Some days, I really wonder whether I’m awake in a distorted world or asleep in a nightmarish dream. Such bizarre things occur, right before my eyes, that I almost cringe at the thought of their being a part of reality.
One day, just shy of the crack of dawn, I set out on a short journey on my flatbar road bike. As is my habit when riding that bike, I wore street clothes and sneakers. My everyday jacket ballooned out with air as I unzipped it halfway for ventilation. Like a parachutist, I moved forward with resistance, encumbered by wind caught behind my back.
I was in no hurry, so the slower pace made little difference to me; if anything, it increased my workout over a shorter distance. I imagined it would make me stronger in the end.
Here and there, a car appeared, almost as reticently as the new morning. Cars always crept up to things at this hour, as if they were attempting to ambulate without disturbing the sleepy silence of night’s end.
Into this bucolic scene entered the craziest cyclist I have ever seen. Lost in reverie, I almost failed to see him glide up beside me on the right. I was riding in a bike lane, and rather than passing me on the left, as is customary, he decided to swing over to my right into a disappearing lane which was reserved for parking, up to the point where it grew too narrow to accommodate a car.
Glancing over, I noticed his glistening bike. As one who doesn’t go through life with price calculators in my eyes, I took it in all at once and estimated its value. Somewhere in the ballpark of $15,000 was probably a respectable guess.
Looking upward, I noticed a thin, not overly muscular youngish appearing man dressed in his best racing attire. His outfit must have cost several hundred dollars, at least, a number which I rounded down to make him appear less garish.
I stifled a chuckle when he stood on his pedals to pass me as we climbed a steep hill. Was this some lame attempt to race me or a sign of poor climbing skills? I mulled this over as I sat comfortably on my saddle, spinning up the hill while he rocked his bike from side to side with exaggerated effort.
Despite his showmanship, he was only a short distance in front of me. I hung back a bit to get a better look at his antics.
We approached a shopping area, lined with stores and metered parking. A few early birds could be seen oozing out of their cars in the direction of the corner coffee shop. Their obvious lack of sleep was nothing a little caffeine could not fix.
Aware of the presence of drivers, I maneuvered my bike into the center of the lane to completely remove myself from the door zone. The lycra-clad-wonder, however, moved to the right until he was practically skimming the doors of the parked cars. I watched in amazement as he slid along the parked cars, oblivious to the possibility of any of those doors opening into him or into his path.
Part of me was moved by the urge to be a good citizen and warn him of the dangers of riding too close to cars. As insane as he was, I didn’t want to see him get injured. Another part of me recalled how he hadn’t even looked at me as he passed and concluded that he would neither listen nor respond. So I remained silent.
Amazingly, he made it past a long row of cars without incident. Luck must have been on his side.
Ahead was a red light which he rode towards with all of his might. This was peculiar in that a large delivery truck took up the entire lane, preventing him from passing on the right. With no sidewalk to ride onto, he would have to brake hard to avoid slamming into the back of the truck.
Just as I thought he would fly head first into the back of the truck, the light turned green and the truck began to move. Dirty exhaust circled his calves as the truck accelerated in preparation for climbing a small hill.
I eased up on my pedals to put some distance between myself and this truck. I expected the lycra-clad cyclist to lay back and wait for an opportunity to pass.
He fooled me again. Rather than removing himself from the smoky, toxic pollution, he strove to keep up with the truck. He had gotten the brilliant idea that he should ride as close to the back of the truck as possible. His front wheel could not have been more than a foot away from the chugging box of metal.
If the truck stopped suddenly, I thought, he would have no time to avoid a crash. Either he was oblivious to the danger or he didn’t care.
As I studied him and tried to get into his mind, he surprised me again by reaching his left arm out towards the truck and grabbing onto a bar on the back. Was I seeing things clearly? I wondered. I accelerated to find out.
Sure enough, he was holding on to the back of the truck and was being pulled along at a good clip. I might have understood a kid attempting such a stunt, but this man was probably in his thirties. And the road we were on was always jammed with traffic in the mornings, increasing the likelihood of an encounter with a car.
Due to his inability to see what was in front of the truck, he failed to notice a large intersection just ahead. A car turned onto the road from a side street, somewhat blocking my view, but trapping the crazy lycra-clad cyclist in between the truck and the car. I could only imagine the impression this clown was making on the driver directly behind him.
As the truck entered the intersection with a lunatic in tow, a number of drivers and pedestrians began to stare at the cyclist. One driver yelled obscenities out the window at him, another blew her horn. Still, this idiot didn’t let go of the truck.
Somehow the truck driver must have become aware of the cyclist — possibly due to the public uproar — and stopped the truck. The cyclist lost his balance and held on to the truck for dear life. While he seemed to have no concern over making a fool of himself by acting like an irresponsible child on his bike, he was desperate not to fall in front of an audience.
Call me coldhearted, but I wanted to see him fall flat on his face. For over a mile, he had made all cyclists look like fools. His behavior reinforced the negative stereotype drivers repeat about the “lycra brigade,” whom they see as reckless and arrogant.
Unfortunately, he only half-fell since he managed to unclip one foot and lay down his bike. Everyone glared at him, but no one knew what to say until a driver yelled “get out of the way, moron.” He picked up his bike without a word and rolled it to the side of the road. As I passed him, I couldn’t resist saying: “next time, learn to ride before you drop $15,000 on a bike, and, get rid of the lycra, it shows you’re an amateur.” Despite his recent act of bravado, he remained silent in the presence of an experienced cyclist, and I rode off knowing that I had put him in his place, hopefully forever, for the sake of cyclists everywhere.