Monday, May 3, 2010


" 'Cause he's living in some B-movie, the lines they are so clearly drawn. In black and white life is so easy, and we're all coming along, on this one... Angels wings are icing over. McDonnell-Douglas olive drab. They bear the names of our sweethearts. And the captain smiles, as we crash... Everything is fine. Sweethearts - Camper Van Beethoven

I've often noted the difference between runners and bikers. Runners tend to train solo, but will run in groups for long runs for social purposes. But to get better at running, you most often do a lot of your speed work and tempo runs solo.

Bikers seem to predominantly ride in groups. The argument in favor of the group ride is that you get better faster riding with others. There is also the "safety in numbers" argument that you are less visible to cars while riding solo. Unfortunately, a form of group think can enter into group bike rides that can make them more dangerous. So long as everyone in the ride abides by the same set of safety rules, all is well. But get in a large group and have someone cross a wheel and riders can go down like dominoes.

"Group Think" as defined at Wikipedia, is a type of thought within a deeply cohesive in-group whose members try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically analyzing ideas. My experience is that when you get together with an experienced group, the most experienced or skilled person tends to start calling the shots. Seeing no reason to object, other riders fall in line. The "shot callers" are usually people so skilled that they start to act either a little too aggressively, or they start to ignore basic safety rules. Those slightly less skilled or fast tend to let these team leaders get away with violations of safety etiquette thinking that the more skilled person wouldn't take a risk that would put the somewhat lesser experience participants at risk.

A non-biking example of this phenomena occurred to me years ago while scuba diving with some friends. I'm diving with 2 friends that had many more hours in the water than I had logged. We were doing a wreck dive at about 100 foot depth. Now, one of the safety rules of diving is that you are always supposed to come to the surface when your air gauge reads only 500 pounds of air pressure remains. After a lovely dive, we ascend to the surface. At the surface, my dive buddy turns to me with a big smile and says: "I sucked my air down to zero!" It was almost a gleeful brag. Now, you may say, "Well, that's stupid for him, but how does it effect you?" Well, as a dive buddy, I've got to rescue and buddy breathe my more experienced, but risk taking friend to the surface. More importantly, if something had gone wrong with my equipment, I'm counting on my buddy to have enough air to buddy breathe me back to the surface. My dive buddy thought he was so good at the sport that he could start ignoring basic safety rules. I stopped diving with these guys. Their riskier behavior, could one day effect me in a very negative way. Any yet, they were more experienced and skilled divers than me.

I guess that's the comedic crux of the Saturday Night Live character "MacGruber" played by Will Forte. Based on the MacGyver TV show in which a secret agent is so skilled and resourceful that he is able to solve almost any problem with his ever-present Swiss Army Knife and assorted wire and string. The MacGruber character is so overconfident, that he waists time with petty discussions, thus failing to disarm the ever present ticking time-bomb before it goes off.

Which brings us to this Saturday's ride. Long story short, a more experienced rider friend may have cut in front of my wheel forcing me into a curb. I went down. Fortunately, I'm OK other than the usual road rash. Who knows, perhaps it was totally my fault. My point is that you can sometime get in trouble when you ride with more experienced riders. They may take risks you can't afford.

In any event, I'll probably be doing fewer rides with the MacGrubers of the world. Who knows, I may get better riding with more conservative riders or riding solo. I'll be sure to bring along my Swiss Army Knife, some duct tape and string in my repair kit.


  1. Some of those 'more experienced' types, I find to be wreckless and it annoys the hell out of me! Glad you're OK, though.

  2. Glad you are OK and hope the "new" bike did not sustain any road rash. Be careful on group rides and watch out for those drivers late for church Sunday morning. Stay safe!