Don’t be a Borg on a bike: Announce yourself
One sunny spring day last year I set out for a ride on the Rio Grande Trail when a guy on what looked like a $10,000 Orbea road bike flew past me without saying a word: no “on your left,” no “move aside, chump,” no “kiss my spandex-clad butt,” nothing.
I’ve been obsessed with road riding ever since I saw the movie “Breaking Away” nearly 40 years ago, but I’ve never acted like one of these arrogant Lance Armstrong wannabes who started infesting the roadways and bike trails shortly after Lance won his first Tour. I’ve taken to calling them all “Borg,” because I imagine that they, and maybe Lance, were sent to Earth from the planet Velotron for some secret government experiment years ago.
I’ll admit, I was dawdling along that day — my early-spring quads still more accustomed to sliding than spinning — but his wordless pass had the effect of raising the hairs on the back of my neck. So I did something that I usually resist doing: I got out of the saddle and chased him. My Bianchi may be 17 years old, but it’s still got some giddy-up to it, and I was on the guy’s back tire faster than a Texas trophy wife on fur.
This was not my usual mode of operation. I’ve never felt a need to race bikes or be competitive on them in any way, and that is by design. When I was a kid, I ran everywhere I went for the simple joy of running, and I became a highly competitive middle distance runner in my teens and 20s. But competition took my joy of running away and replaced it with a single, steely-eyed purpose: winning.
I never wanted to lose my joy of riding like that, so I’ve always taken a more passive approach to the bike. I’ve done a lot of bike touring — Ride the Rockies, Triple Bypass and Elephant Rock — and I love joining the streams of like-minded, garish-colored riders stretching out along the roadways. But I’ve always made a point of following the etiquette of the road: announcing before I pass someone, and even greeting oncoming riders with a “hello” and a wave.
I’m getting older now, though, and I ride very little during winters, so I wasn’t sure how long my early-spring legs would hold up to the challenge of staying with Borg. I was thankful that he had to slow down when we came up behind a pair of young moms on cruiser bikes pulling their offspring in toddler chariots. They took up the entire width of the trail, and were chatting so much that they didn’t hear us approach.
Borg stayed behind them, and me behind him, for more than a minute, saying nothing. I finally said, “On your left, please!” The women looked back at us and smiled, then slowly pulled to the side to let us go by.
Borg jumped out of the saddle and sprinted past them and away from me, looking back only once to see if I’d follow, but I was over whatever competitive fire had gripped me, or perhaps I didn’t want to risk guilt by association.
“Have a great ride, Borg!” I shouted after him, then settled into a nice, easy pace, enjoying the day.
Jeff Bear is a copy editor for The Aspen Times.
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