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Monday, March 13, 2017

It's such a simple machine, they don't have to use force

Posted By on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 at 4:58 PM

It is great to see lots of cyclists taking advantage of this mild weather, and on Thursday evening I saw a bike commuter doing just that, crossing through the Commons, riding with their small child onboard in a 'baby-seat'; a great thing!  They had a nice well-equipped multi-speed bike too, and as I saw this from a distance I thought, why am I walking again?  As they tried to keep up their pace, I saw that the cyclist wasn't seated, and was standing up on the pedals; really putting their weight into it.  They were pushing hard as they could but were still struggling to maintain the momentum of their slowing bike, and with every push, the child's helmeted head bobbed all the way forward and then snapped back, again and again, like a metronome, lunging forward, then hitting the headrest again.  For the hard-working rider, all that is, of course, behind them, and they are unfortunately too pre-occupied with their labour, and still the pedal strokes got slower and slower, and the child's head plunked repeatedly and I thought, wow, that poor kid! This cyclist was in a 'hard gear' and didn't shift gears to suit the surroundings and, to their credit, lots of cyclists just don't.  So now I'm well out of range.  They have stopped, but as I saw next, they attempted to cross two lanes of traffic, still in high gear.  The way is clear, and agonizingly slow they crept into the road when the cars were distant enough away, but now impending, and yes the whole line of cars luckily slowed down and stopped to wait, as they should and you hope that they would.

To clarify, I am not talking about athleticism here; when a cyclist is in a gear that is simply too hard, they cannot accelerate dependably, and this makes them very vulnerable in traffic.  For car drivers, an analogy: when a car is in a high gear and the car is going too slow, it will struggle and the engine will stall out, dead, and if you (and your passengers) are in traffic, this could be very dangerous.  In the world of cycling, there are so-called 'spinners' who pedal quickly with lower gears, and there are 'mashers' or 'grinders'.  For those who mash in the harder gear, they like this feeling of strain, of exercise, like they are getting a workout, so they come to expect that, and then when they do get to flat land or a downhill section, yes, eventually they are getting somewhere, but they often arrive at their destination feeling worn out, and funnily enough, these riders end up not riding as much.  A cyclist has limited horsepower at the best of times, so when the bike rider's body is getting tired (in this case from slogging in a gear that is too high) another thing happens: their attention gets divided.  As a safety issue, we have a significant portion of the cycling community who could be shifting gears, literally, and truly turn a corner...  Obviously nobody wants to be told how to ride their bike, but if interested please seek out information from a non-bitchy place like your favourite bike shop, or Sheldon Brown's website; it will make riding much more enjoyable, efficient and safe(!).  However, if riding like this is kind of 'your thing' - when there is a small passenger on your bike, you are not running your own race, sorry. –Bikey McBitchface

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