You know how it is – you’ve been riding reasonably regularly for a few years and have achieved some modest personal level of cycling fitness. Then while pootling along and enjoying the scenery, suddenly and without warning you are buzzed by a possibly-fully-sponsored person on a bulgy-framed Carboniferous looking 2 x 11-speed thingy. You’ve probably all had this happen at some stage – even if you ride a similar 22-speed thingy yourself !
Well, that sort of startle calls for some strategy, I mean, firstly, are they really the next Vincenzo Nibali merely cruising along ? Or are they more your level and busting a gut trying to dust you off for an ego trip ? Obviously if they are the former, then if at age 55 like me, and feeling slightly less than superhuman, you are going to be cutting off your proverbial nose to attempt keeping up with them on your recycled 1990s 14-speed “Man of Steel” cro-moly framed bike … phew !
Often though, I find the latter cyclists are only about as fit as you are, and for them it’s easy to pass someone else if they are in a sporty mood themselves and have the advantage of surprise. Sort of like doing a little sprint in the middle of a long distance event, or similar to the car drivers that have to tail-gate and pass at all costs – albeit with zero physical effort – and then hold you up, or turn off in front of you.
I sometimes ignore it, or I sometimes go through the process of catching up for a distance, if I can, to weigh up their cycling style.
One can pick up a bit from body and bike language, I mean things like – How strong do their legs look ?- Are they swaying from side to side up hills ? Do they seem to be using the right gear ratios or not ? Is their bike making squeaky noises (teehee).
Or, are they vanishing into the distance in spite of your best efforts ?
Sometimes I even feel like saying something know-it-all, like ” Hey, your seat’s a bit too low, you know ! ” or some such, but then that might be giving away too much of your advantage, hey ?
These are some of the subtle clues as to whether you are able to keep up longer-term. I’m stressing here that this isn’t a race, but merely a dispassionate little head-game, i.e. that you are able to keep up with – and who knows – even have the potential to pass them ?
I mean it’s only a race if they know it is too !
It’s more a friendly test of your ability to go the distance, and to me it doesn’t matter if I actually pass them or not ( and if they are not holding me up, I normally don’t try ). It’s simply nice to know you can sometimes still be there after several kilometres of busy riding. That’s my story, anyhow … not cold revenge (lol).
There are a couple of simple strategies I use to compensate for any lack of physical ability I may have, and by this I mean thinking smarter, not working harder !
Obviously, all this goes out the window if there are pedestrians around – i mean there are enough people criticising irresponsible cyclists already, aren’t there ?
By pacing myself with my breathing going uphill, keeping in a straight line (!), being careful with the right gearing and cadence, staying aerodynamic – especially down long hills, coasting down (while often the other person is pedalling ) to save energy.
Of course, drafting a stranger is bad form and dangerous, unless you consider a couple of bike lengths behind as drafting ! And keeping the bike in good adjustment and lubed – as a good recyclist should – is definitely worth potential Brownie points in the chase.
If you really want to psych someone out you might want to casually ring your bell behind them to alert those pedestrians way up ahead, and nonchalantly say “hi” when you reach them – just to be courteous, of course …
Don’t take all this stuff too seriously folks, as even if I did have a racer’s physical ability, I certainly don’t have the killer instinct – I mean ( in another life ) in the Tour I’m sure I would be promptly hoovered up by the “sag wagon” after stopping to take lots of photos of the glorious scenery (and smelling the alpine flowers) ! I just think it’s fun to test yourself sometimes … and if you mostly ride on your own like me it’s a great way of improving fitness, if you aren’t into time trialling by yourself.
I’m not having myself on here, but after today’s ride, I checked my cycle computer – which I really mostly use for its clock – and it says I maxxed speed at 87.2 km/hr on the Fernleigh Track.
Hmm, I don’t think so ?! ?
Anyhow, regardless of the outcome of all this, you know you’ve been working hard when the rivets look like new copper, and the leather sweats … Thanks, Mr Brooks.
Happy Cycling !