The Race is On

Today’s Yehuda Moon comic got me thinking about how odd it is that a perfectly mature and otherwise normal adult on a bicycle may be turned into a hyper-competitive adolescent by the sight of another bike rider.

You had no intention of racing the fellow, but now that he’s trying to prove something, by golly, you also have something to prove, and the race is on.

Many of us with competitive tendencies have experienced it. You’re riding along and you notice a fellow rider up ahead. At your current pace you’re going to overtake him, but suddenly he notices you and he picks up the pace. You had no intention of racing the fellow, but now that he’s trying to prove something, by golly, you also have something to prove, and the race is on. You accelerate and he accelerates, you back off and he backs off. The cat and mouse continues until someone blows up or you reach the finish line (that would be the next stoplight). If you do manage to “bridge the gap” and catch the fellow before the light, you feel triumphant for a fleeting moment, but only until you realize your work clothes are soaked and you’ll be spending the day offending your co-workers with your, ahem, “aroma”.

Of course, the other possibility is that you were imagining the entire thing and the other rider wasn’t even aware that he was in a race. This is humiliating, especially when you realize the other rider is 20 years your senior and he’s riding a bike that weighs 20 pounds more than yours.

Oh well, so much for the “Thrill of Victory”… :-)

16 Responses to “The Race is On”

  • Duncan Watson says:

    I think this is all about the spirit of fun. I am happy to race someone as a “line sprint” announced simply by contesting a pass. Why not have fun? It helps my fitness, gives my cardiovascular system a boost, it might even scrape a bit of cholesterol off one of my arteries.

    Regarding work, I shower at work so I am happy to take my 40+lbs stuff + bike on a impromptu sprint.

  • Thom says:

    When you ride old 3-speeds, this tends not to happen. FYI. :)

  • Alan says:


    Yeah, I don’t tend to take up too many races on my 50lb. Pashley either…LOL. (For that matter, I haven’t participated in a “street race” on any kind of bike in quite a number of years.)

  • brad says:

    On my early morning “exercise run” (which I do on my touring bike, not my city bike), I once was drafted for about 5 miles by one of those yellow-jacketed lyrcra-clad racers. Hearing him breathing behind me motivated me to keep pushing and gave me a great workout…I think I burned twice my normal number of calories that morning. But then he decided to stop taking it easy and suddenly zoomed past me, and that’s when I realized that he had simply been using me as a way take a few minutes’ rest during his 120-mile morning workout.

  • Tamia Nelson says:

    I found myself unintentionally in a race when returning home with about 30 pounds of groceries in my panniers. As I approached the first steep hill, I noticed a fellow up ahead on a rickety old 10-speed. He was weaving and ambling up the hill as traffic whizzed past at 55-60 mph. Luckily there was a wide shoulder, I thought to myself. I didn’t want to slow down to follow him, but with the load on the rack I wasn’t exactly in a position to speed up the hill.

    As I got closer I realized a complication — he was carrying a fishing rod crosswise on the handlebars, grasping the rod to the ‘bar with his left hand as he smoked a cigarette with his right. I had no choice but to try and sprint past him or sag behind. When a lull in traffic allowed it, I announced myself and pulled past on his left, avoiding the rod by heading out into the lane. He was shocked and startled as I pulled past, pushing for all I was worth. That did it for him. He wasn’t about to let someone 20 years older, hauling panniers, and a GIRL pass him.

    For the next three miles we played leapfrog, which wouldn’t be so bad but for his wobbly wheels and that fishing rod. He’d pass me going up the hills (there are a LOT of steep, long hills on my commute), pushing hard to do so, leaving a cloud of cigarette smoke, but then he’d amble and weave on the descents, and I’d pass him. Finally he reached the river and pulled onto a side road. That was one exhausting day.

  • bongobike says:

    Ha, ha! That reminds me of a man at least 20 years older than me, whom I encountered during my morning commute eight years ago when I was 43. I remember my exact age because of his response to my comment when I said I was starting to feel a slight slow down after hitting the big four-oh. His reply: “Wait ’til you hit 53!” The man had to be in his late 60s or early 70s, or at least he looked like it, but he was easily cruising on his titanium race bike at 20 mph while chatting with me–no huffing or puffing or pausing a little to catch his breath. I, on the other hand, was doing everything I could to keep up with him, and I WAS huffing and puffing. My bike was a heavier 66cm steel touring beast and I was carrying my loaded pannie, but still, this guy was in great shape! I saw him a few more times and we waved at each other, but I haven’t seen him in years.

  • Molnar says:

    Many years ago, when I was young and reasonably fast, I just ignored non-racers who sped up to pass me (which only happened when I was warming up or down). The racers never tried to compete, but sometimes rode cooperatively. I remember an interview in which George Mount talked about riding a beat-up old one-speed (this was long before the fixed-gear explosion) with missing spokes and no toe clips around the hills of Berkeley in the off season, and humiliating riders who sped up to pass him on their expensive 10-speeds.

    This past weekend i was charmed while riding up a hill on my ANT Boston Roadster, pulling a 4-year old on a Burley Kazoo (the ingrate wasn’t even pedalling!), when a woman announced she was passing me on the left. I don’t know if she was just being excessively polite, but the idea that I could have maneuvered fast enough to impede her progress or cause a collision made me chuckle.

  • Dan says:

    I was once passed by a pace line of about 5 lycra clad cyclists on racing bikes. Seconds later I was passed by a mountain bike with a bent wheel. The rider had a cigarette in his mouth and a coffee in one hand. He went a head and passed the pace line shortly after passing me. I gave up my gym membership shortly afterwards.

  • Alan says:

    “The rider had a cigarette in his mouth and a coffee in one hand. He went a head and passed the pace line shortly after passing me. I gave up my gym membership shortly afterwards.”


  • Doug D says:

    I passed a guy on a Cervelo this weekend going uphill. He had Ultegra parts and tri-bars, I had a trailer and a toddler and a ‘cross bike that had been used off road that very same day.

  • ksteinhoff says:

    1. It ain’t a race unless the OTHER guy knows it’s a race.

    2. I’m slow, but I was on a Full Moon ride with a guy who is even slower than I am. I told the other folks to take off and I’d stay back with the straggler in case he had problems. I stopped to take a picture and he got about a tenth of a mile ahead of me.

    It didn’t take long to catch back up to him, but I held off my pass until I heard my iPod start to play Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust. He took the video in the spirit in which it was intended.

  • TTB says:

    There is a new movement of restoring the classic bicycle in Malaysia.
    Check it out : (many are in Malay but they will be glad to make new friends)

  • Bill Lambert says:

    Being on the large side, I often accumulate smaller bikers on my rear wheel, similar to a cloud of flies. When they decide to take off and go faster, I try so hard to go faster, but I can’t seem to catch up. Now I know how those dogs that I pass feel when they get so close to my heel…

  • brad says:

    ksteinhoff wrote ” but I held off my pass until I heard my iPod start to play Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust.”

    Unrelated, but today while walking to our neighborhood store a couple of white-haired bicyclists in their late 60s, a man and a woman, were riding together on the street and one of them had a radio that was playing “You’re My Sex Bomb.” They were singing along, the two of them, and pretty loudly at that. It was lovely to see.

  • donald stewart says:

    my 1st time on site…loved it so far…58 years 50 riding,I’ve done a lot of those silly “race” things …never regretted it often benefitted…fun to read the other’s comments…it’s never really a race just a way of pushing your self and more fun of the other pushes too!

    having a hard time getting to the ‘comic’ thing is that intentional, a sort of enforced tour of the site? I don’t have time

  • Sweet William says:

    Of course the comedians have had a go at this

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