Commuter Bike Racing, or How to Feel Like a Man in Two Short Minutes!


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I have been guilty of commuter racing for some time now. I think the best part of it is that your opponent is usually unaware of the competition. It makes the inevitable victory so much sweeter…;)

But rarely do I get feedback from any of my valiant adversaries. I was fortunate enough to get such feedback this morning.

I catch a train at 6:14 am in San Mateo, California, which takes me to San Francisco, where I work. From the train station, I have about a two-mile trip to my office. Occasionally, I will engage in a friendly little race to my office. Again, the situation is usually that I come up to some carbon bike, or whatever, at a light and I think to myself “NONE SHALL PASS!” If you have ever seen the Black Knight from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” you know the voice I hear in my head.

I guess I enjoy it because I am riding my steel bike with fenders, front bag, trunk bag, and propeller helmet, and I know I they think I am  slow. I get a very rewarding, and completely underserved, ego boost when I blow by them.

So on the train this morning I engage in conversation with my new commuter friend, Kent. We’re both about the same age (I’m turning 51 this Saturday). Anyway, he noticed the Randonneurs USA logo on the back of my visibility vest, and was curious about the sport.

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Ty's RUSA visibility vest. I wear this always . Every little bit helps!

He  rides a nice carbon road bike with aero bars, and rides pretty regularly, about 40 miles every weekend, and was intrigued. I gave him my “newbie” perspective, and encouraged him to ride in the SF Randonneurs Populaire this Saturday, March 31st.  He is not sure he is quite up for that yet, but does want to learn more about it. I gave him my card, in case he has any questions, or has trouble remembering how to spell “Randonneur” when he searches for more information when he gets to his office.

So the train arrives, we both pack up, and leave separately. He was ahead of me at the first light. When I pulled away he said “Hey! I came up behind you the other day. I thought, ‘I can beat this guy, steel bike, fenders, propeller on the helmet’ … and then I couldn’t keep up! That wasn’t right!”

We both laughed and I told him that I did the same thing with my folding bike, a Bike Friday Tikit http://www.bikefriday.com/bicycles/commuter, as the smaller wheels actually accelerate faster from a stop.

I also told him that  in my opinion, carbon bikes don’t have all that much advantage in the scheme of things. He had asked me earlier if he needed to get a special bike for randonneuring and I had told him that though the classic randonneur bike is steel with fenders, there are plenty of people out there in full carbon bikes, etc.  It is really personal preference.

So yes, I am a commuter racer. I know it is silly, and I know my shrink would probably have something to say about it, but I do try to keep it safe. I don’t blow through red lights, and I don’t cut in and out of traffic. It makes it fun, and also makes the short ride at least a bit of a workout.

Funny thing, but with the randonneurs,  I’m pretty slow, a regular Lantern Rouge. But  on the wild and wooly streets of San Francisco, fighting the commuter biker wars, I’m Lance Armstrong… or maybe Bob Roll?

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