to someone. I go to bed wishing I hadnt said something to someone. At least I never have to worry about health issues from holding too much anger in. You made my day

  • New Girl says:

    Long ago I learned that Dog created the universe and all the things in it for me. One of my favorites, Cycling in the South Bay. Thanks for the education (not experienced or smart enough to be terrified of him) and the giggles Wanky!

  • Checkerbutt says:

    Wish I read this particular article this morning before going out and riding (at the back) of the LB Freddies group with my TT bike. One of the guys says to me as i drift towards the back, “You are “THAT” guy!” Now I know what he was talking about.

    Thanks Wanky!

  • Lesli Cohen says:

    Seth, the video makes your point. Next time, I’m guessing you aren’t going to smile at the full-aero guy. You’re going to tell him that what he’s doing is the equivalent of filling his still-running lawn mower with gasoline while he’s smoking a butt. A grateful nation thanks you in advance.

    • Admin says:

      What’s weird is that we have this huge body of accepted knowledge, but the casual hook-up nature of the group ride makes people hesitant to enforce the norm, so the rulebreaker really has no idea he’s doing anything wrong. Most of us know that tri bars in a mixed group is a bad idea, but in the laissez-faire world of the Church of the Spinning Wheel, we tend to shrug and try to stay out of harm’s way, grumbling under our breath. It wasn’t always like this. I remember when Jeff Fields would tell you to stop doing stupid things when you did stupid things. Your feelings got hurt, but you generally stopped the stupid behavior or rode elsewhere. There was a sense of self preservation and a tribal sense of preserving the group. It’s not unconnected to the casual way people ride off when someone crashes, not even bothering to see if the victim needs medical attention. Fields may have called you out for being an idiot, but when you crashed he always stopped, and if you were okay he made fun of you and helped you true your wheel or straighten your bars or dust you off. It’s connected with the wave of popularity of bicycling, and people who have lots of ability and a great work ethic and who then think that whatever they do is right and beyond reproach when in fact none of us is beyond reproach, and given the high stakes on the group ride we’d all be better off if accepted knowledge was more freely transferred to those who are still uneducated. BUT…it’s for fun, too, and who wants to be the guy or the gal on the ride who chews ass, especially when, for every time I howl at the moon and gripe about someone’s flail, I’ve committed a dozen goofball moves of my own? Those of us who live in glass houses need to have the sense of responsibility to throw rocks when appropriate, and not get bent out of shape when the occasional stone, rightly tossed, comes our way as well.

  • philrides says:

    Oh, the memories. When I started riding Donut, it was trial of fire. I was intimidated, scared, excited, and thrilled with the ride. But some people were really tough on me. Screaming, veins popping – everything – directed at me, and rarely if ever would the outburst include any indication of what I did wrong. I was trying to ride as best I could and I knew I was supposed to go straight and stay off the brakes, but I had no idea why I drew such venom. It was amazing I stayed with it. Many of my tormenters are still around, but so are the good guys who helped me with less vocal tips and advice.

    I even came out on a tri bike. My first road bike was an old tri bike. I did not use the aero position except once, when I was on the front. Even then Tom Best told me – calmly – that it’s best to stay out of it. I changed the bars and shifters as soon as I had the cash but it took a while.

    The story with this guy sounds different and I don’t mean to compare myself to him, but the story does bring back memories of the year of screaming that I had to endure if I wanted to ride. I’m glad I did, but I still think there must have been a better way.

    • Admin says:

      There is a better way–people on the ride should share the education on critical matters like going full aero on tri bars with the group. It shouldn’t all be left to “that guy.” On the other hand, with the exception of “that guy,” there’s hardly anyone shouting on the rides any more, and quite a few people take the time to pull riders aside and correct them. Not always gently, but usually with specifics. As Gus continually reminds me, “We’re all wankers,” and none of us is beyond reproach, correction, or improvement.

  • bananaman says:

    In the immortal words of Greg Duvall, “That guy looks like someone on a torture rack, praying.” To no avail, in this case.

  • Tom says:

    Perhaps tri-geeks should be banished to the Ninth Circle of Hell.
    Many of them, if not most, don’t know how to handle a bike, and worse, they seem unable or unwilling to face up to it.

    The “old school” ones riding 80s-style aerobars, remind me of the ancient Greek “trireme” warships, whose key tactic was ramming their bow into other ships.

    I am especially bitter because a tri-geek (on a road bike) decided to enter the 2nd or 3rd mass start race of his life, in one of my crits — there’s a loophole whereby cat5 or 1-day licensees can enter most 55/60 races . Tri-geek crashed out several of the racers, and 8 weeks later, I’m still not recovered from the cracked ribs :-(

    A pox on tri-geeks …

  • The Dude With the Funny Helmet says:

    Sorry, but even if your name is Peter Sagan and you can pull off one-handed wheelies on your bike, there is no place for full aero in the middle of a group ride. Both steering and braking are adversely affected. Going full aero in the group is like a big “F U” to your fellow riders – it says “my agenda (practicing my TT position/looking cool/whatever) is more important than your agenda (getting home in one piece). Just imagine a group ride where EVERYONE was full aero – it would be a bloodbath.

    I’ve seen some of the most gifted cyclists in the area – possessing superior bike-handling skills – showing up for the NPR, Donut, Mandy and Riviera rides mixing it up on their TT bikes. Number of times I have seen them go full aero in the group: ZERO. Why? They were “raised right” and know better.

    Thanks for speaking up.

    • Admin says:

      Package just arrived, unmarked, making a funny ticking noise with a return address that says “Global Tri-Bar Consortium.” I’m sure it’s nothing.

  • Usta Befit says:

    Have to watch out for those squirrels…..never know which way they will go when they drop their nuts! Thanks for speaking up…I think many of us think we are far better bike handlers than we really are…if we could all watch a video of our group ride from start to finish we’d probably never do it again!

    • Admin says:

      No kidding. As my buddy Gus says, “We’re all wankers.”

      At the same time, I’d rather be on his wheel than just about any other, because it’s like a good hotel room: NO SURPRISES.

  • Usta Befit says:

    Yeah good hotels are as important as good pants cause cheap hotels & cheap pants have no ballroom!

  • 300watts says:

    A friend of mine tells a good story about feeling the heavy hand of Andy Bishop when he (my friend) was setting up to chop a corner for 4th place in a crit with three guys already up the road. Even a Cat 1 can get schooled.

  • Rob says:

    I ride with a couple of Tri guys on occasion. No problems. When it’s a group ride, these guys bring out their road bikes. They know the rule.

    Hey, if you see Johnny Tri bars again, yell at him. It’s all in the name of safety.

    • Admin says:

      Nah, he’s a good guy, and I hope he learned his lesson. But if not, someone besides me will have to take up the slack. I have a quota of one yell per flailer.

  • Al Lakes says:

    Haven’t seen a guy with tri bars on fast Montrose in years. However, the guys with that little IronMan tat who are making the transition to road always seem to be sketchy, aggressive, roided-out freaks. My feeling is that they consider themselves “real” athletes and once they start doing our rides they just assume they’ll spank us. Oh wells.

    Oh yea, we also have an old, super-fit, pseudo-euro-pro on a Dogma who wont wear a helmet. I look at his tanned, muscular 65 year old legs and think…well, he probably earned it. And, as you alluded, your tri dork has not earned it.

    • Admin says:

      I think there are fewer people who show up now for group rides trying to go full aero. Darwin wrote a book about it.

  • JP says:

    Sounds like you guys are all just jealous you can’t aero as hard as I aero! Buch’a haterz! Livi’n at 90º bitchz!

  • But this still begs the question:
    “Who was he?”
    Or was he in the same state that I generally get into, about once a week, when I genuinely do not remember who I actually am.
    “Do you know who I am? Cos I sure as hell have no idea”.

    • Admin says:

      He’s a good guy, solid rider and time trialist…’nuff said. I’m enrolling in a class next week called “Getting the message across without spitting.”

  • MattS says:

    Serious question: is ghost aero allowed? I will never appear at a group ride with aero bars, but I have pulled in ghost aero position. Behind others, no way. But open road and pushing hard, yeah. Does this irritate people?

    • Admin says:

      I can’t speak for others, but it irritates the shit out of me. Hold onto the damned bars, right? You’ve got your forearms draped over the bars, hands nowhere near the brakes, and you hit something or have a mechanical and bam! Everybody on your wheel is scrambling or has scrambled brains. The ghost aero is a strictly pro deal, done by pros who are scraping for every precious bit of aero. What’s our excuse? Getting fifth in the sprunt on the Tuesday AM ride? Getting a podium spot in the 35+? Really?

      I can’t count the number of times my life has been saved by having a firm grip on the bars or the hoods. Why do people go to such lengths to let go, or to show up with equipment that decreases the stability of an already sketchy proposition? We’re on two wheels. Surrounded by nothing but a buffer of air to protect us from speeding asphalt and speeding-er cars, it seems so counter intuitive to cede control, not garner more of it. BUT–people are idiots, and bicycle riders are a particular species of idiot, and it usually takes a couple of good hard crashes to learn the complicated lesson of “falling hurts,” so…ghost aero it will be for many.

      You can see that for me to only shout and holler once every month or so is a restraint of almost inhuman self-control.

      • cyclosomatic says:

        Glad I asked. I will reconsider use of the ghost aero position. Its a once in a while move, usually into heavy headwind. Ok, yeah, better to avoid using it unless solo. Thanks Wanky.

      • Admin says:

        Well, you’re welcome, but my advice is generally worth what it costs, and often less.

  • Rev says:

    Well done. Fucking triathletes. And I can say that cuz I am a fucking triathlete. And I am wankier than many, but even I know better than to even show up at a ride like that with a TT bike, much less actually use the aero bars. I thought that was group ride 101

    • Admin says:

      I told one good friend that perhaps I shouldn’t have yelled. She said: “People are gonna get their feelings hurt when they’re called on the carpet for being wrong, no matter how you say it.”

      Smart lady.

  • Peter Schindler says:

    A few months ago just going easy up PCH a group of tri geeks integrated themselves into our small bunch. The light changed to red at Carbon Canyon and the guy in front of me tried to brake with this left hand and shift with his right simultaneously. This resulted in tucking the front wheel causing a face plant severe enough to warrant an airlift to the hospital. Enough said.

    • Admin says:

      Let’s see, braking and shifting simultaneously, hmmm…that’s not in my book “Cycling Techniques From A to Z.” Oh, here it is, in the Preface: “Some things are so stupid they need not be mentioned, because no human being would ever be so imbecilic as to try them.”

  • R. White says:

    In the words of Slick Willy, Seth; I Feel your Pain.

    It’s a tragic, socially and physically, that the huge body of knowledge you speak of is not being passed down. I migrated from 10 years of what is now Cat 1 mountain bike racing to the road in 1998. I had depth and breadth in the skills department, but I also recognized immediately that there was a whole lot going on on the road that I didn’t yet understand. I sat at the back for almost a year before getting into the rotation, watching, listening, learning. In those days if you stepped out of line there were more than a few voices that would immediately correct you. You earned your spot in the peloton by demonstrating you had the skills and the headspace.
    Flash forward to roughly 2007-2013 and the persistent degradation of (new rider) skills and explosion of rider ego, skills not withstanding. Buy a carbon bike and make believe you’re riding with one ball. The voices of discipline have been silenced by concerned wives and families, perhaps a stronger sense of self-preservation…
    The sad thing is that what used to be a riding experience that deepened your skills and your depth has degenerated to a “less than” experience. Additionally, it’s a fact now that the most dangerous thing on the road is no longer a speeding car; it’s That Guy riding next to you.

    A suggestion: Ride leaders: Vocally and Loudly establish the rules of the ride at the start. Talk about how to ride out loud so the newbies have a chance to figure it out. And yes, publicly chastise those repeat offenders.
    If you crash riders out you get to pay their deductible AND co-pay… Now THAT ought to do it…

    If you spent all that money and take all the time to ride, don’t you want to get better?

    We hang together, or we’ll hang separately.

    • Admin says:

      This is an old complaint, but like lots of old shit, it’s still around because it happens to either work or be true. Bread and butter, for example. People still eat it after all these years because it’s nourishing and it tastes so damn good. Bicycle skills, for example. They don’t come with the bike.

      The Way of Fields worked because the number of new entrants was small. If you appeared, Fields immediately knew you were there, then he crushed you. If you came back, he crushed you again. Eventually, you quit cycling. So the sport remained small.

      When Fields retired, word got out that any idiot with a bike could be a biker. Millions started biking as the cry of “Fields is dead!” was bruited from shop to shop. However, only a handful had ever developed the lung capacity to shout, “What the fuck are you doing you dogdamned moronic piece of shit?” at some wanker and not pass out from the sudden expulsion of oxygen needed to maintain the final 100m of sprunt.

      So idiots began riding without the benefit of being screamed at by Fields or grabbed by the nape and dropkicked into a vacant lot filled with broken glass and old condoms. Studies have shown that nothing shakes your faith in your ability on a bike like being screamed at, especially when it’s accompanied by flecks of spit and giant pulsating veins and a giant square Fieldsian jaw that’s broad enough to block out the sun and strong enough crack walnuts. You either get the hell to the back or you quit, hopefully both. Likewise, studies show that after repeated screamings you engage in cognitive assimilation of new techniques, otherwise known as “gradually not riding like an idiot and gradually riding like a marginal idiot.”

      The roads are now clogged with the unscreamed. This is like the elementary schools now filled with kids who never got their asses beaten by a schoolyard bully on the way home. Kids who never got pushed into a ring and had to fistfight a guy three times their size and lose. Badly. Kids who never had to walk through a bad apartment complex to get across Renwick. In short, bicyclists who don’t realize that they’re lowly worthless turds and that the riding world is filled with vicious, mean people who can dismember them on the bike and kick them to the curb without even breathing hard.

      The unscreamed constitute a leisure class who believe that their cheap medals in age-restricted fields in sparsely populated events somehow give them a superiority license, rather than what those medals actually give them: Identification as someone who’s never had a new orifice ripped for fredding out on a ride. The unscreamed then, in their hubris, teach the other unscreamed that you can go through the cycling life acting like a jackass and endangering others with no consequences. Hey, if someone gives you shit just show them your medal, because you keep it in your back fucking pocket. Don’t they know who you are?

      The sullen, grizzled, dyspeptic old shits who snarl and spit at the sunrise end up like the old sperm whale in Moby Dick, cast off from the pod, cruising the South Seas in search of food, its only solace. But for all that, the old timers who cut their teeth on The Way of Fields, when they occasionally show up in the Brave New World, are not obligated to accept stupid for smart, deadly for safe, kook for smooth, or expensive for skilled. And when their blood pressure lowers enough to scream, it’s incumbent on them to do it.

      • R. White says:

        Thanks for the validation Seth. I need validation. I crave validation. I live for validation. Huh? Okay. My girlfriend says stop talking while you’re typing and get off the internet. I’ll shut up.

        Excuse my while I pop another throat lozenge…

      • Admin says:

        Truly an awesome comment!

  • Dave Dixon says:

    Take me to school anytime. A 2 second comment you made sunk in very deep. It won’t make me faster but it made me safer for myself and those around me.

    • Admin says:

      Keep your head up!

      See, you’re one of those dudes who’s not afraid to learn. Now, pass it on. It’s all we can do, right? People are schooling me constantly, and I appreciate the hell out of it.

  • CyclePower says:

    Dear Mr Cycling in the South Bay guy. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate and can relate to your anecdote and the general sentiment of what you’re saying. I know “that guy,” too, and generally speaking, the dude who shows up to the group ride with the tri bars needs correcting. He needs a talking to, a bit of mentoring, some instruction from someone who’s been there before.

    But, at the same time, I know “that other guy.” He’s the guy in the Cat 4/5s at Eldo who is screaming at everybody and anybody more or less constantly at both real and imaginary infractions, or those breaches in etiquette he thinks, in his own limited experience, he understands. The expression “hold your line!” sounds convincingly authoritative, so he bellows it at every opportunity.

    He’s the guy in the four man group whose tantrum because of your short pull almost causes him to lose control of his bike (sorry dude, but I’ve been time trialing it for twenty minutes since losing contact with the front group. I need to recover.)

    He’s the guy whose enraged chest beating, curb hopping display because you were able to bridge up to him would be familiar to Diane Fosse.

    He’s the guy who needs to tell you about his 900 watt sprint and, when his unimpressive verbal display is met with your understandable indifference, attempts to reinforce his point with snide admonitions about your riding.

    The thing is, a great deal of the yelling is less instructive and more posturing. In any social setting there is always that undercurrent of hierarchical ambition. You have to work to define your rank in the hierarchy. Yelling at the newb tells us, and anyone else who cares, that we’re no longer a newb. I find, actually, I get chirped at more now, having ridden for twenty years and being pretty strong, than I did when I wasn’t as fit or fast. This is just part of the roadie cycling culture when egos are involved and, you know what?, I find it pretty tedious and unnecessary.

    In most other social circumstances, such as that person who cuts in front of you at the supermarket line, you would respond politely with, “Excuse me, but I believe I was in line first.” In this case, with our tri guy friend, it results in a venous bulging fusillade at the top of your lungs. It was overkill, and, as an illustration of the ego driven nature of this kind of exchange, he immediately responded defensively and with a verbal nod to his status – of a bluff about his status.

    And it sometimes escalates past the verbal into something physical. One particular instance that involved the use of pepper spray during the Como Ride comes to mind.

    I think a “Hey man! Don’t take this the wrong way, but riding aero bars in a group ride is really just bad etiquette. …and it’s just not safe.”

    • Admin says:

      Well said. The right message, delivered wrongly, can become the wrong message. I could have done better.

      Now, coincidence being what it is, this topic of yelling actually came into play on this morning’s ride in North County. I feel another blog coming on…

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