Back on the Bike

shareWARNING: I’m going to write about biking.

I just want to give the haters a heads-up so the hair on the backs of their necks can pre-bristle.

Actually, my hope with braving The-Subject-That-Should-Not-Be-Named once again is to offer some perspective and ease the tensions between bikers and drivers—hopefully.

The other day when I was biking legally and consciously and a driver unduly swiped dangerously close, heckled out the window then flipped me an angry bird—not the cute app kind—it occurred to me that perhaps the reason there is soooo much animosity toward bikers is because many drivers have never been on a road bike.

Though most people have ridden a bike of some kind before, there are some distinct differences with road bikes—those differences mostly relating to being designed to ride specifically on paved roads. So today I invite you to “bike a mile on my wheels” to gain understanding and invite peace.

A road bike does not have the thick, knobby-treaded wheels like other bikes to handle rough terrain. The smooth wheel of a road bike ranges from 20 mm to 28 mm. In case you’ve forgotten everything from math class because you said, “When am I every going to use this in life?” mm stands for millimeters—the metric system’s smallest unit of length. That means we’re balancing on about an inch of sleek rubber. So when you roll down the car window and yell, “Get off the road!” we really can’t. The moment that narrow and smooth wheel veers off the pavement and hits the dirt, so will we.

There are few wide and paved shoulders on Cache Valley’s roads. The space on the other side of the white line is usually about 4 inches wide, which is much less than the average adult human frame, unless you’re the star of a Flat Stanley book. The ones that are wide still present hazards. Despite Cache Valley consistently ranking as one of the safest places to live, we do have our fair share of gritty streets. If the shoulder is strewn with broken glass, plastic, thorns, splinters and road kill remains, bikers have to hug the road’s edge where it’s cleaner to protect from flat tires.

Bikers can’t hear cars coming up behind. Well, if you’re honking obnoxiously we can, but it’s uncalled for so please don’t. You see, the speed of biking creates something called wind which blows in our ears and blocks out other sounds so don’t assume we know you’re behind us.

We CAN legally ride two abreast, so long as we’re not impeding traffic. The perception of “impeding traffic” around here can be extremely warped. Most of the roads bikers use in Cache Valley are quiet country roads where it’s more likely a tractor will impede your need for speed than bikers will. Do you roll down your window at sweet old farmers and yell, “Get your own roads!”

Bikers sometimes do stupid, inconsiderate things on the road, just like drivers sometimes do stupid inconsiderate things on the road, with or without bikers present. We’re all human. Just remember that bikers are much less protected humans who are just trying to coexist peacefully with tons of speeding metal. Our padded shorts can only take so much impact.

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