Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Who killed Robert Hyndman? We did. « Cycling in the South Bay

Who killed Robert Hyndman? We did. « Cycling in the South Bay

I started cycling when I was a teem and loved the sport. But over the years it became more and more dangerous and after a few wrecks (caused by new riders), I quit riding. I had three young sons ....

Below are some excerpts from this brilliant write up:
 People who organize bike rides, who sell and promote the healthful and happy benefits of cycling, must, if they are to be people of integrity, acknowledge the other side of cycling as well. It’s the side of cycling that we have uppermost in our minds when we ride, but we shunt off into a corner of our brain and pray it never happens. The collisions, the spills, the catastrophic encounters with cars–these things are just as real, and just as likely to happen, as the camaraderie, strength, and wellness that comes from pushing the pedals. If you cycle, you are going to crash. No exceptions.

The old ways no longer work
In 1982, when I joined my first group ride, I was the new face. Singular. The Freewheeling group rides in Austin on Saturday and Sunday had a new rider every year or so, maybe two in a big year. Everyone else was a veteran. There was no shortage of advice. I was treated like a newbie wanker, but I was also educated. Cycling was a fringe activity and it grew slowly. New faces were easily spotted and dealt with and absorbed. People took the time to tell me what was coming up and what to expect, which was generally an ass beating.
Those days are dead and gone. Most big rides have numerous riders with three years’ experience or less. There’s no trail boss. There’s no cadre of surly, weathered, hardened, experienced bastards who’ll shout instructions or pull you over. To the contrary: the old hands either split the field and ride off on their own, or they hide from the new crowds. The old guard rides form in the wee hours, the riders trade emails among themselves, and they avoid the big groups like the plague because so few of the new cyclists know anything about cycling. It’s elitist and snobbery, but if you like riding with people whose abilities you know and trust, there’s little other choice.
And on their precious Saturdays and Sundays, the old school doesn’t particularly want to spend its time giving riding lessons. They want to ride, talk, and enjoy themselves.
With the swell of interest in the sport, it’s utterly common to see beginners in LA County with $8,000 rigs. They have the accoutrements of speed but they don’t have the intimate knowledge of the route or the skills to match the rig. And there will be thousands and thousands more of them before there are less. We can’t expect them to learn by assimilation or by trial-and-error, unless we’re comfortable with an ongoing roll call of the dead and catastrophically injured.

Each one of us can honor Robert by taking note of the guy or the gal we’ve not seen before and sharing what we know with them. Whether they’re new to the sport or just new to the neighborhood, it’s time we did what others did for us back in the day: reach out, share, include. Knowledge in this case isn’t power. It’s the difference between life and death.

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