We were chatting the other night about coming up with a 'Rules for Cruising' bible... Got me thinking about cycling education in general, and realizing that what's important for us is a lot different from your average commuter...
It's like riding a bike, you never forget!
Heard that one before? Well I don't know about you, but when I was a kid most of my riding was around my neighborhood, to and from school or maybe up to the shop. By high school biking wasn't "cool" anymore as we got closer and closer to that magic age of driver's licenses. A lot of my peers stopped riding long before that, but by 16 my bike was in the corner of the basement gathering dust and acting as a coat rack.
Fast forward to present day and I'm riding again like mad. I try to be on my bike at least twice a week - three times is about perfect. The way I ride these days though is quite a bit different from what I did as a kid! When I was 13 years old the thought of riding around downtown city streets never crossed my mind. Likewise I can't recall ever riding with more than 4 or 5 people at a time, we barely had any bike routes in Vancouver and I can pretty confidently say I wouldn't have ever been riding through multiple municipalities in a night!!
There's lots of great information out there on commuter riding - The Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition has bike training courses to teach you how to be a road warrior, combating traffic every morning on your slog to work for instance. In fact the two non-cycling Vancouver city councilors just signed themselves up for exactly that!! Oh, you didn't know almost our entire city council are cyclists? :D
But what about cruising? We're kind of um.... "unique" you might say. So what are OUR rules? Here's what I think:
- Show up with your supplies! You know, I REALLY am not all that interested in stopping the entire ride because people showed up without their beer or whatever. I'd WAY rather people show up 10 minutes late but have their shit together. It's like showing up for work naked - it shouldn't be an option!! Beer stops after we've been out for 3 or 4 hours are understood - never know how much of a party the night will be.
- Make sure your bike works! We're riding bikes that have almost NOTHING to go wrong!! Even just making sure you have your tires pumped up is a huge deal as it reduces the chances of you getting a flat by about a factor of 5. A full bike service shouldn't cost you more than about $30-40 as there's not a whole hell of a lot to check over. Just making sure all your nuts and bolts are tight, your chain is tight and there's air in your tires is easy enough for pretty much anyone (righty tighty, lefty loosey!). Again, it sucks to have to stop the whole ride because someone is neglecting their bike or bringing something out that just isn't fit for riding in the first place.
- Ride as a group! You're not alone - when we're in a pack of 20+ people and you're in the lead, remember that there's lots of people behind you. Just because YOU can make it through that intersection before that car gets here doesn't mean everyone else can, but PEOPLE WILL FOLLOW YOU! Any time you're out front you need to be aware of what's going on behind you. When the group starts getting stretched out we loose the ability to cross streets and stop traffic (drivers will dart through any space we give them), the people at the back start getting stressed out because they're loosing track of where we're going and the whole ride starts turning ugly. Just keeping the pace reasonable and sticking together makes it a whole lot more fun for everyone.
- Follow the leader! There's a few of us who ride together pretty regularly and we know the routes pretty well. We can call turns to each other, plus we generally know where we're going. If you DON'T know and go charging off there's a good chance people are going to follow you. Then we end up with a whole bunch of people confused and turning around, or even worse we end up having to take a route we haven't planned for. Even though it might seem disorganized there's usually some kind of a plan that involves proper places to cross major streets and tries to avoid the hills as much as possible. So if you don't know the plan, try and hang back a tad.
- No flashing! Flashing bike lights are for cars, but they SUCK for other cyclists. You don't need a strobing tail light flashing in my face when I'm riding near you, especially if we're anywhere dark like the SeaWall or some of the trails in the park. There are very few cars on bike trails that are going to race up behind you!
- Ride safe! That means NOT jumping off curbs into people, NOT stopping suddenly when we're blasting down a hill, NOT accelerating up through a huge pack of people and NOT acting like a 13 year old in general. If you're weaving about through a group you are endangering yourself plus everyone behind you. That also means thinking about what you've got for brakes and making sure you've got something resembling lights for night rides.
Anyone got any others?