by James “Cranky” Ramsay
This past winter, my brother-in-law (let’s call him “Bill”) spent two weeks in Florida with his wife and kids. Bill likes to ride a bike and he’s a very organized person. Before the trip, he told me he’d called around to the local shops in the town they’d be staying in and found a place that would rent him a decent road bike.
he got back, I went over to the house for some gluten-free snacks and vodka smoothies. I asked how the riding was in Florida. My plan was to make a few wisecracks about all the hills he must have struggled up, but I was cut short by an alarming statement.
“Yeah, the riding was good, and the bike they set me up with was pretty nice. But what really caught my interest were all the recumbents they had in the shop. Those things are amazing,” he said.
I nearly choked on my spelt cracker.
“I assume you’re kidding,” I said, my face frozen in horror.
“No,” said Bill. “You should see these things. They’re fantastic.”
He went on to tell me that recumbents are faster than regular bikes, that they don’t hurt your back, that they work more muscle groups, that you can ride them all day, that they make you taller, smarter, and better looking, and a host of other imaginary benefits.
I fought the urge to interrupt, until he paused for breath. Then I said the only thing a good brother-in-law can say in a situation like this: “Bill, friends don’t let friends ride recumbents.”
“Ha ha!” said Bill. “That’s funny! But seriously, they really are so much cooler than regular bikes. I’m thinking about getting one.”
To which I repeated, more slowly this time, for emphasis: “Friends don’t let friends ride recumbents.”
Bill went back to the kitchen to refill the blender for more smoothies, and thankfully the conversation turned to other topics. As I said, this all happened months ago, and so far Bill hasn’t arrived at my door astride a recumbent (if it is indeed possible to be astride a recumbent), so I believe my stern words may have done the trick.
But in the wake of this near-disaster, I’ve been thinking about all the things that friends don’t let friends do – at least pertaining to cycling. Herewith, I provide a short list. If any readers care to write in with additions to said list, I believe that together we’ll arrive at a robust and useful guide to save new and inexperienced cyclists from irreparable damage to their reputations.
1. Friends don’t let friends put bento boxes on their bikes
While sushi is the perfect mid-ride food, and as convenient as the bento box is, it has no place on the top tube of a road bike. Spicy tuna rolls and pieces of sashimi should be stuffed into one jersey pocket, and edamame into the other. Needless to say, this food should all be washed down with a mixture of sake and electrolytes, sipped at appropriate intervals from an NJS keirin-certified water bottle. A truly skilled cyclist can take the sushi out of his or her jersey pocket without letting any of the salmon roe fall off the top.
2. Friends don’t let friends put mirrors on their bikes (or worse yet, on their helmets)
It’s no accident that people festooned with mirrors are often the cause of accidents themselves. Every cyclist should learn to look over his or her shoulder (or better yet, under the arm) while piloting the bike in a laser-straight line. The only mirror anywhere near you should be the reflective finish on your sunglasses.
3. Friends don’t let friends wear pro team kit, unless those friends are on a pro team (and you are, too)
This was one I learned the hard way. In my first year of road cycling I bought a couple of pro kits online, thinking they looked cool. I then went to Belgium on a cycling trip. One day while I was riding through the woods in the Ardennes in my Ag2r bibs and jersey, I was hit over the head with a frame pump and kidnapped by a rival squad. I woke up handcuffed with cable ties in the back of the Domo Farm Frites team bus. I spent the next two years as a slave of the Domo team, forced to repair tubular tires by candlelight with a needle and thread and fed nothing but french fries with mayonnaise. Overall it wasn’t a bad job, but I’m still trying to lose the weight I put on while held captive.
So if these are some of the things friends don’t let friends do on their bikes, is there anything that friends do let friends do? Of course there is. Friends let friends sit on the front all day on a tough ride and then blow past them in the final sprint. Unless, of course, that friend is on a recumbent. It’s impossible to get a draft behind one of those ridiculous things.