No one wants to be “that guy.” He’s the one who says to the person what other people say about that person behind the person’s back but won’t say directly to the person.
“That guy” also goes by nicknames like “ass,” “jerk,” and, yes, even “Wankmeister.”
But here’s the thing: I don’t do it because I care about you. I don’t do it because I care about safety. I certainly don’t do it to be nice.
I do it for me.
Long ago I learned that Dog created the universe and all the things in it for me. The minute I stop existing, poof! There goes the universe. So, since I’m confident my existence is getting briefer with each passing day, it’s important for me to say the things that need saying before the universe vanishes along with me.
The down side is that I’m often wrong. The down side is that I piss people off. The down side is that I ride alone more often than not.
The up side?
People sidle up to me at quiet moments and say, “Thanks for saying that. It needed to be said.”
This really, really needed to be said. So I said it.
First, about the weekly flailfest. The ride is a collection of every specimen of hobby bicyclist. We have the aspiring pro chick. We have Tweezly Smails, whose #1 goal is to pedal in a straight line. We have The Saint, who scrapes up the broken bodies and fixes flats. We have ER doctors. Mechanical engineers. Smokin’ hot babes. Portly old dudes still dragging around the spare tire they picked up at the frat house in ’69.
We got everything.
This is why it’s such a great ride. If you want to match pedal strokes with the legbreakers, Dog bless you. If you want to chase with the droppees with your tongue in the spokes, Dog bless you. If you want to lumber along with the deadwood at the back of the back of the back, Dog bless you.
There’s something for everyone, and at various points the gang regroups so you can start over again with whatever it was you started with. As The Saint said, “Get up there!”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because they’re ahead of you!”
“What happens when I get there?”
“Then you’ll have to get on up to whoever’s ahead of them.”
“There is no ‘then what.'”
No more beating around the bush
So, this dude shows up with tri bars. He’s a good dude and has never been anything but nice to me.
Problem is, there’s a basic rule when you’re a freddy riding with freddies: Leave the fucking tri bars at home. No matter how good you think you are (and trust me, you aren’t that good), the minute you go full aero in the middle of a flailing pack of wankers is the minute that our collective rectums pucker up quicker than a raisin in a blast furnace.
So I’m watching this dude as he flails up the climb. He’s so far off the back that he’s with me, and even though there are only three or four people around him, his line isn’t that good, and it’s a really narrow road, and there’s traffic whizzing by, and then, when we crest the climb, he goes full aero, reducing his already sketchy line to the razor’s edge of wobbledom.
What’s wrong with me?
This is what I was thinking: “What’s wrong with me that I care? He’s not going to crash me out because I’m going to pass by and never see him again. He’s a grown man. These other people are sort of adults. It’s their risk, let them deal with it.”
The problem is that as soon as that thought finished, it was replaced with this one: “What kind of experienced athlete rides full aero in the middle of a group that includes plainly inexperienced wankers? I know what kind: The kind of person who doesn’t give one rat’s ass about crashing you out. The kind of person whose training includes showing off his tri bar prowess among people like me who are either terrified of him or, worse, not experienced or smart enough to be terrified of him.”
This led to the next thought: “Is anyone going to say anything? Or is he just going to keep rolling along, full aero, oblivious to the fact that what he’s doing is the social equivalent of smearing your hand with feces prior to shaking hands?”
And finally, this: “Well, if no one’s going to tell him…”
So I told him
I really need to work on my delivery, because sometimes how you deliver the message is just as important as the message itself. In other words, when I yelled at him with the veins popping out of my neck and forehead, “Hey dude, you need to leave the tri bars at home because you’re a fucking health hazard and an out of control menace and don’t know what the fuck you’re doing, okay?” he got really angry. People are just so darned sensitive nowadays.
He got so angry, in fact, that he paused for a second in disbelief before shouting back these immortal words: “Do you know who you’re talking to?”
He never got around to telling me exactly who he was, but since he didn’t look like someone whose last name was Zabriskie or Cancellara or Bordine or Rogers, I kept pedaling.
Pangs of guilt
Truth is, I felt bad for ripping into the dude (a little). But then I thought about every ride I’ve been on where some idiot shows up on a TT bike to “try it out” in the middle of a densely packed sardine can of flailers. I thought about the tri-geeks with horrendous bike handling skills weaving and wobbling in and around an already sketchy peloton.
I thought about how many curses and angry tirades I’d heard my fellow bikers unleash (out of earshot, of course) on the kooks who don’t know how perilously unstable they are when going full aero even with the best of skills–and of course these jackanapes never have the best of skills. They have skills of the most marginal sort, skills which are useless when they bump or get bumped by some poor slob who’s just trying to stay upright; when they hit a nasty chughole; when their razor-thin tires pop on a nail or asphalt chunk; or when they’re goofily trying to climb or descend a steep grade.
Finally, I thought about this YouTube video, proving everything you need to know about using tri-bars in a group when you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing. I call it Crash of the Titans. (Warning: Graphically stupid content.)
Okay. “That guy” is done. You can crucify me now. And the next time you show up on a ride full aero, I promise to smile and just keep pedaling. Really.