The Great Commuter Race and Bike Culture

Somewhere in my blog meandering, I came across a couple of articles about competitive commuters. According to this article, there is an unspoken, but palpable sense of competition on city roads. Strangers will try to pass each other in the race to get to work.

I have unwittingly experienced this here. On one straightaway, some guy (and it is almost always a guy) inevitably blows past me in a blur. There is usually one older gentleman who will at least wish me good morning first before speeding by me, but for the most part, there isn’t so much as a how-do-you-do, coming or going. Sometimes I wave and say hello, and seldom does someone do that in return.

It irks me that this competitiveness is so pervasive on the streets, but I seem to have bought into it somewhat. Frustrated at feeling slow on my rides, I sold my solid, dependable hybrid for a faster cyclocross bike. I wear the spandex, chamois-padded shorts and the streamlined jersey. I tell myself it’s so that I feel more comfortable when I bike the 20-odd miles, but in truth, I feel a little ridiculous in wearing the getup just to go to work. I try not to get sucked into the competition and gun it in an attempt to pass the guy who passed me. I must admit that it does sting a little when I feel the wake of their ride– and it’s not only the wind.

One time, I passed someone on a bike trail– politely, I might add, by calling out the obligatory “on your left” to indicate I was passing him. A few minutes later, he shot by me without warning. We met up at a traffic light, and he said to me, “I can beat you any day on the road, and I never let anyone pass me.”

The competition extends to group rides as well. I always hope for a ride where people want to be social and ride together– and for the most part, friendly people are part of the rides I participate in– but there’s always someone who has something to prove, who has to pass you every opportunity he can, and has to tell you what you’re doing wrong. I try not to let him ruin my ride.

I can always stand to learn more about bicycling, and there’s definitely room for improvement. Unless I am registered for an actual race (which I won’t entirely discount as a possibility someday!), the only competition I should worry about is myself.

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2 thoughts on “The Great Commuter Race and Bike Culture

  1. ahahaha that guy you passed is insane!

    i’ve experienced the “guys who don’t want to get their butts kicked by a girl on a bike” thing and agree that it’s a little ridiculous. when it happens, i usually don’t bother to indulge them in a speed contest. it’s all so relative too; i’ve had people try to run me down as i’m coming back from a hard ride.

    and please, you wear the jersey and shorts because you know you look good in it 🙂

    • Hey, thanks for the comment! Oh yeah, I’ll keep wearing the jersey and shorts– although I’m thinking of buying mountain bike shorts, just to change it up a little on the ‘cross bike.

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