Special to The Aspen Times
As the pandemic grinds on, more and more Americans are rediscovering the bike; both as a means of transportation and as a way to exercise outside. The New York Times recently reported that bike sales are surging nationwide and that many shops have run out of inventory.
I don’t know if that’s the case with Roaring Fork Valley bike shops, but when I go for a ride, it does seem like there are more people on the roads, paths and trails than I’ve seen in a long time. And not just lycra-clad roadies or baggie-pantsed hipster mountain bikers — but elderly people, families and kids.
I’ve recently seen some things that remind me that we (myself included) need a refresher on bike etiquette. For starters, don’t be that guy. And yes, it’s almost invariably a guy. Just calm down and forget about your own wants for a minute and have some respect for others around you. But I want to break it down to a few specific areas: the path, the road and the trail.
The Rio Grande
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This is one of the greatest cycling corridors that I’ve seen anywhere in the world. It provides safe access to dozens of great hikes, road rides and mountain bike trails. But this is a multi-use trail, meaning that people walk, run and ride on this trail. It is not reserved for cyclists and is not designed for high-speed riding or racing. It’s not a place to put your head down and go flat out. Doing that is not just dangerous, it’s inconsiderate and rude. People of all abilities, from a newcomer to a pro, use this path.
When you come across a family or group of people walking, slow down, ride single file, and politely let them know you’re passing. They have just as much right to the path as anyone else does. On the other hand, if you’re riding slowly or walking in a group, don’t be oblivious and take up the whole path. When you stop, try to stop at a place where you can get off the path so you don’t impede other users. It’s amazing how many people will just take up an entire lane of the path while stopped for a conversation. This is especially true at road crossings and trailheads. If someone is recreating in a mask, be respectful and give them as much distance as you can when you pass. Finally, when you come across a group of slower riders, make sure you have a clear passing lane and let them know you’re passing. Don’t go racing by with no warning.
Road riding is still my passion, but it pains me that my tribe, roadies, are amongst the most entitled and rude group of people who ride bikes. I got an uncomfortable reminder of this when a small group of us planned to ride the pass to Twin Lakes for my buddies’ 50th birthday this week. About four miles from the top, a CDOT dump truck was blocking the road. The driver politely informed us that we couldn’t go any further since they were doing rock mitigation. He thought it might take a day and a half to complete the work. We were bummed, but told him to have a nice day. He then thanked us for not screaming at him, cussing him out, and spitting toward him. He told us you wouldn’t believe how many people on road bikes are irate that they can’t keep riding.
That’s not a great look for the road tribe. When something messes up your ride, relax and figure out an alternative. Don’t take it out on someone else. This type of behavior from roadies is not an isolated incident either. I personally know of three kids who have been cussed out by 40- and 50-year-old men on road bikes during a local race. The kids were new to the sport and didn’t really know what they were doing. Instead of giving them some guidance and pointers, someone started screaming at them. I get that it can be dangerous in a pack, but the kids weren’t trying to cause a crash. They just didn’t know how to ride in a peloton. Most likely, the guy screaming at them really didn’t know how to ride in a peloton either. Don’t be that guy.
Most of the trails are open now, and wow, are they fun and beautiful. But they’re packed. This should go without saying, but uphill riders have the right of way. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a great day and are ripping down the trail. You have to be able to stop and let the uphill rider pass. If you can’t see around a corner, take it slowly. And when you come across a slower rider (like me, for example) let them know you’re there and most of the time as soon as possible the slower rider will pull over to let you pass. Finally, when you get to the end of a trail, make sure to look before you jet out onto the road or path.
Riding a bike is one of the great joys in life. I see smiles on people as young as 3 to as old as 100 (or more!) when they’re out for a ride. And now, there are more people riding. Let’s just share the joy and respect each other. Oh, and make sure there is no one behind you when you spit. I was zoned out and my wife was behind me when I spit; some of it landed on her. She causally rode past and spit into the wind, ensuring it landed on my face!
Scott Mercier represented Team USA at the 1992 Olympic Games and had a five-year professional career with Saturn Cycling and The U.S. Postal Services Cycling teams. He currently works in Aspen and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.