|Once it attaches to you, it doesn't let go.|
noun: any of several spiny treelike cacti belonging to the genus Opuntia, especially O. fulgida of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, having knobby outgrowths and yellow spines.
Dave rode up to our group as we prepared to roll out of Dreamy Draw Recreation Area in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve. He was riding alone and looking for partners, so he asked where we were headed and then said he’d ride along with us. Partnering up with strangers at at trailhead isn’t unusual, but I noticed that he didn’t ask if it was OK. He simply said said he’d tag along.
He was a middle-aged guy wearing body armor, and I’ve generally found body armor to be a bad sign. A lot of people seem to change when they put it on. And they don’t change for the better.
As the ride began, he asked where we were from, somewhat tactlessly questioned our route choice, and told us how we could have done it a “better” way. I did this ride regularly 20 years ago, and I didn’t really give a rat’s ass what he thought, but I tried to let it go.
As the miles passed, this hyperactive guy started wearing on my nerves. And I wasn’t the only one. During a brief stop, Heather informed me that the Bike Monkee had decided this guy’s nickname was “Cholla.” Monkee was naming him after the nasty “jumping cactus” that attaches itself to hapless victims and is difficult to remove.
A little while later, I tapped the brakes to give myself time to choose a line over a jagged section of exposed rock, and I heard Cholla’s wheels lock up close behind me. He obviously was following too closely, and was very close to slamming into me. Then he shot by on my right, a risky move on sketchy trail.
I was pissed. And I didn’t fly thousands of miles to be pissed off while riding with my friends.
A short distance later, I stopped in a shady spot and told Jules and the Bike Monkee that I thought we should give Cholla the boot. That’s when I learned that he had buzzed Monkee with a risky move, too.
Cholla had ridden ahead, but quickly returned to find us. I told him we were going to let him ride on ahead without us. “Oh, you guys are doing great,” he replied.
So I explained that he wasn’t doing great, and that we weren’t going to ride with him anymore. It was time to leave, and we’d let him have a head start so we wouldn’t see him again.
It was the right move. The rest of the ride was relaxed and fun, and the usual dynamic of our group returned. I’ve long believed that the No. 1 rule to mountain biking (and life) is quite simple:
Life’s too short to ride with assholes.