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Article #6
Hidden Agendas: Why Your Fellow Club Members are so "Helpful"

- SlingShot

A quick light cough, then the taste of blood. I'm lying on my side as the morning gray fades up from black. Pain from my shoulder is reminding me I should be more careful. The room slowly materializes around me. I'm thinking, "That's what they call help?"

The taste of blood points out that I haven't been riding enough. Chasing the A's yesterday has left my throat rough from heavy breathing. Right now it's too early to get out for a ride. The chill autumn nights have begun encroaching on the mornings. Later in the day it will be much warmer and bright. It's a good opportunity to stay in bed and review the lost summer. I find myself going through all the helpful things Orange County Bike Club members have done for me in the year since I joined, but I find their motives are suspect. Something doesn't quite fit.

There was that time when I had a flat on the first mile of the Hump. I was walking back to Big V. I was too new to roadside mechanics to fiddle with changing my back tire that close to home. Stu stopped to help. He whipped off my wheel, tossed aside my useless hand pump, gave me a tube, used one of his cartridges to inflate the repaired tire and showed me a quick trick for dealing with the chain, cogs and wheel alignment.

By then Harriet had come back to see how things were going, so I finished the ride with them and learned that Pokers don't necessarily poke. Time and again Stu and I would crest a hill only to find Harriet close behind carrying a relentless pace. I was a better rider for the help, advice and insight.

[After writing the previous, I heard that Tony and some pokers just made it from Chester to Monroe on the Heritage Trail averaging 18.5mph. For those who don't know, that's 4+ miles uphill. An' that ain't pokin'.]

Another time I was with the A's on an extended Saturday ride. The Hump proved too short for everyone's liking, so another 30 miles was added. Near the end of the ride I was falling behind on some of the hills. Louie (Prince of Pain) slipped back and placed a hand on my back to push me. Like a weightlifting spotter he gave me just enough help to stay with the group. He coaxed me through the best workout of my life saying, "Just relax and spin. They hate it when I do this." Of course after that I couldn't let him down and worked harder than I imagined possible.

Later I calculated he couldn't have been putting more than 30 pounds pressure on my back. All I needed was to lose 30 pounds, and I could keep up on my own even if I didn't get any stronger. Pretty inspiring and it gave me a clear goal. Later still, I found out the A's actually love it when he does that.

Then there was the day Twin George dropped back, so I could hop on his wheel and be pulled back to the group. He told me the other riders were taking it easy anticipating the hill and I should draft as much as possible in order to be rested. I didn't have the heart to tell him, "I already knew that; but, even if I took a weeklong nap at the bottom, I would still be hammered before the top."

However, I did recognize the good advice and truly appreciated it. On other occasions George has filled my bottles from water he has gotten for the whole group. Once he loaned me a headband to keep my ears warm and didn't even flinch when it took me six months to return it. That was helpful and friendly indeed...and typical.

Club members are always going out of their way to help. One time Jimmi dropped back during his NJ loop to check on my climbing technique, "Don't worry about speed. Just spin smooth, and don't push so hard that your legs get tight."

Mary Ellen checks in regularly with reassurances that I can survive the ride and won't have to work so hard to do it, "Just stay in the group and draft." It's good advice and would really help if I could take it. My over-exuberance always gets me at the front, then out in the wind; and I pay for it.

However, Mary Ellen never gives up and always gives me plenty of warning to avoid blowing up.  (If only I could control the urge to fly.) She also gave me great advice about how to make sure my broken clavicle stayed in best position for healing. That advice I managed to take. She probably saved me a lifetime of failed physical therapy.

There are too many stories to repeat of Club members giving help and guidance. Such as: George and Mitch once telling me about a great ride in Monroe, "Go right at Feders," after that.

Then there's the one about Saint Dennis helping me avoid buying the wrong wheels. Elsewhere Dangerous Dan took charge of my bike when I crashed, kept tabs on my water bottles. Lots of stories, one after another.

A generous attitude is common throughout the OCBC. One day I pulled up close behind Paul (Serotta) Levine and (Shiftless) John Handago in order to catch a bit of the climbing seminar Paul was giving John.

"Shift your weight back a little...that's it...feel the difference?"

"Yep, that's great...thanks...grunt, groan!"

There's a continual collegial chatter throughout the Club, "How do you like that saddle?" "Campmoore has a great price on riding shorts." "Bring your seat up just a bit." "Which gear you in?" "What's good at the bakery today?"

This is all fine and good. It makes us better riders, but where's the logical motivation?

I mean really, aren't we all trying to, uh...well, you know...BEAT each other?

I know the stated mission of the Club is "non-competitive group cycling." Notwithstanding that, I'm a rabidly competitive rider and have noticed I'm not the only one.

It appears to me that while the A rides are absolutely awash in a particularly volatile distillate of the stuff, the competitive juices moisten all levels of club ride.

On a B ride it is not uncommon to hear Randy (R&) disavow holding even the slightest competitive intent, but he is always more than willing to allow his front tire to lead your own...ever so slightly...and for however long you may find it aggravating.

Ok, so Randy's a well known A rider in a B suit, and everyone realizes his little Zen smile belies his abilities, while his attitude of "been there, done that" just helps keep the group together.

Nevertheless, just one ride with the Killer B's provides plenty of evidence that a healthy dose of "Don't mind if I DO kick your butt" exists in that crew. You hear such things as, "Huff, puff, whew...WHO started that?" "CHARLIE BROWN!"

Even the Pokers are known to push the pace a little, if only jockeying for position in order to prove superior culinary acuity at Country Dreams. Take a ride with them sometime. You might catch a glimpse of (Relentless) Harriet. Or  Tony (the Tiger) leading a group up the long climb from Chester to Monroe.

So why all this seemingly innocent "help"?

I guess it's because, although almost everybody wants to beat "somebody," nobody wants to beat "just anybody." It's only really good to beat somebody who's really worth it. The best way to get good enough to beat those who are really worth it is to be pushed by those who are really good. The best way to be pushed by those who are really good is to make sure everybody you ride with is (or is becoming) better than you.

Riding with someone better is a privilege, a privilege that can be earned by helping make better riders. Help make every rider you come across as unbeatable as possible. The better they are, the better you are. This is common knowledge in the Orange County Bike Club.

So next time one of your fellow Club members offers a little kindly "help," don't be taken in by their hidden agenda.

They are just trying to make you the best rider you can be.



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this page last updated:
02/01/2015 10:38:45 PM

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