Spandicks on the Road of Life: Observations of a Bike Commuter

Today I became hardcore. It's cold, it's pouring, and it's dark and gloomy. And I sports fans rode my bike to work. I had enough rain gear on to survive a monsoon, my Day-Glo greenish road crew vest with reflector strips, and so many flashing LEDS that I looked like one of those deep sea fish but I was riding in the cold rain. I may have induced a couple of seizures with all those lights. Those of us who are hardcore are quick to label ourselves as such before anyone can substitute the obvious synonyms of moron, stupid, deranged, etc. Hardcore also implies dangerously stupid so regular people generally avoid us. A guy with a fancy bike rack called to me at a stoplight. First we exchanged one of those bobbing head salutes like you see prairie dogs use. Then, sensing that it was safe, he said, "dude I'm not even that hardcore." UUH! UUH! It became official.

Having ridden my bike to work for 2 years now (so as to be able to eat whatever fat-laden and disgusting thing I like without becoming a perfect sphere) has given me enough experiences to share some of my observations about the general state of American road manners. I have to admit when I first started riding to work I was concerned that bike commuting might be nothing more than an updated version of Frogger, but I have been pleasantly surprised - so far. It is interesting to see how people react when confronted by a gray haired middle-aged guy on his commuter bike ( a Trek Soho UUH! UUH! UUH!). Below are some of the groups of people I have encountered.

Nice people!

Shockingly, this is the overwhelming majority of people I encounter. Many of them smile, wave, nod, or will wait for me to go ahead. I always reciprocate and thank them for whatever small kindness they grant. I consider myself somewhat of a biking ambassador so being polite, courteous and law-abiding is important. I try to follow the laws of the road though I will execute a rolling stop when no one is around so as to continue to enjoy the benefits rather than the liabilities of my considerable inertia. Maybe it's my age but most people are considerate of me on my bike. Middle-aged women seem to make up a disproportionate number of the people in this group but younger men are a surprising second. Perhaps they are saluting an old lion as he passes. Who knows but they tend to nod and acknowledge my presence. Families in station wagon analogs are also pretty well represented in this group - though not SUV's. Bikers of similar age and body shape also seem to fall into this group. Polite bikers also tend to be wearing helmets. Perhaps it's because their narcissism is bounded by enough sense to rebel in other ways than rejecting self-preservation measures.


When I become Emperor of the Universe, people will be required to accept the inconvenience of concentrating on their driving rather than viewing their car as a mobile, cafe', salon, saloon, workstation, entertainment center, communication command center, etc.. With the exception of people like the President (and somebody drives him while he does it) very few people need to be in constant contact or are so important that they can't wait until they turn off the ignition to get something done. If I get run over by someone making a sales call or discussing a grocery list I will come back as a very vengeful wraith... If you are going to kill me I demand that it be for real or presumed cause rather than inattentiveness . Most people aren't that good of a driver when they pay attention let alone discussing the critical points of 30 Rock or the Office. Driving is without a doubt the most dangerous task performed by the average person so c-o-n-c-e-n-t-r-a-t-e. Young women, anybody in a BMW, guys in suits and SUV's fall disproportionately into this category. Young people riding bikes without helmets, listening to their ipod, also fall into this group.


Many Mercedes and Jag drivers. This group does not appear to need any multi-tasking distractions to ignore anyone else on the road. A fair number of elderly drivers fall into this category as well as they seem to have compromised situational awareness. Enough said.

Angry A-holes

Young men mostly but equal rights has produced a growing crop of young women who also fall into this group. They seem to favor the SUV and the Hummer and get very irritated if they have to wait a nanosecond before they can pass you (way too close of course to show their disgust), followed by the inevitable gunning of the engine to make up for lost time. Another tip off is the baseball cap. Baseball cap and SUV, and I go into threat response mode. They seem very perturbed by people on bikes though you'd think they'd love us because by biking I lessen fuel demand which means they can guzzle gas that much longer in their Tahoe. Some of them give me the eye at first but I have perfected a wonderful Germanic war face of steely coldness combined with just a glint of Charley Manson around they eyes that deters all but the truly insane. It's one of nature's wonderful warning signs and it keeps them in their snug leather seats. Again the young biker without a helmet often falls into this category as well. Strangest are the skateboarders. Some of them will skateboard down major streets during rush hour and get very belligerent when some one takes time to tell them they aren't allowed on the streets. One petulant young fellow I saw was holding up traffic by boarding right in the street. He flipped off anyone who protested. That is until a big dude stopped and popped the crud out of him for same. Ah life's lessons.

But all these pale in comparison to the group I truly loathe!

The Spandicks

Mostly rail-thin white males wearing skin-tight spandex, this group is by far the rudest of the rude. These guys comprise a certain percentage of hardcore riders. They are the ones always protesting how drivers fail to share the road which in their mind of course is staying completely out of their way at all times. They consider bike riding as example of their moral superiority over anyone in a car. They will often play chicken with cars and dare one of their moral inferiors to hit them. Spandicks apparently know very little about the physics of vehicular collisions, nor much about mass and velocity affects.

It's as if they imagine themselves competing in the Tour de' France while riding around town. Spandicks zip along, jump from the sidewalk to the street and back, dart in and out of traffic, ignore any rule that is not immediately convenient, behave rudely even to other biker riders and yell viciously at anyone in a car who they imagine has in some way slighted them - usually by narrowly avoiding smashing them. On two occasions this summer a Spandick passed me on the left less than 8 feet from an intersection and immediately turned directly in front of me to make a right turn. Heaven forbid he have to slow down and turn behind me. I caught up with one at a red light. I think he got the message about not doing that again - e-v-e-r... So please, Spandicks - work on being a little less full of yourself.

Like most things in life biking can be a pleasure as long as everybody just tries to be a little bit civil to one another.


GearHedEd said...

"When I become Emperor of the Universe...."

Go, Pliny! Positive attitude rocks!

GearHedEd said...

I'd probably ride a bike to work, except that I have a 100+ mile round trip commute every day. It really sucked when gas was still over $4.00 a gallon...

Michael Lockridge said...

Unfortunately, the hardcore bikers in my neighborhood have a politically supported sense of entitlement. They don't stop at lights or stop signs, switch lanes at a whim (even though I think we have the most and largest bike lanes in the world.) They manage to divert public funds to support even more bike lanes and such, due to a "progressive" lean in the political sphere.

I ride neither a bike nor a motorcycle on public roads simply due to the level of stupid on the road. I need a bit of iron to protect me.

You painted a majority of drivers quite well. I have wondered when the rules of the road got rewritten, but have adapted. I anticipate the BMW or tuned Honda passing me on the right, now. At high speed.

Oh, and lane splitting motorcycles. At 65 mph. Brilliant!

My new driving technique is setting up the necessary clearance on all sides to allow the idiots to get past me and have their accident somewhere far ahead. Without involving me (except to wait for emergency services to clean up the fatal crash.)

Great post. I enjoyed the laughs.


Richelle said...

speaking of drivers, for anyone who might be unfortunate enough to be driving through the shit hole state of nebraska, or one of the surrounding shit hole states where nebraskans commonly venture, there is a special category of driver that resides in this state. this is what you will typically see:

a vehicle driving down the interstate going 10-15mph under the speed limit and cruising in the left lane.

now, if you have never driven through nebraska or wyoming (a common nebraskan venturing spot) you might not be aware of this (although i imagine it comes as no surprise), there is practically NOBODY on the interstate.

so why on earth would they just be cruising along in the left hand lane at an obnoxiously slow 60 mph?

well, it's because they are idiots.

you can try to just poke along behind them in hopes that they might get the point and move over, but they won't. then, when you finally get fed up and decide you have no choice but to pull the a-hole move of passing somebody on the right they give YOU the crusty looks like it's YOU who is being a total douche.

so, try to avoid nebraska if you can.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

The slo-poke in the left lane will probably be the trigger for my MI when it comes...

True story - I once had a boss from Jersey who drove an old Porche 944. I was riding with him in the left lane of a beltway interstate. Some guy refused to get out of the left lane. Without dropping a beat of our conversation he tapped the guy ahead of us with his bumper - at 65 mph! The guy quickly pulled over and my boss just kept on going down the highway. I thought I was going to be killed.

pboyfloyd said...

We already know how this will end!

Asylum Seeker said...

"he tapped the guy ahead of us with his bumper - at 65 mph!"

Jeez...hope you never got on his bad side.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Jeez...hope you never got on his bad side.

fortunately I avoided it ;)

GearHedEd said...

Song of the Day...

Never Gonna Stop