How to: Pass properly on a bike path

Q: The bike lanes and trails in my town are becoming flooded with fellow cyclists, which is great. I’m no racer myself, but I’m faster than many of these new riders, which can lead to some interesting moments—there seems to be no universally accepted passing etiquette for cyclists. What’s the best way to handle this?

A: I’ve been on both ends of this, waiting patiently to pass a slowly swerving cyclists in front of me, and on the receiving end of a few close passes by a fellow rider in huge hurry to get somewhere, or attempting to become a Cat. 6 World Champion.

In theory, the flow of bike traffic should work in a similar fashion as car traffic, with slower traffic keeping right, holding a steady line, and signaling intentions to change direction of travel. And in practice, just like the automobile, the situation is a complete mess.

Many look like little kids wobbling around: groups of riders taking up the lane yakking away with no regard for other riders; in-line skaters in their own world; triathletes in a full aero tuck and earbuds fully inserted; high schoolers texting and riding; knuckleheads taking random u-turns with no warning; idiots taking selfies. Some days riding a bike can make you feel that hell is truly trying to coexist with other people.

Illustration by Stephen Haynes

Illustration by Stephen Haynes

What to do to make things less hellish? First of all, slow down. If no one else knows you’re racing, you can’t win anything. Traveling at a much greater speed than the traffic you are passing is a sure way to make things more dangerous than they need to be. Feel the need to go fast? Don’t do it on a busy bike path.

Second, make some noise—um yeah, I lost my train of thought there, because writing on a computer leads to distractions like watching the entire 30-minute version of the Beastie Boys “Make Some Noise” on YouTube. If I can ever find a new ink ribbon, I’m going back to using my old Underwood. Anyway, open your mouth and let your presence be known, sometimes a call of “good morning” works better than the hard-to-not-sound-rude and confuses-the-hell-out-of-non-racers “on your left”. Talk to people, make yourself known, try not to sound like an ignoramus, etc.

Another effective tool is the bell. By its very nature it’s non-confrontational, and it seems to harbor some magic in the consistent way other riders react. A quick look over the shoulder, followed by a move to the right. Perfect really. The one caveat with bell use? More (cow)bell will not make things better. Keep it in the pocket, ring once or twice when in hearing range, thank while passing, go one about your day. Repeated bell ringing is annoying, and the more a bell is rung, the less effective it becomes.

The outliers here are the earbud zombies. Talking, yelling, bells, none of these make these people react. My advice? Think hard about extending your aura, which cannot be blocked even with dubstep being pumped into the brain at high volume. That aura will be felt, and space will be given. Deep breaths, get right with yourself, and the bike path will be your oyster.


This article originally appeared in Bicycle Times 31 as part of the Ask Beardo column. Subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to get content like this delivered to your inbox every Tuesday. 

Print

Ask Beardo: What should I eat while riding my bike?

Editor’s note: Beardo the Weirdo is our resident spiritual advisor and greasy wrench expert. You can usually find him in the pages of Bicycle Times but sometimes he fires up the dial-up modem and logs in here. Ask him anything at [email protected]—ANYTHING—and he’ll answer you. Be forewarned.


bicycle-times-ask-beardo-food

Beardo,

I’ve begun adding distance to my weekend rides, and I’m having a hard time finding food that doesn’t upset my stomach, but can still be eaten on the bike. Any ideas?

Barry Gronouski

Barry,

The first thing I gotta ask: why eat on the bike? The allure of pre-packed snacks is obvious, but the idea of eating on the bike has always struck me as something done by racers and those training to race. If that’s you, it might be a good idea to set aside some of your budget and experiment with the various options on the market. Gels, powders, bars, pills, fizzy lifting drinks, lots of options for the many types of bodies, metabolisms and activity levels.

Personally, I neither race nor eat what most people would consider pre-packed sports snacks. Not because I have anything against either thing; I think it might have to do with all the formaldehyde I was exposed to while hauling stage props as a roadie for Slayer, but ever since then I’m on a pretty strict diet of canned meats and white rice. Children’s vitamin supplements have kept the scurvy at bay to this point, but man, some days all I want to do is eat an orange and take a nap on the beach.

Potted meat is surprisingly easy to find at many supermarkets, and modern pop-tops make it possible to eat while riding without needing to carry a can opener. But why bother? I find it much more enjoyable to find a proper lunch spot, crack open a can of preserved meats, slurp the layer of fat off the top, and take a breather while chewing contemplatively on unknown muscle groups.

I’ll hazard a guess that my dietary oddities aren’t shared by many other riders, but I’ve found most other people enjoy stopping, getting off the bike, and taking on nourishment like a civilized human. Sitting down to eat with friends is a custom shared by many cultures, and regardless of how many gels you’ve sucked down while in the peloton, there isn’t really time to discuss world politics or what it smells like when you drop a glass jar containing a pig fetus of unknown age.

Some of my favorite big rides have been planned around a new or favorite lunch spot. Eat a big breakfast, pack a proper lunch (canned meat and rice soup is a favorite, and travels well in the Thermos), and enjoy the break as much as the ride. Even racer types might find this a welcome respite to the frantic consumption of plastic wrapped goodies. A nice sandwich—eaten between intervals—might make for a more motivating training ride.

—Beardo

Portrait of Yours Truly by Stephen Haynes


This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss an issue, order a subscription.

Print

Ask Beardo: Do I need to wear Lycra?

Editor’s note: Beardo the Weirdo is our resident spiritual advisor and greasy wrench expert. You can usually find him in the pages of Bicycle Times but sometimes he fires up the dial-up modem and logs in here. Ask him anything at [email protected]—ANYTHING—and he’ll answer you. Be forewarned.


Beardo Minor Threat

Beardo,

I’ve begun riding my bike more often for fun, not just to and from work. Is it time to buy some Lycra? I want to ride more with other people, and that seems to be the acceptable norm.

Thanks,

Watts Hunter

Watts,

Clothing makes the man, right? Or woman? Or womyn? Considering the t-shirt and shorts uniform that has taken over the tech world, maybe not so much anymore. In fact, it makes it hard to keep things straight about who is who anymore. Which is the way it should be. Best to open that book up before judging the cover.

The idea of keeping things straight might be the main reason so many serious recreational cyclists wear lycra. Much like the pairing of vintage goggles with cast-off high school band uniforms and fur makes the wearer recognizable as a Burner (or steampunk? I get confused); Lycra, no matter how ill-advised, says the wearer is serious about cycling.

So should you dip your toe in the Lycra waters? Are you racing at a high level? Since you’re asking a puppet with at cardboard head for advice on how to dress, I’m going to guess you aren’t standing on podiums anytime soon, so there’s no need for aerodynamic clothing on your rides.

The other reason claimed for the full Lycra suit is comfort, one which I find suspect, but whatever; you want to wrap yourself up like a sausage? Have at it! But going on group rides without some form of ‘kit’ to fit might leave you looking like the black sheep from the cover of Minor Threat’s “Out of Step”.

But much like that sheep—while you might look different—you are at the core still a sheep. Or cyclist. Or whatever. Sometimes it seems my metaphors start to break down too quickly. Maybe it’s because my attention span is shorter than the average Minor Threat song? Maybe listening to more opera would help.

Remember that some of the issues we have with the cagers is due to the ‘Us vs Them’ mentality that Lycra creates. Lycra superheroes are “the other”, making it easy to hate on cyclists as a generic, homogenized group. It seems the only thing the populace loves more the self-righteous indignation is a good ol’ polarized ‘Us vs The Commie Bad Guys’ showdown.

Anyway, wear what you want, but remember that millions of miles are ridden every year in all kind of weather in clothes that don’t look ridiculous off the bike. Hell, some of the toughest riders I know manage to survive riding all winter in jeans, a cotton hoodie and wool gloves. And contrary to the opinion I read recently online, Lycra isn’t earned, it’s something anyone can buy, and I wish less people would.

Beardo

Portrait of Yours Truly by Stephen Haynes

 

Print
Back to Top