We continue our series of guest posts on The Most Important Thing You’ve Learned About Cycling with an entry from David Dorman. If I have a personal biking mentor, David is it. He’s been indirectly featured on this blog for several years. Whenever I mention “my friend David” in a post — which is often — it’s he I am referring to. David has always been generous with his knowledge. But what he considers the most important thing he’s learned about cycling might surprise you.
So Ray’s giving out homework. Well, he’s a college teacher so it fits the profile. I should know the answer to this since have been riding bikes for over 55 years. But I have only been “cycling” for the last 20 or so years. You’re cycling when you buy and wear the dorky stretchy pants because they actually make sense and help. So I decided to think about what is the most important thing on my Saturday morning ride. Maybe something will come to me.
On my way up the first hill getting my heart rate up a bit I start thinking. Hummm, we all learn the most important things the first time we actually ride, like keep moving forward or you will fall over, learn how use the brakes or you will run into something and it hurts to fall down. That was too easy, so that can’t be right. OK, those are important things you learn about riding bikes, not cycling. My 4-year-old granddaughter has already nailed most of those. Maybe she will be a cyclist someday but right now she’s just a little girl riding on the sidewalk. She’s at her soccer game this morning so maybe cycling is important because it’s a sport and there are no balls involved. Weak, but it makes me smile.
On the downhill I pass a traffic speed indicator that says I’m going 25 mph so I think, watching the road far out in front is an important thing I’ve learned. That may make the top 10 but not the most. Then I come to a red light for a right turn and it’s green so I lean into the turn. Leaning rather than steering is important.
Next up is a 3-way stop with a car at every corner. So the idea is that everyone is going to obey the laws, yield and be courteous, right? It’s important that cyclists never, ever believe that. Which brings up the “always make eye contact with drivers” rule and that is a very important thing to learn, at least Top 5.
I am approaching my left turn onto Latta Lane and I have to cross the traffic to get into the left turn lane so I make a quick turn in the saddle and look behind — it’s clear, so I move over. It’s important to be able to look behind you without running into something or following your head into traffic. But before you look, your ears should be telling you that there’s something to look for and you want to know just how far away it is so you can plan your move. All of these things are in the cycling safety bucket, so maybe safety wins. Reasonable, but hardly profound.
But there are other important things too. Basic stuff like wear a helmet and clothes that match the weather conditions. If you plan to ride for more than a half hour bring something to drink. Eye protection helps and so do gloves. Avoid loose gravel on the road, etc. There are hundreds of important things to know about cycling. Most of these can only be learned with experience and riding with people with experience. If you continue riding you will keep on learning.
If I have to pick just one I have decided the most important thing I’ve learned about cycling is that it’s a great time to think. I’ll think about that since I’m not doing anything but pedaling, trying to get up Convict Hill and even with a heart rate of 160, I’m still thinking.
If you would like to join David with a guest post on this blog, write one on the topic: What’s the Most Important Thing You’ve Learned About Cycling? Details available here.