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