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Bygone Boot Camp Revisited

About one year ago, I felt it necessary to re-post a "news page" that I originally posted in July 2007.  I feel it is time again to post this important page and the article by cyclist and author, Maynard Hershon.  It's my Valentine's Day gift to y'all:

 

Coach Ralph Frazier

 

February 14, 2011

 

Occasionally I have heard rumbles and grumbles from my membership that I am too harsh and overbearing out there on the road.  In particular, after I have dished out a scolding for improper riding.  Often the violator is consoled by another member, "Oh that's just Ralph being Ralph."   For me this is frustrating because I am not just "being Ralph".  I am providing what most have missed when they came to cycling from swimming, running, triathlon, or their careers.  Too many people lack the understanding and education of what road cycling is all about.  There are too many "new wave" cycling groups that do not adhere to crucial "old school" rules.  I'm not about to let that happen to FCP!

 

My job is tough because some members truly believe that "Ralph is being Ralph".  How can I convince them that what I teach and the way I teach is important for everyone?  Steve Shore found something that might do it.  It is an article from VeloNews (June 2007) by Maynard Hershon.  IT IS A MUST READ ARTICLE FOR ALL FCPers and all club cyclists. - Coach Frazier

 

BYGONE BOOT CAMP

 

By Maynard Hershon

VeloNews, June 25, 2007

 

This winter in Denver, even on days when my gloved-but-frozen fingers throbbed on the bars, I'd see riders in shorts, cadaverous white legs glowing in the chill. Once, right after one of those sightings, I chatted with a cyclist bundled up as I was. A kindred spirit, both of us shivering.

     "Can you believe these dudes in shorts?" I asked him. He could not, and told me about Miguel Indurain and some Spanish teammates who trained here in Colorado prior to the 1995 world's in Colombia. They wore leg warmers even in moderate temps, he said: As we all did, I thought.

     We all wore leg warmers below 70 degrees or so. We tried to brush the top tube with the insides of our knees as we pedaled. We thought about cadence and suppleness. We knew how to circulate in a paceline. Many of us were safe rotating in a crosswind echelon.

     We could fix a rear flat in five minutes.  We could look back over our shoulders or eat or drink on the bike without crashing anyone. We could join a ride, sense its rhythm and settle right into it.

     None of that set anyone apart. If you were a bike rider, you learned those things.

     Not long ago I crashed on a silly "casual" midweek club ride. I was last in a line of "Ride the Rockies" athletes strung out behind a relative strongman on a busy shoulder-less two-lane road. No one pointed out the gravel in the road. No one pointed out anything in the road.

     I thought again about white-legged guys in sub-40-degree temps. And about nice folks who seem to feel no responsibility for riders behind them. No one told the guys in shorts about wearing leg warmers below about 70 degrees. And no one ever said much to the suburban Madone riders about cycling-specific road safety.  Certainly there was no pre-ride safety chat.  Itís boring stuff anyway, like a damn lecture.

     It isn't that these people disregard cycling's conventions. They're not rebels and they're not stupid. They ignore the rules because they don't know them. No one has taught them.

     In the old school, veteran riders taught us the rules and enforced them. If we failed to comply, they scolded us.

     Bend your elbows! Drop your shoulders! Where're your leg warmers? Keep your knees in! Ride a straight line! Don't cross wheels! Look further ahead! Loosen up on the bars!

      If we failed repeatedly to observe the conventions, especially if we did not look out for our riding companions, they yelled at us. Eventually they moved the ride start or changed the ride time and informed everyone else - but forgot to tell us.

     They were sure we knew the rules; they'd taught them to us. If we refused to follow those rules, if we were untrustworthy, they chose not to ride with us.

      I'm a shooter. Each practice night at the firing range it's the same bunch of guys, give or take a new shooter or two. There's always a range officer. Each week he or she conducts a range safety meeting before we unpack our deadly implements of destruction.

     If one of us does something foolish and dangerous, that person is done for the evening. No one shouts at the offender, but nothing is sugarcoated. Go home. Good night.

     Even at prestigious shooting schools in remote, inconvenient locations, if a client does something careless, potentially endangering others, that person goes home. Forfeits the serious-money tuition. Sorry. See you next year. Zero tolerance.

     Have I seen anyone injured at the range? Never have I seen anyone injured on a group bicycle ride? Need you ask?

     Have I seen a cyclist criticized for carelessness or inattention to the safety of other riders? Not for years. Have I sat in on discussions of what awful thing just happened and how it could have been prevented? Sadly, I have not. We ride on, having made nice and learned nothing.

     We've all seen gross violations of cycling safety that earned the violator more sympathy than the poor soul who left the scene on a stretcher. Oh, you must feel terrible! She fell right behind you! Isn't it great how quickly the EMTs got here? Let's finish the ride.

     In "the old days when we geriatrics started riding, we were young and had not made our way in the world. Typically three of us shared a crummy apartment. One of the three had a crummy car. We could not speak intelligently about the wines of Tuscany.

     We were new to cycling and aware that there was much to learn. We wanted to absorb it all and be American Coppis or De Vlaemincks. If we had to be yelled at, that was okay. We wouldn't make that particular mistake again.

     Today's thousands of new club riders are middle-aged. They're prosperous. They've taken meetings, done lunches, bought SUVs and arranged ducks in unwavering lines. They have not been scolded for ages. They don't want to hear stern voices while they're practicing their hobby. Supposed to be fun, right?

      I admit it. They fool me: They look like complete riders, tanned and serious in their club or "2 Hard 4 You Ride" souvenir jerseys. But they haven't learned much beyond pedaling and mixing sports drinks - not nearly enough to make it safe to ride close to them.

     Skeptical? Try this. Pick a guy dressed more expensively than Ivan Basso. Ask him to stand in front of his bike and tell you which brake lever operates which brake. If he can't, stand in front of your bike and ask yourself if you want to ride on his wheel. 

     Traffic allows us about three feet of road width. Often we're nose-to-tail in those three feet, inches between us, flanked by an endless line of GMCs. Close as we are to our riding friends, as much as we depend on their alertness, we should be able to trust them.

     To earn our trust, they should learn basic cycling skills. They should warn us of hazards. They should think as protectively of us as they do of themselves or their families.

     Best to imagine that they haven't been taught that stuff. Otherwise, we have to think that they can't be bothered with looking out for others. That thought is not going to make anyone happy.

 

Reprinted with permission from VeloNews, Volume 26, issue No.12, news

stand date June 25, 2007. © 2007 Inside Communications, Inc.