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!