August 20, 2007

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Nice job!
Good hustle!
Way to go!

These are the words that one local rider utters to other cyclists as he's passing them by. They're not heartfelt, his words of encouragement. It almost seems patronizing.

It doesn't matter how fast you're going or how much effort you are expending, he will inevitably utter one of the above mentioned phrases as he approaches on his bicycle. It's as if he were running for mayor and just wanted everybody to like him. But he tries too hard so it backfires. It comes across as arrogant. I once even got a "Way to go!" while I was at a dead stop at a traffic light.

Way to go?!?! What the hell is that supposed to mean? I'M STANDING STILL YOU BUFFOON!!! Am I really doing that great of a job of standing still?! Am I a better stand still-er than other riders?!

I'm sure he means well. Or, rather, I hope he means well. But he seems to be a fairly arrogant chap once you talk to the guy. And he's also a fairly annoying runt, which may very well be aligned with the arrogance. This is why I call him the Nice Guy. I like irony.

Not surprisingly, the Nice Guy always rides alone. The fact is that after about ten minutes of riding with him and listening to his inane ramblings, you realize you really only have two choices: you can either punch him in the face or you can sacrifice yourself and swerve into the oncoming traffic.

It's the classic battle between good and evil. Where the Nice Guy, with all his quasi-encouraging words, represents the good that turns people bad.

A couple of weeks ago I was just starting a bike ride. Only about two miles into it, I was still very much in my warm-up phase. With a body that was still in the pain of recovery from the pounding of the previous days, I was in no rush to get moving quickly. I had just been stopped at a red light and was creeping along at a fairly slow pace when the Nice Guy rolled up behind me. Good job!, he blurted out.

I was in no mood for pretending, I had no patience for this insincere crapola. GOOD JOB FOR WHAT?! I yelled back at him as I sped up the bike to a whopping 7 miles an hour.

He turned around and looked at me with a glint of fear in his eyes. As if nobody had ever questioned his half-hearted commentary.

Ummm...., he stumbled, no doubt realizing that of all the things to say to me in this scenario, "good job" may very well have been one of the most idiotic. Good job for getting out and riding, was what he eventually said.

[GONGGGG!!!!] Stupid answer, I thought to myself as I gave him a blank stare of disbelief. Exactly what I expected, you're a moron. Go away from me.

I never saw the Nice Guy again until a couple of weeks later. I was 15 minutes into a four hour ride when a drafting line of about 10 riders blew on by. whoosh!whoosh!whoosh!whoosh! they zipped through as I stayed slow, kept my head down to hold my line and moved to my right to give them more room. whoosh!whoosh! they kept coming by. Then as the last woosh! neared, I heard it: Niiice!


I looked up to see that Mr. Nice Guy had tagged on to the back of the draft line. Nice Guy is a decent rider - a little faster than me - but I know the group that he was with, they're "real" racers. There's no way in hell he'd be able to hang on to them. Yet as he struggled to stick to the last wheel, he still had enough energy to get out a "niice" as he passed me by.


I continued my ride in peaceful solitude. I finally got to the rolling hills and started climbing them slowly then zipping down the other side. As I neared the bottom of the second hill, I looked up ahead of me. Mr. Nice Guy.

He had been dropped - no surprise - and here he was all alone again, casually pedaling away and waiting for some other sucker to come by for him to leech onto. I didn't want to be that sucker. I don't like leeches.

As I reached the bottom of the hill and begin the next climb, I saw the he was only 20 meters in front of me. I could tell that he was moving at just about my pace, maybe a fraction slower. At this rate I'd be right up next to him in a few seconds and he, undoubtedly, will leech on to me, drowning my brain in his incessantly moronic banter until I either punch him in the face or suicidally swerve into oncoming traffic.

I saw my fate and it wasn't pretty. I realized I had two options: either I could try to accept the fact that I'll have an annoying riding partner for the next hour and learn to deal with it or I could make my move and hope with all my might that he can't keep up with me.

I decided to go for option B. It seemed less painful.

I got angry. I didn't want to be in this position - I wanted to have a nice, calming ride. And now here I was, recognizing that I needed to push my body to it's very limit in hopes of out-biking somebody who is a better biker than me.

I looked up and saw he was now only about 10 meters away. We had both started climbing the hill and I knew he'd be hearing me approach anytime soon. Once he heard me, he would have ample warning to pick up the pace and stay with me. I couldn't risk that. I had to make my move. Now or never.

I took a big breath, flipped my bike into a lower gear, put my head down, got out of the saddle and accelerated up the hill with every piece of energy I had. Within less than a second he heard me approaching. He looked back. Niiice!, he said as he got out of his saddle.

Shit, I thought to myself, he's going to try and keep up. I pushed harder. My heartrate was at 165 and rising. I dug in deeper as I streamed up the hill. Head down, eyes focused. Pedaling stronger and faster. Heart rate at 168. 170. 172. My legs were burning, quads a searing line of pain. But I didn't look back and I didn't stop. Have to keep going. Push. Push.

I soon reached the top of the hill with absolutely nothing left in my legs. I sat back down in my saddle as I took to the flat road. I tried to catch my breath while I uttered a silent prayer, hoping to dear God that the Nice Guy wasn't able to keep up.

And then I turned to look behind me....

Nothing. Noone. I looked further down the road and saw him still struggling up the hill.
I did it!! I did it!! I dropped Mr. Nice Guy! Wooohooo!!!

I'm free!!!

But such parties don't last too long. I knew he was a better cyclist than me so I realized I had to maintain a pretty aggressive pace over these flats if I was going to keep my distance. I tucked down into the aerobars and started a-pedalin'.

Feeling began to come back into my legs and I started churning through the pedal rotations. High cadence, fast movement... I felt like all was going well. I was picking off some of the other riders who were ahead of me, zipping by them in relaxed but rapid movements. I felt great, I had succeeded. A smile began to emerge across my face.

As I got into the flow, my mind began to wander into corners of the brain that are only left available for long bike rides. The thoughts of this or that, of when and how, and ifs or buts. The gentle rocking of the bike, the movement on the road, lulls the mind into a kind of serenity that non-athletes will never understand. It's that serenity of monotony that makes a 7 hour ride seem to fly by like it's nothing.

About 20 minutes later I was climbing the last hill when I heard another group of bikers approaching me from behind. It's a Saturday morning on the Pacific Coast Highway, a haven for bike riders. I edged a little more to the right to give them room. It was a smaller group, only about five riders in this one. Woosh!woosh!woosh! they came by. And at the very end, as the last woosh! approached, I heard it.

Nice hustle!

I looked up to see the back wheel of Mr. Nice Guy pulling away.

I felt my blood boiling. I wanted to speed up to him just so I could punch him in the face. But before I made my move, I stopped myself. I let it go. I slowed down my pace. There would be no more running away for me.

I had made a valiant effort to escape from the firm grasp of the incessant friendliness of the morning cyclist. I had angered myself to counter his benevolence. In the end, he has prevailed.

I suppose in an odd way that this is a happy ending; that the "good" has won and overcome the "badness" of anger. But I've gotta be honest with you, next time I see Mr. Nice Guy on the road, I can't promise that I still won't feel like punching him in the face.


Kubu said...

I can't stand those hollow, pseudo-compliments when racing. I can't imagine hearing it while training, too.

If I'm pedaling so slow I'm about to fall over, sunny dispositions have no place near me!

Trihardist said...

I don't blame you; I think I'd probably throw something at him instead of punching him, though.

hak said...

Great story. We had a mental patient on our leisurely "B" group rides. The guy would never shut up. Unfortunately, he was a top-notch rider and would just float in and out of the group on a whim.


Andra Sue said...

Take a set of chopsticks with you next time you ride...if you see "Nice Guy", stick one in his front wheel. Oh, and make sure you take a picture for us! :P

Kubu said...


Unfortunately, I'm currently trying to not drown every time I get in a pool. First finish the swim without seeing the bottom of Tempe Town Lake (praise be to wetsuits), then worry about food at the end (but I'm a post-race sandwich and cookie guy, so the pizza is all yours!).

1HappyAthlete said...

Nice job on the blog...Sorry, couldn't resist......

Can you take a paint ball gun with you on your next ride? That should shut him up.


j. said...

LOL! Great idea. That way I can even get him as he's riding away. Plus, with the whole shooting-biking thing, it combines a few sports at once - and you know how I love me the multi-sport activities.

carmen said...

i took the opposite approach this weekend...

as the last person to officially finish the patriot's half ironman

i told all the runners how strong they looked at their mile eleven/my mile two

it definitely cut back on the feelings of being patronized!