My friend said a couple of co-workers were going to join us for a road ride. He didn’t say they were hammerheads. Hell, I don’t think he knew. But the pace was fast from the start, and I got caught up in the fun of speed, and the testosterone-induced insanity that makes a guy hang on to the front instead of using his head and dropping back.
By the time we reached the Coastal Trail, I had stopped thinking much about the speed, but the hammerheads still had the afterburners lit up and I was staying with them. Traffic was fairly light, and we scorched it from Kincaid Park all the way to downtown Anchorage. When we took a break at a coffee shop, I realized what I had become, for about half an hour, anyway: a roadie douchebag. We had no business riding that fast on a recreational trail, and we looked like assholes to everyone we passed. I felt embarrassed for days. Now that I think about it, I still feel bad, and that ride was two or three summers ago.
That’s why it stung this week when a local rider posted an open apology in an online forum. He regretted losing his temper and berating a road cyclist for going too fast and scaring the shit out of him on a recreational trail used by everyone from toddlers to senior citizens. He felt bad because he continued to yell after the other rider had apologized. He’s right to recognize that he could have chilled out faster, but I don’t think his anger was inappropriate.
This kind of thing comes up every spring when the fast bikes come out and riders get drunk on sunshine and speed, because this is also the time of year when more people walk on paved trails, or push strollers, or pedal their rarely used beach cruisers—the kind of uses for which paved trails are built. Riders who terrorize people by treating them like slalom gates deserve a nasty ass-chewing now and then. High-speed riders should stick to streets and highways.
If you’re a rider who likes going fast on paved trails, try this simple experiment: Go for a walk on one of those trails, and take a small kid, if you have one laying around the house. Or take an elderly neighbor or grandparent. When a bike whizzes by, you’ll probably realize just how narrow a six-foot-wide strip of asphalt can feel.
And maybe you’ll think that, on your next ride, you should slow the hell down.