Gear Prudence: I’m not the fastest bike commuter, but I’m not slow either. On occasion, I’ll pass the rider in front of me. Except this seems to unlock some primal competitive urge inside of them, and immediately they’re breathing down my neck, going all out to catch up. Sometimes they’ll even make a big show of huffing and puffing to pass me back. But then they don’t keep up the pace and I have to pass them again. Why don’t people just accept that passes happen instead of doing this stupid yo-yo thing?
—Not Only Tiresome, Also Really Annoying: Competitive Eagerness
Dear NOTARACE: Some people are competitive nutjobs. This is hardly limited to bike commuters, but bicycling lends itself to this kind of competition because many riders interpret their speed as a referendum on their self-worth. When confronted with the “slight”of someone out-pedaling them, the urge to re-establish their relative position overwhelms their common sense, and you end up in an unsought “race.” Whether or not you get swept up in it is up to you, but GP suggests that you don’t. Ride exactly as fast or slow as you want, and only pay heed to the wacko nearby insofar as their behavior might affect your safety. If they’re following too closely or pass without enough space, just slow down and let them go. Don’t turn someone else’s insecurities into your problem. —GP
Gear Prudence: The flu is going around. Last week I felt kind of sick, so I told my boss that I needed to go home early. She said fine, but then when when she saw me walking my bike down the hallway with my helmet already on my head, she said, “Guess you’re not that sick, huh?” She thought I was faking it! But I only live 4 flat miles away, and sick or not, biking home seemed like my best option. She doesn’t bike, so how do I explain this? —So, I Cycled, Kinda Ill, Slowly Home
Dear SICKISH: You don’t.
You screwed up. Even if you planned to bike home, you should’ve known that your boss would mistake biking for a kind of physical effort precluded by minor illness. Even if you were well enough to ride home, you should’ve made a big show about how you weren’t. Because it’s nearly impossible to explain that bicycling is, in fact, a really, really easy way to get places, even when you’re not at your prime. Wheels, man. They’re like magic.
Non-bicyclists don’t believe this and won’t be easily persuaded, so here’s what you do now instead: Lie. Say you didn’t bike home. Regale your boss with the tale of a fake bus ride. Forge a taxi receipt. Or get some witness/paid actor to say he found your limp body prostrate on the sidewalk and then carried you home. But don’t bother trying to explain it. It won’t be convincing. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets @sharrowsdc. Got a question about bicycling? Email email@example.com.