Cars and Mindfulness

“Get the fuck off the road!”

-Abraham Lincoln, from the “Gettysburg Address”

Just kidding. This gem was–you guessed it–yelled at me by a guy in a passing car on my ride today as I waited in a turn lane.

Every cyclist has heard someone shout that, or something like it. Unfortunately, unless you live in Amsterdam or Majorca or another cycling paradise, you deal with rude drivers. Hell, I’m sure it happens even in the most shining, glossy, polished, platinum bike-friendly cities. At best, they are angry. At worst, they are a threat to your life.

But there is a second part to this story. As he drove away I aimed a not-quiet “Fuck you!” in the general direction of his quickly receding black sedan. He was already too far away to hear, and with the noise of traffic wouldn’t have heard it unless I was right next to his rolled down window.

After I made the turn and continued riding, I pondered my split-second interaction. First I thought about him, an anonymous angry man who apparently had a problem with me using a public road in a vehicle that wasn’t breathing carbon dioxide into the air. Screw him. How uneducated and unhappy do you have to be to yell at cyclists? What kind of power trip are you on? But those thoughts didn’t lead anywhere, at least anywhere new or interesting. Unfortunately there are assholes on the road, and dealing with them is part of being a cyclist. Being upset about them, without further action (getting involved in advocacy, riding as safely as possible), won’t accomplish anything.

Then I thought about my reaction. And I was ashamed of it. What if he had heard me, if I had said it right to his face? Would it have changed his already-formed opinion of me as a douche in lyrca? Unlikely. It would have only confirmed his opinion, transforming it from baseless to plausible. And he would have carried that opinion around and yelled at the next cyclist he passed, maybe getting a similar reaction, another confirmation of an opinion that began as a mirage.

It would have been much more decent of me, I realized, to say nothing. Or, better yet, to say “Have a nice day, sir,” with a smile on my face. I won’t lie and say this would be a genuine sentiment. It wouldn’t be. But it would have a couple benefits. First, seeing his reaction would be a lot of fun. When people are spoiling for a fight and get the opposite, it throws them off. Their response is either more anger or less anger. Which brings me to the second benefit: the chance of de-escalation. Maybe he would have freaked out and yelled some more. That’s certainly a possibility. But it’s just as likely that he would have felt shame, and reconsidered why exactly he felt the need to yell at a perfectly nice fellow human just out for a bike ride on a beautiful day, and maybe not yelled at the next cyclist.

Problem is, my reaction was so instantaneous. So utterly thoughtless. It escaped my lips before I even fully comprehended the situation, like a shriek in a haunted house or a string of curse words from someone who has just dropped an anvil on their foot. In fact, a couple more times on this very ride, I responded in similar ways to other drivers. Yes, they were being idiots and endangering my life, but still. I need to be more mindful, more measured in my responses. I don’t want to be the person who yells “fuck you” when something happens. I just don’t. I want to either be able to pause and actually think before reacting, or at least to ingrain a new set of instantaneous responses that aren’t so defensive and aggressive. Re-committing to daily meditation would be a good first step.

So, in summary: As cyclists, let’s not act in a way that confirms stereotypes and makes it more likely that people will continue drive in a manner that puts our friends and family at risk. We can be better than that. We are better than that. So the next time someone cuts me off or tells me to ride on the sidewalk (LOL), I’m going to try to do my part.

Advertisements

Parents

My parents are in town visiting. I love my parents, love spending time with them. Living across the country, as I’ve done since going off to college, means that I see them once a year at best. In the past, reunions were comprised of barbecues, walks, discussions at the kitchen table, that sort of thing. Typical parent-adult kid stuff. But then I started biking, and that has changed everything.

My mom, you see, is an avid cyclist. In her mid-fifties, she’s still on a crazy training and racing schedule, and has won a few master’s national championships. So when I started riding, we suddenly had a common passion, something else to talk about and do together. I’ve relished the reunions since then even more than past ones. Instead of waiting for mom to finish her morning ride before the rest of us can proceed with our day, the ride is now something we look forward to. In Colorado, North Carolina, and, now, Pennsylvania, we’ve taken each other on our favorite routes, up our favorite climbs. There’s a fair bit of competition, because both of us hate losing, and that makes it more fun.

My dad is no stranger to cycling either. In the 70s, his ponytail decade, he completed some long bike tours, including one from Denver to Salt Lake City. For my parent’s 10th wedding anniversary, they rode the 1,000 miles to our the communal meeting point in Wisconsin. And he still commutes to the library and local fishing spots, and does leisurely road rides a couple times a week.

So now I ride too, and cycling is our shared language. Though we each relate to the sport in our own ways, the fact that we each relate to it is significant. I ask my mom about her racing and training, ask my dad maintenance questions. He faux-brags about his 12 mph average rides and my mom offers ride food recipes.

I’m grateful that, as an adult, I’ve arrived at a place where I have more in common with my folks than I used to. It’s nice to see them as peers in a way that’s not possible when I was younger. That would have happened with or without cycling, I think. But I’m glad the bike was involved.

Is ‘Cross Boss?

I have a lot of goals in life. Live to 100, encounter a bear and survive, set foot on every continent except Antarctica (I’ve seen snow before, it’s not that special). You can’t really achieve long-term goals until you achieve them, so I like to set short-term ones I can easily accomplish. I’ve seen the wisdom in my father’s recipe for happiness, which basically boils down to “lower your expectations.”

In that spirit, I have one goal this fall: become a cyclocross fan.

My plan is simple. Like I did with pro road racing, I’m basically just going to start watching races. I’d like to see some in person too, if the race is within riding distance. Unlike road racing, it doesn’t seem like there’s much team strategy or weird European terms to learn. From my understanding, dudes and gals just ride around in the mud for an hour at full gas and see who finishes first. There are obstacles, beer, and costumes. I see the appeal. I also see how it would be far less interesting than road racing, in the way that Hungry Hippos is less interesting than chess.

But it looks fun enough to keep my interest, especially since baseball season will be wrapping up in a month and I don’t like concussion sport, frozen water sport, or running back and forth sport. Also, Jeremy Powers has revamped the Behind the Barriers Youtube series, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at his team, Aspire Racing.

My first attempt at ‘cross fandom was this Sunday, when I attempted to watch the races in Waterloo. But Trek’s livestream crapped out and left me stranded, and delayed my fandom until the next time I can tune in.

I’ve even thought of coming out of retirement to race, an idea I tossed around last season. ‘Cross doesn’t have the risk of crashing and douchey, way-too-serious culture of amateur road racing. But it still has the requirement that you do interval training (if you want to be fast, I guess) and spend money and wake up early and drive to races. So I don’t know if I’ll be racing. I won’t rule it out though.

Coffee and Beer

Besides water, coffee and beer are the drinks of choice for cyclists. This isn’t really surprising, given that the rest of humanity kind of loves these drinks as well. But they are so embedded in cycling culture that it’s not hard to think that cyclists have an even stronger connection to them than anyone else. That they were designed by nature or some benevolent, Merckx-loving god as complementary beverages for riders of the bicycle. After all, what’s better before a ride than sipping espresso with friends outside a local shop, sharing laughs and secretly hoping passersby notice your perfectly matched kit? What’s better after a ride than enjoying amber liquid carbs that make you forget about the soreness in your legs?

I’m bombarded with these images all the time, showing how much people love drinking this stuff before, after, and during rides (apparently beer hand-ups in ‘cross races are real, or maybe it’s just more ‘cross propaganda aimed at attracting roadies who are tired of people risking their lives in 10%-off coupon primes and 55-year-old guys barking at them to “hold their line” through corners). The images are everywhere: Rapha videos, cycling Youtubers, Bicycling magazine. I want so badly to partake in these drinking rituals of cycling culture.

cafe stop
I’m not in this photo, because a) I don’t drink coffee and b) I don’t live in England

But I have a confession: I don’t like coffee or beer.

My first taste of coffee was when I was twelve or thirteen, out hunting with my dad on a cold morning in November. Instant stuff in a percolator. I thought it was gross. like something that was supposed to be discarded got mixed up with the good part. Just to make sure that early impression wasn’t unfairly clouding my view, I recently tried a cup from our local shop, which my coffee-loving sister says is amazing. Still gross.

And beer. I didn’t drink in high school or college. It wasn’t a taste thing; it was more about the alcohol and my desire to stay clear-headed. But now the moral side of things is less of a concern. Recently I tried a Steam Anchor, just to see what I’d thought of the taste. Terrible. I was amazed that people enjoy this stuff, and I immediately let go of any regrets about not imbibing during college.

So where does that leave me, as a cyclist? I fear that, like a Catholic who doesn’t drink the communion wine, I can never be a full member of the tribe. But then again, cycling is not the Catholic church. In cycling, women have equal opportunities (well, not in racing). In cycling, the stories are (mostly) true. In cycling, there are lots of great books, but none of them are holy. And in cycling, all the paths lead to some kind of paradise.

So maybe I’m okay.