Spring is here, and thus the season of Minnesota bicycle event rides begins. The traditional season-opener, the Minnesota Ironman, is coming up May 1, slightly later than usual this year due to the lateness of Easter. Thus, it’s an ideal time to review how not to be a jerk when riding at an event.
While there are events that really do tilt to the very experienced cyclist, like randonneur events, the bulk of big bike rallies are what many call t-shirt rides — they offer multiple distances, participants get t-shirts, there are rest stops, hooray. Depending on the event, the mileages can attract a very wide range of riders — Ironman gets many kids and novices for the 17- and 30-mile routes, but the metric and the century attract dedicated and experienced cyclists. Some metrics will also pull in the less experienced looking to make the leap, although Ironman hasn’t traditionally been a strong event for that due to the season.
Events tend to have a broad draw, though, so it’s important for newer cyclists to try to get the hang of things and not create problems for others, and for experienced cyclists to behave in a way to not make novice or less accomplished/ambitious cyclists think they are spandex-clad jerks. There are a lot of cyclists for whom the 25-mile supported ride is the apex of their ambition and ability, and that’s fine — these recreational cyclists can help advocate, can share the roads when they drive, and represent a bigger chunk of the population than the cycling fanatic.
Here are some tips for everyone so we can all just get along and get to the rest stops like civilized cyclists:
- If you’re a fast rider or doing a long distance, start early. Many events have a 2-4 hour registration and start cycle. Even if you are a fast rider who can do the century in 5 hours, it will benefit everyone if you start on the earlier edge of start times. That way you can get OUT of the registration zone without having to weave and be irritated by the slower/more novice/indecisive riders.
- If you need to adjust your bike, your layers, find a water bottle, scratch your ass, whatever, get off the road. Don’t care how experienced you are, the people who stop in traffic and stand around in the lane doing whatever it is they need to do are an irritant to all, and it’s often unsafe as well. Get out of traffic, including the traffic that is other nice bicyclists wanting to bicycle in the nice bicycle event.
- Allow room for other cyclists to pass. Even if you can really pound and hold a good pace, make sure there is passing room around you. The need to allow passing room increases as your speed decreases. If you are a family riding 8-10mph, do not ride four abreast, I beg of you. Be like the ants and march two by two (hurrah, hurrah).
- Allow room for motorists to pass. Pay attention to the course. A lot of people assume “This is a bike event! This is safe!” Not every road at every event is closed to traffic, and not every event has dense groups of cyclists and a lot of notice for people using the roads. Watch for cars and allow them passing room.
- Know your road closures. As stated above, not every road at every event is closed to traffic. I have seen people on roads open to traffic cross center yellow lines in areas with hills and blind curves, and it makes me very, very nervous, especially in rural areas. (Getting run over by a logging truck would ruin your day, and it’d ruin MY day to see it happen.) Even when roads are shut down for events, in many cases the closure is one way, and traffic is allowed in the opposite direction. Maps and signs from organizers should give you guidance. Take it.
- Don’t take piles of food at rest stops that you won’t eat. Seriously? Just rude. Many organizations, if they have leftover food, either carry it forward to other events if the food is suitable for such things, or they give the leftovers to battered women’s shelters and the like. Take what you personally will need.
- Don’t leave junk on the route. Carry your wrappers to the next proper trash container. Blow a tire? Bring the bad tube to a trash can if you aren’t going to patch it. Litter is a nuisance for residents near the routes and make them think worse of cyclists and the event. Litterbugs are a thorn in event organizers’ sides.
- Don’t be a snob. I’ve seen a bit of this from the more experienced cyclists on some of these rides. There’s some element of treating the novices like something nasty stuck to their cleats. Don’t. Really, please don’t. We were all newer at one time. You can either be nice, and maybe help people be better cyclists, or you can be a jerk and make them think everyone in spandex is a twit. The former is a lot better.
When everyone tries to share the road and the event, everyone has a better time. Give it a try.