I’m totally copying this post title from Bicycle Bug. Earlier this week, the man behind the D.C. bicycling blog Tales from the Sharrows put out the call for a guest post. Both Bicycle Bug and I drafted up the happenings from one of our commutes as potential posts. However, another local commuter rose to the challenge and we were left with our Sharrows-inspired posts and no place to publish them. What to do? Guest post on our own blogs. Ha ha! Yes, it makes no sense!
To that end, here is my experience of last week’s ride to #FridayCoffeeClub. Will you be attending? Please do!
Mixte Commute Racing and #FridayCoffeeClub
Last Friday, I gave my Surly Long Haul Trucker a break and instead rode to #FridayCoffeeClub on my bold blue Velo Orange mixte. As some of you know #FridayCoffeeClub is a weekly java-slurping gathering of mostly cyclists that takes place weekly at Swing’s Coffee. It’s a growing group that always gets my weekend started off on just the right note.
I love the setup on the mixte: Berthoud bag in the front, useless-but-attractive bell that states “coffee” in sweet serif letters, Velo Orange matte silver fenders, and tan Acorn saddle bag on the rear.
I felt so stylish as I left home in Southwest D.C. that I decided to take advantage of the quiet (and recently widened, yay!) sidewalk by the Fish Market and shoot a few pictures of my bike as I rode. Pedal pedal click. Click Click. Pedal. Click. Happily I tootled along, taking pictures of the mixte and me.
In the middle of my photo-snapping reverie, a cyclist politely announced his passing and went by. He was on a road bike wearing what I believe was a waterproof commuter backpack and cycling shoes.
Mortified at being caught in the middle of my Southwest Waterfront mixte photo session, I quickly deposited the camera back into the front bag, and went into pursuit mode.
I am sure I looked pretty ridiculous, as chasing down another rider is far beneath the aesthetic and soul of my beautiful Velo Orange mixte, but I wanted to prove that I wasn’t some narcissistic goofball. I was a “real cyclist.”
I don’t even know what being a real cyclist means, but in that moment I decided it meant not taking any more photos and catching him.
If there’s one thing that makes me batty, it’s the commuters who try to turn their morning rides into races. First of all, I can’t figure out why people are that excited to race to the office. It’s much better to make the bike ride last, right?
Second, there is absolutely no point to the made-up bike race, since nobody really knows where the start began or finish line is, except in our own minds. This is an imaginary race nobody can win. Third, they actually can be dangerous if they involve aggressive shenanigans, shoaling, or illegal movements.
Yet here I was, suddenly that person, in a ridiculous commute race of my own invention. Except that my fellow racer was so far ahead of me he had no idea what was going on.
My rival and I both made our way around the Bureau of Engraving up to the corner Independence Avenue and 15th. The mixte was gradually gaining on the rider. At least, in my mind it looked like it was.
At Independence, the competition took a left and sailed around the Washington Monument, past the World War II Memorial and up to the light at Constitution and 17th.
I took the same left at Independence, but then rode across the Washington Monument paths to the crosswalk to the Ellipse on Constitution between 15th and 17th.
I can’t stand the intersection at Constitution and 17th. It is a swirling rush hour hellfire of craziness, with drivers making illegal left turns and regularly running red lights.
And guess what? The light sequence near the White House favored me and I was able to get a slight lead while my unsuspecting rival waited for the light at 17th to change. Yippee! Why was I doing this? I don’t know. Too late to stop now.
I pedaled the mixte mightily around the Ellipse and veered onto the sidewalk over to 17th. Standing on the pedals, I sprinted up to the corner of Swing’s Coffee and over my arbitrary finish line. First! Go me!
As I parked my bike, I saw the rider head up to Pennsylvania Avenue. Slightly embarrassed and yet excited, I shared the story of my victory to my coffee buddies, exclaiming, “It was all about route choice!”
Somebody said, “MG, what if he was coming here for coffee?”
Good point. “But he wasn’t,” I said. “I saw him ride off. But I’ll keep that in mind.” Phew. I was safe this time!
Just as I finished my story, a new face rolled in and joined our group. He said he’d overshot Swing’s by a block and had to backtrack. As I listened to him say he also lived in Southwest, I realized that he was my morning competition and apparently, my neighbor and now fellow #FridayCoffeeClub member. Unbelievable!
Obviously kicked in the pants by karma, I shouted, “No WAY!” and smacked him excitedly on the shoulder with enough vigor to cause some of his coffee to spill. Oops!
Fortunately, I picked a made-up race with the right commuter. Jason is a really nice person who was completely unaware of my antics and said he’d even be back for another #FridayCoffeeClub, despite my efforts to beat him in a race in which he did not realize he was participating and my inadvertent attempt to spill his coffee.
As we rode off to our offices, I told my friend Lane that the mixte made me do it. I’m not normally like that, and I never feel like going into race mode on the Surly Long Haul Trucker.
“That mixte is a menace,” he responded.
The menace mixte. Maybe it isn’t the sweet bike I thought, but I still learned some valuable lessons from this ride:
1. I need to practice stealthier bike photo sessions.
2. Mixtes are not good racing bikes.
3. You never know who’s going to show up at #FridayCoffeeClub, so practice good manners on the road.
4. Made-up commute races are just undignified silliness.
Please come to #FridayCoffeeClub tomorrow. My racing days are a thing of the past, I promise!
“My name is Ty, and I am a commute racer….”
“HI TY!,” says the commute racer annonymous group.
MG, can’t tell you how much I enjoyed your story. Very funny stuff, and all the more humorous because it was clearly true.
I must admit I saw myself when I read this, and when I do engage in commute racing, I feel silly, but I can’t stop myself. Isn’t that what all addiction is about? I could never put it into words the way you do, must be why you blog so well, but now I realize there is nothing like victory over someone who is unaware he/she is competing. Good times…
For me, it started when I bought my foldign bike, a Bike Friday Season Tikit. I quickly noticed that every time I stopped at a light,that if another cyclist pulled up, they allways pushed in front of me, assuming that I, on my little bike, with 16″ wheels, would natually be slow.
Fuming, I would wait for the light to turn green, and then take off, always leaving them in the dust. I would then continue to pour it on, not letting them catch up in most cases. Most people don’t realize, but small wheels have an advantage coming out of a stop, so I would always pour it on until that advantage was lost.
Sometimes, people would catch up at the next light and say something like, “Wow! You can really move with that little bike!”
You have taught me the error of my ways!I am a new man! No longer will I feel the childish need to best someone, just because they assume my little bike, with the little wheels is slow…
At least until the next light.
Yeah, we need a support group! The Tikit is a great bike. Hope it’s been a good steed for you. You’re right; there is something about the Friday (or even bikes like mixtes) that makes people think their bike will of course be faster. Not so!
I had to laugh a little- because I’m very much like this on my training rides. Not so much on my commute. I commute in a mid-size city of about a million, and I’m guessing there are only about 2 other commuters in town. 😉 In fact, I have never seen another person on a bike on my commutes (not counting the kids riding home from the elementary school on my route). People love their cars here in the Midwest too much to enjoy the simple pleasure of riding a bike for transportation. When I commute, I am a slow-moving rhythmic melody on wheels (poetry in motion, if you will), but put me on my race bike and I’m a bucking bronco!
Thanks for the laugh!
Being from the Midwest myself, I can totally relate to the car culture. I’ve also found that things were a little more spaced out there than here, too so maybe that contributes to people driving more? Not sure. You made me laugh with your bucking bronco comment! That’s what I was like on my mixte ride (shakes head)! I need to aspire more to “poetry in motion.” 🙂