Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ride like your Mom was watching

I was looking at Narayans blog recently and it caused me to give this topic some thought:

Is there a randonneur ethic, a code of conduct, a SIR standard of behavior?

Certainly there is the Brevet Rider Expectations which does a good job of informing riders new to the sport and reminding anciens. But clearly, riders don’t rush to this resource before they start a brevet, and those who have seen it can easily forget some important points, particularly when a "personal best" looms tantalizingly close.

In years past I have made a point of asking at controls how our riders are behaving. Having a strangle hold on the Lanterne Rouge position, I feel like this is a natural role for me (just another of the many perks that come with riding at the back of the pack!) Usually I get a quizzical look and after a little explanation retailers USUALLY say our riders are all well behaved. There have been instances however when we've made a "mess in the nest" so to speak, and I am seeing a trend.

It is typically on early season brevets; That means a 200K or a 300K with lots of riders. In this case we had a little problem on our recent 400K PBP qualifier. I attribute this "bad behavior" to a combination of things. Certainly there are "new" riders that may not be tuned into the subtleties of the rando ethic, but also there are typically a lot of riders (new and not so new) out to get a "fast time" and I think this motivation sometimes causes people to act in ways that they other wise would not.

For example, if you were coming out of a grocery store with a bag of groceries in your tassel loafers and dockers and you just finished off a gallon jug of water, would you leave the empty plastic jug on the sidewalk in front of the store? Well Super Mario, that brightly colored polyester/lycra getup you have on does not get you an ayutomatic pass. ( Who me? Can't you see I'm a CYCLIST! on a brevet!) Mom ... junior needs a reminder over here.

We can blame the surly convenience store clerks or we can take responsibility for our actions and go that extra distance (get it? ... extra distance?) to assure that the only thing we leave behind is a good impression.

And if you're on a quest for a PB think of it this way. "I would have broken 15 hours for a 4ooK,.... but I had to dispose of someones water jug, yeah that's it, I was cleaning up after the other riders and that made me slower."

I also think folks sometimes get into "anonomous cyclist" mode. In this alter ego state we tend to think we are so good, so fast, and on such an "important" endeavor that the rules of common courtesy may be suspended. It's at that time I suggest you ride like your Mom is watching. I know that as a kid anytime I got too big for my britches my Mom would quickly remoind me of my station in life: offical member of the human race, not commander, not servant, just another person.

My recommendations are as follows:

1. We need to make this topic a mandatory element of the pre-ride announcement by all brevet organizers at the start of brevets.

2. A brief statement reminding riders of this potential problem should also be included in the pre-ride notes.

3. I think we need to routinely dedicate some ink to this topic in at least one if not more of the spring issues of the news letter.

4. Perhaps a reference to what happened at PBP in 2003 is a good item for inclusion: A group of first finishers were assessed with a 2 hour time penalty! The riders were ostensibly sanctioned for riding with assistance at night (a following cars headlights) but there was much made of the rude and disrespectful behavior of the riders in the controls, demanding instant brevet card processing and treating course officials with disrespect. While I can't say the latter was the real reason for the penalty, the rules clearly state that bad behavior is punishable and I think our riders need to be told what is expected of them on SIR brevets.

I think the take home points here are that this is not a first, that these short term actions create lasting impressions, and now that we have this problem the club will have to take actions to try to mitigate the impact.

(rant off)