Driving to ride a bicycle. This makes no sense to me.

My commute to work and back is largely on a quiet bike lane, a broad road with surprisingly few cars and a large collection of bicycles. Based on the clothing choices of the riders and the crust of mirrors, panniers, and lights on the bikes, I presume these fellow road users are all headed to office and teaching jobs like mine. Even on the (slight) downhills, we all proceed at the measured pace that suggests that in all likelihood, none of us got a full night’s sleep, as is SOP in a household with children under the age of five.

Every once in a while, however, the smooth road, limited elevation changes, and infrequent traffic signals seem to draw a different kind of rider on our evening ride home, a type displaying substantially more ambition. The other day as I left my office I met with a pair of riders in the full lycra kit, riding bicycles that to my eyes looked as though they might collapse in a stiff wind. From the moment we converged they showed evidence of having arrived from a different planet, one without traffic signals. They blew through every stop sign without even slowing down or taking a break in their chit chat, even when other cars or bicycles were patiently waiting their turns. They paid only slightly more attention to red lights, slowing on occasion but otherwise treating them a polite suggestion to be aware of fast-moving traffic while crossing.

Traffic scofflaws, whether in cars or on bikes, annoy me (and everyone else). Even worse is when the people in question are as slow as I am, and this is pretty slow, as I am opposed to sweating when I can possibly avoid it. At the very least, if you are going to blow through red lights, you should have the decency to go fast enough that I’m not stuck behind you for over a mile. And I was in fact stuck behind these tiresome riders, who were riding side-by-side to prevent boring, law-abiding commuters from passing. What is it with lycra?

An outfit I cannot imagine wearing

There are, I’ll admit, a few lycra-clad riders who seem aware of the rules of the road. Occasionally on my ride home I will see a man in lycra who is 70 years old if he is a day, riding a bicycle that was evidently designed to go fast, although I have yet to see evidence of this actually happening. This lovely man is still having a bit of trouble with this bicycle, and it is painful at times to watch him stop carefully at every intersection, as clipping his shoes into and out of his pedals is not something he’s fully mastered yet. But I respect his effort and will ride more slowly than usual when I am behind him, as I figure he can use all the encouragement he can get, and being passed by a mom in dress clothes on a cargo bike with a kid on the back is probably something of a blow to the ego. So I usually wait until he’s having more trouble with the pedals than usual at a stop light to pass.

This is my kind of ride.

One of the advantages of riding around with major weight on my bike is that I have gotten much stronger, although I am slow. This pays off in a big way on the hills, especially on the occasions when I am riding without my kids. On the day I was stuck behind the annoying roadie couple, I was riding alone. And after a mile or so of mostly flat riding, we finally hit a real hill. The two of them split to crunch up it slowly on bicycles that weighed less than my pannier, standing in the pedals for leverage. So I passed them. Next time bring your “A” game, roadies.

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Filed under commuting, family biking, San Francisco

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