Two Biking Anecdotes
I live near a drawbridge—specifically a bascule bridge—and when I ride my bike I often cross it. The bridge doesn’t have a bike lane so I ride on the walkway, which is quite narrow. So narrow, in fact, that a bike coming one way and a person coming the other can’t pass: one has to stop.
So I’m riding along a few days ago and I see a guy up ahead of me. He’s got on a backpack and looks sort of dirty. Since the bridge is near some docks at which a lot of fishing boats are moored, I figure he’s either a fisherman or a homeless man. When I get closer, I see him stop, turn around toward Queen Anne Hill and start spluttering. “You wanted me to come back! I DIDN’T HAVE TO! That’s what i’m saying, Queen Anne! FUCK!”
And schizophrenic, probably. He’s railing away, yelling at “the rich bastards” on the hill who did something to him, and then he turns toward me and sees me coming. Now, one of us has to yield. And as I get closer, I’m wondering whether he’s going to freak because I’m on, say, “his” sidewalk. Traffic is rushing by on my left—trucks, cars, everything—and there’s no wall between me and the traffic. When I get closer he makes eye contact with me, but he’s still yelling—fulminating by this time. And then something weird happens.
He politely steps aside so I can go by.
As I ride away he continues to rail against the hill, the neighborhood, the universe—whatever, and I keep riding across the bridge. And I can’t help but find it mysterious that, while one part of his brain was so delusional that it saw fit to harass a hillside of perfect strangers, another part thought, “Oh, I should step aside and let this guy on the bicycle ride past.”
I’m riding along a bike trail at the north end of Lake Union and see up ahead of me another rider. He’s moving at pretty good pace, but I have some energy today and soon I’m up on him. I get into his slipstream and then ride by.
I keep riding on the trail. It’s a beautiful day and I have a bit of a tailwind. Love that. Then in a few moments I feel someone behind me. He hangs there a while and then pulls up next to me. It’s the guy I just passed.
“How’s it going?” he asks, panting.
I look him over. He doesn’t have on a team outfit, but he does have shaved legs, which seems to show he’s moderately serious. Or a cross-dresser. I’ve never seen him before—at a race or anything—which doesn’t mean much, since there are a lot of bike racers. And I didn’t really race that much. I wasn’t deeply connected to the biking community in Seattle.
“Hey,” I say and smile.
I’m not a big talker on the bike. I pretty much like to ride in silence. I find it too distracting to talk while riding and, anyway, the kind of conversations you tend to have when riding with others are pretty dull. For instance, if you’re on a group ride, you’ll probably talk about (1) your training regime; (2) your equipment; (3) the latest high-profile race (e.g., the Giro, the Tour, etc.); and (4) other sports (“How ’bout them Mariners?”). You talk about these things over and over and over. It’s so fucking boring. “What kind of wheels are those?” “Oh, Ksyriums.” “Cool. Where’d you get them?” “Colorado Cyclist.” “How much do they weigh?” And so on.
So I don’t exactly strike up a conversation with this guy. It’s nothing personal: I just don’t want to have the same conversation I’ve had with 500 other bikers. But he’s voluble for some reason.
“Yeah,” he says, as if I’d asked, “I did my training ride this morning.”
“Is that right?”
“Yeah,” he says proudly.
I’m not sure what the point is, but he clarifies.
“Yeah, I’m just riding home. Just riding home easy.”
And then he shifts gears, jumps on it, and rides away, obviously straining. He gets a gap on me and I slow down a bit. I really don’t want to overtake him again. And I’m thinking, “Why did I need to know that?” I suppose he had to tell me what a man he was. Do I care whether he did his training ride and was just riding for fun? No. But he probably felt he had to say that since I passed him. Such is the mind of the human male: it’s always a competition. Always.