geronimo k

What do you mean this is silly?

Archive for February, 2011

Derby Dilemma? (updated 3/20/2011)

Did some edits to the rant below:  Over the past few weeks I have enjoyed some good conversations about the Derby and group rides in general.  I really appreciate the constructive feedback.  I have also observed some genuine awareness too traffic safety and pack etiquette.  Well done everyone!

Here’s a good link to check out:

What the heck is the derby? Videos here and here. Information page here.

Disclaimer: What I typed below (edited from my Facebook post on eightplustwo), if you choose to read it all, is simply an attempt to explain my rationale for riding off the front of today’s derby. Some may find it completely irrational and self centered. No worries. Some may ask why I fret over it so much? Simple: the derby has given much to me over the 20+ years of my attendance: skills, fitness, friends and important life lessons. All from one group ride? Of course not. Cycling as a whole has saved my life (another story), provided me family and community.

My humble beginnings as a rider began on the roads to and from Fleetwood. I’d like to see this silly little ride continue on, give others what it has given me. I also have a debt to pay, more on that below:

Are we not seeing how many people have crashed (and crashed horribly/been hospitalized) over the past few years? I’d like to see, narcissistic I know, the ride to be safe and those that attend become better, stronger and more savvy. We are all there for different reasons, every single one of them is valid and should be respected. However I would like to believe that rider safety and the preservation of the “derby” are primary concerns for all of us.

In the past (which doesn’t make it right but I’d like to believe that my years of participating will provide some useful insights) the regular riders, and I no longer really see myself as a regular since moving from the Valley, were in charge of keeping the ride safe.
One method to create safety was to have a faster pace on the way out.  Pace was usually set by the stronger riders and if it slowed down they were quick to tell those pulling to pick up the pace.   There were even occasions when the ride went single file, starting as early as the quarry!  It was always a personal choice, everyone has different goals and training plans.  If you joined, cool. If not, cool but get out of the way.  This was what the old patrons would call “keeping the ride honest.”

The main reason for going early? Simple: rider safety and ride preservation. We are on public roads, roads to be shared with vehicles, tractors, horses and buggies, etc.. We have been gifted a wonderful ride and the larger it becomes the more self-aware we need to be, not just of ourselves, but of those around us. Separating the ride early, on roads that are less traveled simply is a means to reduce numbers. Cruel? Absolutely, Cycling is a cruel and painful sport. If one doesn’t accept this you won’t be riding very long.

The route has already changed because of police involvement. The whole ride has been pulled over for “taking up the road.” The police have even threatened to “end the ride.” I doubt the police and I are the only ones that think people strewn across the road three, four wide, across the yellow line and blowing through intersections is just silly and dangerous. More importantly the consequences can be disastrous. This is especially on a busier road like Fleetwood/Lyons.

I also have seen a reduction in constructive teaching on ride etiquette and safety. Simple things like: pointing out holes, signaling turns, moving out of the double paceline to allow the riders behind you to continue conversation in the draft, encouraging riders to pull through. If a rider couldn’t pull, no problem, this rider goes to the back and allows everyone else the opportunity to work. I myself take some responsibility for the decline. I’ve watched these courtesies wane and have said little.

Here’s another “old”derby rule that’s gone by the wayside: a rider that doesn’t pull through, didn’t do their fair share of work, did the honorable thing and would not sprint the finale.  It was a sign of respect and a way to say thanks to the very brethren/sisters that delivered everyone to the line!  Riders that choose to honor this rule tend to be more respected.

I do my best to be a helpful instructor but the often unwritten rules of group rides need to be collectively taught. No one person can do it all and I too need reminders. We have to help one another.  Biggest hurdle: will people listen, care and take action?

Here’s an example of the above mentioned hurdle: To encourage more riders to pull through I (and others) have attempted to get some echelons going. Hoping to allow more riders to get a good workout and practice the skill. I’ll move over, tell others to move over and point/wave where the next rider should come through. Then a rider that has been a great mentor, friend, patron and who I respect tremendously, said to me last week, “Geronimo, why should we echelon? Everyone sits on.” He was 100% right. Here I thought I was trying to help the ride when in reality I may have been putting us dangerously out toward the yellow line. Dang, I am dumb sometimes.

My debt: Who am I to take on these responsibilities, to think about this stuff? Another great man, coach, mentor and in my opinion one of the other true “patrons” of the derby told me that it would be, needs to be, riders like myself to one day replace him. To keep things in order, to help and assist younger or new riders. This craggy British guy was a selfless man, giving much and asking for little in return. Even as he was dying from cancer he shared his love for our sport and helped riders whenever he could. His instruction and rule of the derby kept things safe and made me a better rider. Some will want what I’ve been asked to pay forward and some will not. It’s healthy for all of us to question it.

10+ years ago I would’ve said that the ride became too cutthroat (E.G. – people sitting on were sometimes “taken off the back”). I really don’t want to see people being purposefully taken of the back on a group ride. However, I can’t help but ponder about how things are currently going. Will another person make a trip to the hospital? Will the derby be shut down by the police? As I typed all of this I remembered a quote: “After you’ve done a thing the same way for two years, look it over carefully. After five years, look at it with suspicion. And after ten years, throw it away and start all over.” ~Alfred Edward Perlman, New York Times, 3 July 1958

Thank you for reading, for your patience and perhaps for your forgiveness. Especially since my grammar and writing skills stink.

Rock on.

King’s Cyclery Indoor Pumptrack

Go check it out. King’s Cyclery. Be prepared to get a workout.