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tl-w.gif (842 bytes)tr-w.gif (841 bytes)Frank 'N Fred

In which Fred learns about riding with others.

Hey, Fred! Fred, it's me, Frank! How are you? I haven't seen you in a while!

Oh - um, hi, Frank. Uh, sorry, I kind of didn't see you there - I was, um, kind of looking over the other way - you know, where you weren't?? - and I kind of didn't see you wave to me...

Gee, Fred, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were avoiding me! Is something wrong?

Oh, no... I just been sort of busy, and that's why I didn't see you wave, and that's why I didn't notice when you rode your bike into my driveway just before you waved, and it doesn't have anything at all to do with me not taking your BikeEd class like we talked about.

Fred, don't feel bad. I'm not mad you didn't take the class. I wish you would, but if you're too busy...

And besides, I don't need to learn all that stuff anyway. I figure there's only one thing I gotta do.

Only one thing to do when riding a bike? Hmm. I thought there was more to learn - but what did you have in mind, Fred?

All I gotta do is stick with a group. I figure if I got bikers all around me, there's nothing that can go wrong. And with this big ride coming up, I should have LOTS of bikers around me! You know, safety in numbers, buddy! That's why you got a bike club, right?

Well, not exactly. I think the bike club is for making friends, and learning from each other, and promoting cycling. In fact, I think riding alone may be a bit safer than riding in a group.

Are you crazy? Shoot, when you're riding alone, you're all alone! Man, anything could happen!

But when you ride alone, it's easier to avoid road hazards, and it's easier to maneuver in traffic, and you won't have other cyclists crashing into you. Take your big ride, for example - a couple thousand cyclists, many of them novices - to me, that sounds scary! I'm not saying riding in a group is bad, but there's a lot to watch out for!

Oh, yeah, right, right... um, so what should I watch for, again?

Well, first of all, watch the steadiness of the riders near you. If somebody speeds up and slows down, keep away. If somebody occasionally twitches left to right as they ride, keep away. If you're going to ride near somebody, pick a rider who's steady as if they were on rails. And you ride perfectly steady too, like you're on rails. No sudden moves!

Oh, hey, good idea. And speaking of rails, I saw this bike race on ESPN, and those guys were making like a train. You know, drafting? It was like they were hitched together. Man, I can't wait to try that!

Please, Fred, wait! You're not ready for drafting! Don't risk it!

Huh? What's the big deal? I thought it made you faster!

It helps, but drafting is hard. Both riders have to be experts. See, if the front rider slows down just a bit, his tire can hit the tire of the guy behind. And if it just touches, the guy behind goes down! You must always keep your front tire clear! It's what keeps you balanced.

Another problem is, if the front rider isn't rock steady or doesn't concentrate, he may suddenly swerve - say, to avoid a pothole. The back rider might get his front wheel knocked out from under him. That always causes a nasty crash! And at the very least, the back rider will hit the pothole.

In fact, even if you're not drafting, you should always point out or call out holes, gravel, glass and other road hazards, so others in the group can avoid them. Likewise, call out if you're slowing or stopping, so riders don't touch wheels. And by the way, when you're not riding, be sure to get off the road.

So you're supposed to be yelling at each other all the time? Sounds noisy!

Well, we do talk if there's something to talk about. For example, you'll hear people say "Car back" from time to time.

That means get off the road, too, right?

Not at all! We have a legal right to the road, Fred. However, when there's a car back, change to single file if it's reasonable. We don't want to hog the road unnecessarily. Now, there's no point in squeezing to the right if the road is too narrow for a car to pass safely - it's better to make them wait until it's safe. But if there's room, it pays to move over to share the road.

Yeah, but when you move over, you're going to run into the biker next to you.

Which is why you always look, to be sure it's clear! No sudden moves -you don't want to surprise people! In fact, you don't want to surprise people when you're simply passing them. Call out "on your left" or "passing" when you pass somebody.

'Course, I don't think I've ever passed anybody on my bike. Oh, except the time some guys stopped for a red light. I could see it was probably clear, so I just rolled on through.

Fred, you NEVER do that! Above all, remember you're riding a vehicle. You MUST obey all rules of the road!

OK, OK, you've talked about that before. And OK, so maybe there is stuff to learn. But now I'm afraid to ride with other bikers. That's too much to remember!

No, don't be afraid, Fred. Just do it right! Obey the rules of the road, ride steady, pick a steady riding partner, communicate, and be courteous. Those are the main things. If you keep those in mind, riding in a group can be great. And one more thing...

See? There's too much to remember!

This is simple. To make it easy on the riders coming up behind you - please keep it vertical, Fred!

- Frank Krygowski

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By Frank Krygowski











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