Gear Prudence: I commute on the Mount Vernon Trail from Old Town. Lately, I’ve had problems with other bicyclists riding up really close behind me, then just staying there. They don’t pass, and we go on for miles with them right on my wheel. I’ve always been self-conscious about my speed, and this makes me feel really uncomfortable. Do you have any tips on how to get them to just go around already? —Bicycling Around, Can’t Keep Off Fiendish Followers
Dear BACKOFF: Ah, the wheelsucker. The trailgater. The bike barnacle. Whatever you call a cyclist who latches onto your back wheel, you’ve identified one of the more annoying (but ultimately innocuous) behaviors in bike commuting. It could be that the person behind you lacks the temerity to pass or that trail conditions don’t warrant it, but GP certainly understands your desire to slough him or her off.
You could try gradually slowing in the hope that at some point your lack of forward movement will force the rider into taking some action. Or maybe a flick of wrist from an arm dangling at your side will demonstrate your “permission” to pass. If that doesn’t work, wear a T-shirt with the text of this column printed on the back. If you’re currently reading these words off a T-shirt, turns out the question was about you. Quit lurking and just pass, OK? —GP
Gear Prudence: It’s summer. It’s hot. It’s muggy. Sometimes I want to ride my bike with my shirt off. There’s no problem with this, right? —Bros Always Relax, Enjoy
Dear BARE: The wearing of a shirt isn’t strictly necessary for the proper operation of a bicycle. You might even see some aerodynamic gains from a reduction in pernicious fabric drag.
However, before committing to shirtlessness, consider some potential areas of concern. Are you planning on entering a convenience store where shirts are a prerequisite for service? Are there any bands that you like that you would not be able to advertise for lack of sufficient textile platform? Do you have enough space in your closet or dresser to accommodate a full complement of unworn shirts?
These issues aside, shirts do also have benefits. They help protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays (please use sunscreen), the stings of biting bugs (consider bug spray), and guard against the accumulation of airborne dirt and soot (remember to bathe occasionally). Also, in the event of falling off your bike, a shirt might prove useful in conveying a very minor safety benefit against road rash. But if the urge to McConaughey proves irresistible, go crazy. Biking is for everyone, topless or otherwise. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets @sharrowsDC. Got a question about bicycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.