Thursday, May 28, 2015

Five Ways to Have Fun with Unfit Riders

I'm not as fast or skilled a bike rider as I'd like to be. Over the years, I've been slowly making peace with this. But sometimes, those who are quick and deft seem determined to rub it in my face with their cheerful competence.

As if it weren't annoying enough to ride with people who are way fitter and more graceful than you, they often have an uncanny talent for saying and doing insulting things. My theory is that people who are naturally talented are blessed with a blissful ignorance of what it means to struggle on a bike. They usually make miserable teachers and coaches, because they have no idea what they're doing that makes them phenomenal. As the old saying goes, "Those who can't do, teach"—because they put long hours of practice and thought into whatever small advantage have.

If you're one of those talented folks, well, I'm just so happy for you! To reward you for your undeserved, inborn specialness, I'm offering up a few ways you can add to your fun when you're out there with a lesser rider. All of the following have happened to me at least once:
  • Take them to a technically demanding trail, and then assure them that, despite their dire misgivings, they can handle it. As reassurance and a way to question their courage, mention the 73-year-old grandmother who regularly rides that trail—on a rigid singlespeed. Be assertive; sometimes, healthy, rational fear can be difficult to overcome. I ended up with a nearly broken leg this way, a bunch of years back.
  • When they balk at riding a feature you just sailed over, say, "Wow, I thought I was the one who had trouble with that kind of thing!" 
  • Invite them for their first road ride with you and a friend, and then take off out of sight with your friends when they lag a bit. For extra credit, fall into your habitual paceline with your friend, and then just roll out again without a word the moment they finally catch up with you at the intersection where you're waiting. 
  • When they're suffering like a dog on a long, steep climb, get to the top ahead of them—and then sail back down and ride up again, right next to them, chatting away, and asking questions they can't answer in their hypoxic state. If they say they're about to vomit, it's especially helpful to ask, "Do you have that metallic taste in the back of your throat?"
  • If they get a flat, grab the pump out of their hands and loudly announce, "I have tons of experience with flats, it'll be faster for the group if I do this." For bonus points, neglect to center the brakes on their road bike after you re-mount the wheel. What hijinx! They'll puzzle over their abysmal fitness while trying to keep up with the group, only to find out later that their brakes were dragging.
There are so many more ways to have fun with your unfit friends. Feel free to post them here and share!


Brian W. Ogilvie said...

When you're trying to talk them into going for a group ride, tell them that your group rides at a social pace. Let them discover that "social" means "18 mph paceline."

Velosopher said...

Indeed. Telling them that they can do the pace is also really helpful.

Em said...

While they're dragging their bike up the side of a cliff, yak their ear off about "how fun it is to ride down this".

Also (sorry, gender-specific) if you're a NEMBA leader, approach a couple (stopped, off their bikes, identical equipment and skill) and ask the woman: "Is this your first time out here"?

Velosopher said...

Those are great, Em. And I'm so aghast at the gender-specific one—though I'm sure there are many more. So glad you're reading here.