I Will Never Ride a Road Bike on the Road Again | Bike198

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Never is a strong word.

Never is actually so strong that there is an often repeated phrase…”never say never”.

But I’m saying it…I will never ride a road bike on the road again. 

One quick clarification before I get started

First, I am not one of those mountain biker elitists that make fun of spandex wearing road bikers. I actually LOVE road biking. There is a different kind of rush that comes from carving corners in the mountains at a high rate of speed and sometimes even hitting over 50 mph. I often told people it was like riding a sport bike without the motor. Sure…there are the obvious endurance/fitness benefits of road biking that directly translate to mountain biking fitness but it really wasn’t about that for me. I genuinely enjoyed riding on the road and even did a couple of century rides per year when we weren’t riding in the mountains.

Road biking was also a great way to ride during rainy weeks when trails were closed or during the really hot months down here in humid Georgia where the breeze of the faster speeds was more tolerable than being back in the woods with upper 90’s heat and 90% plus humidity.

While mountain biking will always be where I call home, road biking filled a need that I really enjoyed as well.

So why am I swearing off road riding all together?

It has gotten too dangerous.

I am not normally a wimp when it comes to things. I enjoy the adrenaline rush of big drops and crazy technical terrain on a mountain bike. The past 2+ years I have been 1/2 mile racing a 1,300whp Cadillac CTS-V on airstrips. I enjoy dangerous activities that often times come with stiff penalties when you mess up. I have always been that way and will probably continue to be.

There is just one big difference here…

In all of those activities, I choose my fate. I can let off and back out if I want to and make it home safely. I also practice these activities to get my skills to the point that the probability of something really bad happening drastically decreases. Is the chance still there? Absolutely, but it is a calculated risk and there is a lot of safety equipment involved.

When you are riding on the road these days…you are wearing spandex, a helmet and you are taking on an opponent you can never beat – multi-thousand pound cars, trucks and construction equipment. You could argue that it has always been that way so what is the big deal? It isn’t the same anymore and it is because of two very obvious reasons.

1 – Distracted Drivers

Distracted driving is at an all-time high and I believe there are several reasons that contribute to this.

We have made cars way too easy to drive.

Thanks to modern technology, people are relying far more on things like position sensors, automatic lane sensing technology and automatic braking technology while they are driving their cars. This creates a false sense of security while driving and a reliance on these technologies. There are many times these sensors do not see cyclists on the road. The drivers are also less apt to be paying close attention to what is on the road due to the alerts becoming a part of their regular diving routine.

I have said it for awhile now but I truly believe there would be fewer wrecks if everyone had to drive a stick shift again with less technology in the cars. While it has been great for a lot of things…there would be less eating, playing with your phone or daydreaming if it was actually hard to drive cars again. There was a rider killed on the street I live off of a couple of years ago from a car pulling through a stop sign for this very reason. I live on farm roads which used to be our safe place to ride.

Technology and Cell Phones

Before the modern day smartphone, we weren’t checking our texts, Facebook, Instagram or other apps on a minute by minute basis. You can go to any restaurant right now and see two people sit across from each other while just staring at their phones and not even talking. The entire world is connected now and everyone is obsessed with it.

There are times I am driving down the highway in my F150 and I am nervous about the people around me because no one is looking at the road. These are the same people driving around you while you are riding and I have personally seen several wrecks with road bikers recently that I can guarantee stemmed from cell phone use. Unfortunately, many people are driving around thinking that the actual driving the car part is a secondary activity.

2 – Anonymous Assholes

Unless you have been living under a rock the past couple of days, you have seen this video. Apparently, this guy targets cyclists WITH HIS SUV as they ride. This rider ended up in the hospital and there are stories of this same driver swerving into others. Luckily these guys had a camera running and with the beauty of the internet, he was promptly arrested the following night with a nice list of charges.

This kind of behavior is on the rise. Road rage, online arguing…any form of aggression where you don’t have to actually look someone in the eye and say something is increasing at an alarming rate. Keyboard courage and road rage go hand in hand in my book. It is the same kind of aggression that can be done behind the safety of something whether it be a car, computer or cell phone. That false wall gives people a feeling of invincibility and a God-like complex where they feel the rules don’t apply to them.

While there has always been some tension between drivers and cyclists…it seems to be worse than ever and not getting any better. If you even read the comments on the video posted above on some sites there are people advocating that all cyclists should be hit and that is scary.

I hate it but I’m not left with much choice

So I really hate this decision but after a lot of close calls and watching our safe riding routes become unsafe…it is time to hang it up. I would rather semi-control my activities that could bring harm instead of just riding along someday and find myself getting hit by a car. The person could be great and just made a bad choice to check a Facebook alert or they could be like the guy above. Both result in the same outcome where I could be severely hurt or even worse…not make it home to my wife and 5 year old kid.

I’m not alone in this decision either. I have several friends that have road bikes that only ride the trainer these days as well.

If you pick a fight with a 4,000 pound metal object on a 20 pound bike and basically just your underwear and a foam hat on…you’ll lose every time. Be careful out there and ride in groups as much as you can. There is still safety in numbers as you will be more visible to the drivers around you.

I can really see why apps like Zwift are so popular now. While it isn’t the same experience as riding on the road, it at least makes a trainer interesting!

 

This topic contains 14 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Mark Solow 20 hours, 49 minutes ago.

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  • #17060 Reply

    James
    • Total Posts 0

    Robb,

    I agree 100%. Riding on the road is way too dangerous for the joy that may come from it. It’s insane that we live in a world where its safer to crash on a regular basis off the road then to trust our fellow man behind the wheel of a car on shared roads. I may be alone on this one but i cannot wait until these distracted drivers won’t have the option to operate any vehicle and will be driven around on autonomous cars. I’m a huge gear head and I hope the driving experience won’t be completely removed from my options at the future dealership but it’s not a right to drive, its a privilege. Taking someones life for a privilege seems like a lack of logic.

  • #17061 Reply

    Benjamin Lindner
    • Total Posts 0

    Hi Rob and Bike198 friends;

    I hear you! Unfortunately I come from a roadie background and my default is to road riding, mountain biking is my exception. I ride all year but stick to decent weather and daylight rides. By and large on the rural roads that I ride the drivers are respectful and considerate, BY AND LARGE-BUT there have been some exceptions. A person in a 60’s era muscle car has intentionally “buzzed” me several times. I have noticed the car parked in town and have taken a picture of it for future reference. I have even thought about reporting the guy to the state police but haven’t. I have experienced far more injuries mountain biking than road, and that is the case for all of my friends. One even broke his back in a jump gone bad. However when you hear about a road accident it is usually far more serious, a fatality this past weekend for instance. Even though I ride during the daylight hours I am installing lights on my road bike for use all of the time, anything to get more awareness! Stay safe out there, Ben

  • #17062 Reply

    Glen Patchet
    • Total Posts 0

    Totally agree; especially about how easy it is for people to assume cars require less of their attention. It’s pretty much a question of when your number will be called. I only mountain bike and use my Peloton spin bike in the off season.

  • #17065 Reply

    Robb Sutton
    Keymaster
    • Total Posts 677

    Hi Rob and Bike198 friends;

    I hear you! Unfortunately I come from a roadie background and my default is to road riding, mountain biking is my exception. I ride all year but stick to decent weather and daylight rides. By and large on the rural roads that I ride the drivers are respectful and considerate, BY AND LARGE-BUT there have been some exceptions. A person in a 60’s era muscle car has intentionally “buzzed” me several times. I have noticed the car parked in town and have taken a picture of it for future reference. I have even thought about reporting the guy to the state police but haven’t. I have experienced far more injuries mountain biking than road, and that is the case for all of my friends. One even broke his back in a jump gone bad. However when you hear about a road accident it is usually far more serious, a fatality this past weekend for instance. Even though I ride during the daylight hours I am installing lights on my road bike for use all of the time, anything to get more awareness! Stay safe out there, Ben

    It would be a lot harder if road riding was my primary. It’s hard to give something up just because of stuff that is out of your control. Staying out in good weather and on the right roads really does decrease the chances of something happening. I saw a guy riding in overcast weather on one of our busiest streets at 5pm the other day. I could hardly believe it. That is like playing Russian Roulet.

    Totally agree; especially about how easy it is for people to assume cars require less of their attention. It’s pretty much a question of when your number will be called. I only mountain bike and use my Peloton spin bike in the off season.

    That was exactly my thought. Not if…when. Not a risk I feel like taking anymore. It sucks but that is life sometimes.

    Robb,

    I agree 100%. Riding on the road is way too dangerous for the joy that may come from it. It’s insane that we live in a world where its safer to crash on a regular basis off the road then to trust our fellow man behind the wheel of a car on shared roads. I may be alone on this one but i cannot wait until these distracted drivers won’t have the option to operate any vehicle and will be driven around on autonomous cars. I’m a huge gear head and I hope the driving experience won’t be completely removed from my options at the future dealership but it’s not a right to drive, its a privilege. Taking someones life for a privilege seems like a lack of logic.

    I hate the idea of autonomous cars…for me. For others…I’d feel safer.

  • #17067 Reply

    Max
    • Total Posts 0

    For the reasons you’ve mentioned is exactly why I traded in my road bike for a CX bike. I love riding on the road, and I still seldomly do on my track bike but I prefer the CX bike, trails, gravel, mud. Tons of fun, and the 1×11 drivetrain is fun to click in and out.

    Just be super aware out there! I swear I have a Spidey sense lately, don’t let a bunch of idiots ruin your good time.

    I will emphasis that you do not ride alone, always have a second pair of eyes in case of an incident.

    Stay vertical my friends.

  • #17068 Reply

    Eric
    • Total Posts 0

    Robb ,

    Your points are sad but true. I ride both and feel way more stressed on the road. One GLARiING omission however is the call for all of us to be courteous to motorists as well. Way too many of us are very poor ambassadors of our sport. When we ride wide like that or blow intersections we are asking for problems. When you do this you endanger everyone else on the road that has to go around you. No, I don’t ever want to see a fellow cyclist hurt but if I walk up to a muscle head and tell him his girlfriend is ugly should I be surprised when I get punched in the face? How bout we all police ourselves and our sport could be safer. Flame away but it is true.

  • #17069 Reply

    Barry kelliher
    • Total Posts 0

    In 2011 I started riding ninetyonepercent. This type of riding is done alongside the roadways instead of on them. It’s best to use a mountain type bicycle, but a cross bike could be used in some areas. You basically ride from point a to point b beside the roadway (as far from it as you can) for around 91% of the entire ride. The other 9 or so percent of the ride is when you have to cross a road, driveway, sidewalk, or bridge.
    I live in Florida and find myself riding on grassy surface most of the time. I’ve also ridden ninetyonepercent in New Hampshire, where there was a lot of dirt, loose gravel/rock, and also grass. It’s slow at times, but very challenging at times too. I don’t worry about wondering vehicles, pedestrians, if there’s eva bike lane, or even other cyclists. Im all alone. The main thing I worry about when riding ninetyonepercent is the trash that people throw from there vehicles, and the occasional county lawnmowers. Other than that, I’m free to ride with very little worries.
    Ninetyonepercent is safer, more challenging, great for training, and exciting.
    I have a couple pages that have more info on this type of riding if anyone’s interested…ninetyonepercent, ride beside the roadway instead of on it.

  • #17076 Reply

    Clint
    • Total Posts 0

    I rode by bike to work 4 days a week on HWY, Freeways 2 lane roads rain hail and shine for 4 years.
    One thing I never did was ride where the cars are, yes I rode beside the cars but never in the middle of a lane or even
    on the tire lines within one meter of the road edge. Ive been hit by side mirrors of cars and this was before mobile phones.
    Mobile phones are a massive distraction plus cars in general these days make drivers oblivious to the outside world beyond
    their windscreen. Now sure Im no perfectionist but I want to live to ride another day, the road is no place to think that laws will
    protect you. In fact its the last place.

    My basic rules when on the road is
    – NEVER assume everyone can see you.
    – NEVER assume your position.
    – Stay out of the vehicle lane and keep to the furthest side of the road that is rideable.
    – Be aware of your surroundings (front and back).

    Ride safe and stay aware.

  • #17077 Reply

    Graham
    • Total Posts 0

    Same in Sydney. I’ve pretty much knocked it on the head and have little desire to ride on roads. I’ve swiped in a hit and run and with a wife and child, it just isn’t worth it. There’s no pleasure in it anymore. Why ride a bike if you’re paranoid about every car that approaches from behind? Where’s the fun in that? I have a decent park at least that has a 5/6KM loop and I have a bKool trainer. That’s about it from me these days and am tempted to get a mountain bike now as would rather ride trails….

  • #17078 Reply

    Rod Wanker
    • Total Posts 0

    I’m a 30 year, 80,000+ mile rider and I love everything about cycling, so I’m sorry to see anyone reject it.
    Having ridden and lived some in the deep south, I understand that you are dealing with a different culture than we have in the north.
    The key to safe riding is ALWAYS know where cars are: You must have a rearview mirror and continually monitor traffic coming up from the rear.
    In the video the guy that got hit was out in the lane on a corner with a double yellow center line: Totally wrong. Those two riders should have been single file and to the right.
    It always surprises me that bicyclists that also drive cars ride in a way that would piss them off if they were driving. Bad cycling manners reflect badly on all cyclists.

    • #17080 Reply

      Frank
      • Total Posts 0

      “The key to safe riding is ALWAYS know where cars are: You must have a rearview mirror and continually monitor traffic coming up from the rear.
      In the video the guy that got hit was out in the lane on a corner with a double yellow center line: Totally wrong. Those two riders should have been single file and to the right.”

      While I 100 percent agree with the need to use a mirror and constantly be monitoring traffic, riding two abreast on a road that has unsharable lanes is perfectly okay. On such a road, motorists have to change lanes to both legally and safely pass a single cyclist. Two cyclists riding together make no difference. Plus it increases visibility for drivers seeing two cyclists on the lane, and not one. It also decreases the time needed to make a pass. If they are riding in this style on a narrow two-lane road with lots of curves and very unsafe passing areas (such as said curves) riding two abreast better communicates to the motorists that it isn’t safe to make a pass there. Being smack-dab in the middle of the lane on a corner is exactly the right thing to do.

      This video, while UK based, explains it well. Go to about 30 seconds in and they explain the reasons I have described above. The first 30 seconds explain the UK’s highway code which isn’t relevant to US riders. Nebraska is the only state in the US that specifically requires single-file riding.

      Chris Boardman explains why cyclists ride two abreast in new safety video

  • #17079 Reply

    Frank
    • Total Posts 0

    “Unless you have been living under a rock the past couple of days, you have seen this video. ”

    What video? Did you mean to post a link?

  • #17081 Reply

    Robb Sutton
    Keymaster
    • Total Posts 677

    I Will Never Ride a Road Bike on the Road Again

    The video is embedded in the post.

  • #17082 Reply

    Mark Solow
    • Total Posts 0

    I agree, well mostly. I started organizing weekly group bike rides on MUPs (multi-use paths) in 2010. In case you are not aware of them, they are like a 8-12′ wide sidewalk designed for pedestrians and cyclists to use without sharing pavement with cars. You can see where most of them are by simply going to Google Maps and clicking on the three horizontal lines in the top left corner. Then click on the picture of the bicycle about half-way down the left side. The MUPs will now show up in green.
    MUPs are usually in much prettier areas than roads, but they have their downsides too: 1. Although often smoother than roads, they often have much tighter curves because they are not designed for vehicles going over 20mph. 2. You have to “share the trail” with walkers, runners, dogs, kids, strollers and they don’t always stay to the right or hold their lines.
    Because most communities have limited MUPs and those that do often fail to connect them well. And, when you develop your legs and lungs to a point that can go further than a few miles and go speeds that may be hard to hold with tight curves, you’ll do at least some road riding.
    That’s why I ride with road “groups” three times a week. In a group, you are much more likely to be seen by cars and there are more sets of eyes to warn others of potential dangers.
    Mark Solow
    Pathfinders Fun Cycling

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