Stupid is as Stupid Does
By Maynard Hershon
As I pedaled across the parking lot behind our building, before I’d even reached the street, I realized I should’ve eaten. I’ll stop if I get in trouble, I thought, and rolled to the Cherry Creek bike path. I rode the three miles to the Platte River path and headed south, trying to ignore the empty feeling.
Maybe five miles down the trail I decided I’d better head back to the big REI store, where Cherry Creek and the South Platte River converge, and get coffee and a muffin at the Starbucks there. I pulled off the path and turned my bike around. I looked both ways and saw a woman cyclist headed north, passing right in front of me. I took off after her, best I could in my weakened, hunger-knocked state.
I got to within a few bike-lengths of her and just hung there. Had she not been there, I think I’d have quit pedaling and tried to coast the miles to REI. After a mile or so, I rode up next to her and told her I was bonking, and following her was all that was keeping me going. I asked her if my being back there was freaking her out. “Nah,” she said, and kept on pedaling.
A half-mile later, she slowed just a bit and waved me alongside — so she could offer me a GU. I thanked her and said I was okay at that point, but if I was about to die on the bike I’d ask for the GU. At that point, knowing that she knew I was there and didn’t mind, I rode right up in her draft.
At one point as we rode, a squirrel dashed across the trail and into the deep riverside grass. I watched him disappear and saw a tiny cat next to the bike path, peering big-eyed at us. I wondered what might happen to that kitten. A few moments later, I rode up next to my new friend and asked her if she’d seen the cat.
“I didn’t see it,” she said, and told me if she had seen it she’d have put it in a jersey pocket and taken it home.
Following that woman was such a pleasure. I seldom get to see good riders, let alone ride with one. She rode briskly but not recklessly. She stayed to the right on the path and slowed when she couldn’t see ahead. When we’d come up behind other riders, she’d wave me to the left behind her so we could pass, just as if I couldn’t see ahead. Her pace was dead steady; her bike never wiggled or swerved. She was class clear through.
It was cool watching her being careful, not taking silly risks, taking care of me behind her, not assuming that oncoming riders were competent or alert. I felt I could have followed her for hours had I only remembered to eat before my ride. It was deluxe. If you have not sat on the wheel of a real bike rider, maybe it’s hard for you to understand. You’re with the flow there. In a zone. You want to ride a thousand miles.
She towed me in that zone to REI and I thanked her. I offered to buy her coffee but she preferred not to stop. After I drank my coffee and ate my muffin, I called Tamar and told her about getting hungry and weak, and then riding behind a classy woman cyclist who’d saved my bonking butt. What a pleasure. What a privilege.
I left REI and headed home on the Cherry Creek path. A mile or so short of my exit ramp, I had to slow to a halt behind two cyclists, a man and a woman, who were stopped and blocking two-thirds of the path. I waited for two oncoming cyclists to pass. As they did, the couple (let’s call them Stupid Guy and Stupid Gal) got back on their bikes and wobbled off down the path. Neither wore a helmet. She had toe-clip pedals; the clips hung down. She pedaled on the backs of the platforms.
His riding was not memorable but hers was. She rode on the left side of the path, the wrong side, the side oncoming cyclists, skaters and runners use. There was no reason for her choice of the left side, but that’s where she’d stay. Occasionally, she’d drift to the right but soon she’d be back on the left. I remember wondering if she drives her car on the wrong side of the highway. Luckily no one was coming, then.
I was afraid to pass her. She was so unpredictable, such a loose cannon, that I hung back. So from my position a few bike lengths back, I got to watch the whole thing.
Stupid Guy was pretty far ahead of her. As I watched, he moved left to exit the path on a left-side ramp up to street level. As he moved over, she did too, though she was still maybe 30 yards from the ramp. I saw, to my alarm, an oncoming cyclist, and she and Stupid Gal were on a collision course.
I saw the oncoming woman unclip a foot and head for the edge of the path. I heard her yell and saw her bike slowing - too late. I am sure I saw the back wheel come around just a little as she locked the rear brake. Just as the two women were about to collide, Stupid Gal steered onto the off-ramp and was gone.
I can only imagine the oncoming woman’s heart-rate spike. Maybe she’ll upload her monitor to her PC and publish the data. It would be spectacular.
I was shocked. I saw Stupid Guy and Stupid Gal on the sidewalk at the top of the ramp so I took it upon myself to speak to them about what had happened (politely, of course). They told me to mind my own “god-damned business.” I asked them to do the world a favor and not breed. They rode out of my life. For today.
Maynard has been writing about cycling for the Bicycle Paper (and the Rivendell Reader) almost forever. He says he’ll keep doing it as long as he can get away with it. “I do it for the money,” the Denver-dweller says, but we think there must be something about cycling that interests him.