What I Fear When Cycling

I’ve been riding bikes since my high school years on my first ten-speed bike (SEARS), then up in the Dallas area when I moved up there, again here in the Valley and any city that I went to go cycle at (Austin, Houston, Corpus Christi, San Antonio). I’ve cycled on long country roads, neighborhood streets and mixed in with the cars on busy city streets and I do consider myself and experienced cyclist. But, that doesn’t lead to complacency, in fact my experience tells me to heighten my sense of surroundings. Does that make me fearless? No, not at all. I have fears just like any one out there. What I fear the most when I’m out cycling is not the car behind me, but the car behind the car.

You may thinking that all wrong, I should be afraid of the car that is immediately behind me, even if I’m on a shoulder or bike lane. True that vehicle poses the most immediate threat to my safety, but it’s really the car behind it. Why? Simple, most of the time they can’t see you! It’s even worse if the second car is behind a van or other large vehicle, they are really blind beyond the rear of the van. Especially those tailgater’s!

How many times have you been driving down the road and have that one car storm up behind your ass and tailgate, looking for that time to pass you up? You know the kind, they stay inches from your ass and then punch it the first chance they get to pass you. How about those guys who thinks the road is their personal Daytona 500 and they are out to win. I’ve personally seen them do that in front of me, tailgate the person, switching lanes frequently and when they can’t pass legally, they suddenly swerve into the shoulder and pass the car. If there was a cyclist riding on the shoulder they would be dead. Anyone for that matter.

What are the chances of that happening? I don’t have the computing power to answer that, but I can tell you it’s one of those things that is constantly in the back of my head when I’m out riding on a shoulder-less road and a car wants to pass me. I see the car in my mirror (yes I use a mirror), but I can’t see if there is another car behind that truck. If I can’t see that second car, then they can’t see me. Are they paying attention to the vehicle in front of them? Do they notice that they moved over to the left lane to pass me? Are they distracted with something? Are they in a bad mood? Are they in a hurry? During those times I’m not concentrating on riding, but on the cars. I don’t breathe a sigh of relief until they pass me and have me in their rear view mirror.

I look for other dangers while I’m out and about. You have to because becoming complacent will get you in trouble. There is plenty to look out for, blind spots, door opening, squeeze plays, debris on the road, etc. Don’t worry, I am having fun out there too! So, yes, the car behind the car is what fear the most when I’m out cycling getting my exercise in.

Have fun, but be safe.

Why I cycle alone

lone_cyclistI have cycled on off since the early 90’s when Nancy and I went shopping for a bike for her. Being the Dallas area, this meant a trip to Richardson Bike Mark, the premier bike shop in the Dallas area. She ended up with a Cannondale road bike while I, being spontaneous, picked up a Bianchi. Thus began my cycling adventures with my first and only partner to date.

We were training for the Hotter’n Hell 100 in Wichita Falls held every August in the heat of Summer. We rode often encouraging each other to keep going. The rides were fun with lots of talk of riding at this event or traveling somewhere to ride. It was a great way for us to spend time together and try to keep up an active life. We both worked at Texas Instruments on the same shift so we had plenty of time to plan our rides.

Around that time Texas Instruments was going through their layoff phase and Nancy got caught in the letting go. Her priorities were to find a job first and cycling second. At that point she was still committed on the Hotter’n Hell ride. Nancy is like a cat landing on its feet. It didn’t take long for her to find a job, but this job took her to Singapore for training the same month of the ride we were planning to go to. I was heartbroken, but also glad that she was embarking on a new adventure in her life.

I ended up going as I already booked a camping spot. I figured that I might as well go, even if it means going alone. Sleeping under the stars with Randy Travis playing on my portable CD player (yes, they existed) was the best.

Since then I have cycled by myself. Back then the Internet was in its infancy and forget about Facebook and social networks. They simply did not exist. Neither did cell phones and the texting that came with it. In today’s time, I was living in a social cave. No interaction with the public was allowed nor possible. Finding someone who I could ride with was daunting so I didn’t bother.

I kept on riding but it was hard. Adapting to solo riding took a while to occur. The hardest part is the mental conditioning that you have to go through. You had no music to play (MP3 players were not invented then, hard to imagine but true), so long rides were rather boring mentally. Mind games and second guessing your decisions were my constant companions on those rides.

While in Dallas, I did all the cycling charity events there and surrounding areas. There were tons of them to choose from. Some easy and others hard. Even those I did by myself. I would started riding keeping an eye out for a group that seemed to be cycling at my tempo and stuck with them. I did meet a few people, but nothing stuck. Just casual acquaintances nothing more.

Since I’ve moved back to the Valley, I still find it difficult to find someone to ride with. My friends either do not ride or if they do ride, it is one part of 12 different activities that they do. Really? Do you really need to participate in twelve different activities to “live life to its fullest”? Forget that!

club_rideWhat about club rides? For the most part, I hate them. We had them in Dallas and now here. To me, they seem and act like pretentious SOB’s. They only like to do one thing and that’s ride fast. If you can’t keep up then it’s too bad. If you get a flat then it’s see you later attitude. That happened to a friend of mine. It was her first time out with them and she’s a beginner. She got left behind after getting two flats at once. What a freaking bunch of assholes. Not my thing. Now, I know that they are all not that way and a few are rather nice. A few is the key word here.

Anyways, I don’t look good in any of those tight-fitting jerseys. I’m a big boy and don’t have the body for it. I really like my plain sport jersey’s from Academy Sports. The white long-sleeve with black trim that also has a rating SPF 50+ is my favorite. In this Texas heat of 100+ degrees, white is the way to go.

Recently this year, I thought I had found a riding buddy. In fact, two of them. I was so excited! I always get excited to find a possible riding partner. At least I’m happy for a couple of days or weeks from the cycling that we do, but it never lasts. One thing leads to another and we end up no longer riding. It’s either jobs, new boyfriends, skill level passes me up or lost of interest with riding with me. After which I come crashing down emotionally. It’s like the rug was pulled from under my feet and it hits me hard for some reason, but after a while I’m okay with it. As long as we are still friends that’s what matters to me.

This leads to the question, is it me? Do I make a terrible riding partner? Do I bug them too much on Facebook or cell phone? Am I too quiet while riding? Am I too old and boring? Too fast, too slow? Well for one of them, I’m too slow, that I know. I’m naturally a shy quiet guy in everything I do. Either way no one ever lets me know what I’m doing wrong, if anything. The result is I’m still cycling alone. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Another possible reason is that right now I’m following a training plan from iBike Powerhouse. This plan is custom to me and involves performing intervals. The training session usually last about an hour, more or less. So, if someone texts me about going riding I’m a little hesitant. I don’t want to be taken off my plan. But, if I can get the training in before we meet to ride then yes, I’ll go. If it’s a certain person then I drop everything and go if possible.

Will I ever find someone to cycle with, I doubt it. I do wish I could find someone who gets me and likes to rides as much as I do? Sure I do! I have visions of traveling to different cities to cycle and explore the area together. Is that such a bad thing?

Well, there you go. I think I’ve explained why I don’t cycle with someone. If you can understand my rambling mess please share your thoughts with me. If you have any suggestions to help me out then let me know too!