Sunday, April 21, 2013

How Not To Draft A Stranger

I’m shy. 

Certainly quite the introvert. 

To be perfectly honest, sometimes I find myself doing things the hard way or going the long way around simply so that I don’t have to interact with someone else.  For example, I will put myself in more pain on bike rides by staying solo rather then asking someone if it’s OK to take a draft.  Or worse yet, when it comes time to pass, I will turn myself inside out to get a bit of a distance ahead of them so they don’t tag along with me, “joining in” on my ride.

I’ve always been like that.  Nothing wrong with it, I actually prefer it that way.  I’m happier sometimes by myself then with people. 

On my ride yesterday, as I was heading up Highway 9 between Los Gatos and Saratoga, I caught up to an older gentlemen on a really nice bike.  I didn’t want to bother him, so I hung back 20 yards or so in order to not bother him and stay out of his draft.

After abut a mile and a half, I wanted to pick it up and get going, so I accelerated, called out, “On your left!”, and made my pass.  Another mile or so up the road, I felt a hand on my left shoulder.  It scared the crap out of me since he didn’t call out and grabbed me with no warning, which damn near put us both on the ground (no crash thanks to my bike handling skills from my mountain bike roots), and yelled, “When someone is right behind you, it’s not polite to empty your nose on them.”  Before I could even think of a response he gave me a (probably friendly) push forward and disappeared behind me.

OK, yes, I did it.  I am the king of snot rockets.  I can hit a sign post 10 feet off the road at 30 miles per hour.  I might send off a couple hundred on a single ride.  Gross habit?  Yes.  Necessary?  No.  Fun?  Absolutely.  And it is my fault that I did it without checking to make sure the coast was clear.  I do the same thing when I moo at cows.  I always check to see if the coast is clear after I have already made a fool of myself.


Cyclists, if you are going to draft someone, especially a stranger you don’t know, have never seen before, and will more than likely never see again, it’s common courtesy to ask them if it’s OK to take a draft.  Or, at the very least, let them know you’re there.  It’s a safety thing, first off.  I will ride differently knowing there is someone inches from my back tire.  I will ride more defensively, I will call out road hazards, I will brake earlier, I will give more space around hazards and obstacles knowing there is someone behind me that can’t see them.

If you don’t let me know you’re that close, do NOT assume I will just know.  Moving at 25+ miles per hour I can’t hear much else besides wind noise, and I don’t have eyes in the back of my head.  You have to tell me if you want me to know.

If you don’t care whether I know you are there or not, you don’t get to get mad when a snot rocket leaves my nose and sprays you in the face.  

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