Vetting The Fred

How the fuck do you deal with this guy?
How the fuck do you deal with this guy?

I don’t mean to sound bitter, cold, or cruel, but I am, so that’s how it comes out.

– Bill Hicks

That famous quote from the Greatest Comedian Of All Timeâ„¢ has resonated with me for many years. It became my silent mantra, as I don’t suffer fools gladly and sometimes don’t make much effort to conceal the fact. Lately, I’ve been trying harder to be more accepting of those who seem sent to test me, to try my patience, to see how far I need to be pushed before reaching breaking point and just coming out with an expletive-laden rant (or more likely just two words that have the same impact with much less output). But you know what? Fuck that.

When it comes to the riding group, the same principles apply: it doesn’t matter if our abilities are the same, because if I have to sit next to you and make mind-numbing, inane small talk for more than five minutes… well, this ain’t gonna work. Now, our tight-knit bunch has been refined over the nearly eight years I’ve been living in my adopted home city. There are some who drift in and out, but they are still a part of the group. Even if we don’t see them for months or years, they will easily slip back into the fold like a well-lubed sex doll (and if they find that kind of talk offensive, they’re slipping right out again). Sometimes, new recruits are either invited along or somehow just appear unannounced, possibly thinking that this is some kind of weird love-in where all are welcomed with an awkward hug and a patronising smile. We’re not the fucking church, ok?

So, what to do if this guy turns up? He’s been invited, so that’s ok, not his fault. You give him the once over, and alarm bells begin to ring: tri bike replete with aero bars, no socks, jogging shoes (combined with clipless pedals), a peaked helmet and board shorts over hairy legs. Well, you give him the benefit of the doubt, and introduce yourself. You afford him a chance, even as the sirens and flashing lights in your head are rapidly materialising into an angry migraine. Maybe he’ll break the ice with a fart joke or possess a stroke of such magnificent souplesse that he drops your ass on the first hill and you quickly disregard the myriad Rule violations. Who’s not to say that this day he just forgot all his riding gear, his real bike is in the shop getting a new Gruppo fitted, and he’s been on a week-long binge of hookers and blow and hasn’t had the time, inclination or requisite brain function to shave the ol’ guns. Reasonable excuses, one would think.

If it turns out that yeah, he can hang, but no, he doesn’t possess any bunch etiquette, but yes, he’s a decent chap, although no, he may not own an appropriate bike or cleated shoes and he’s not likely to shave/lose the visor/boardies of his own accord, yet hints at a similarly warped sense of humour and at least a couple of vices. A perplexing dilemma that gnaws away at you for the next week, until ride time rolls around again. What do I do? What do we do?

What would you do? Tolerate, integrate or expatriate?

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108 Replies to “Vetting The Fred”

  1. @CerveloVan

    I’m not sure who you’re responding to but if its @brett’s article then you should read it again. I just did and it all seems pretty reasonable to me. So some questions to the “grown ups”:

    How would Paula Radcliffe react if you showed up for one of her weekly training runs wearing cowboy boots and a sprint suit? Would she say “Welcome to my running group. Let’s run together tonight!”?

    If ‘cowboy boots’ runs in a wayward line is he/she likely to cause a multi runner pile up with the potential to cause injury to other runners?

    Who are the “wannabes” you refer to?

  2. @Teocalli coming back to the ‘we’re a tough’ group… not really.  We did try and vet him, we did try and give him the scenario and an opportunity to back out gracefully should he decide he didn’t want to do it, and we didn’t try and give him a kicking.  My point was that having done all those things, he still wanted to join and give it a go.  He was also not up to it, but we couldn’t know for sure before he started.  It ended badly for him because his lack of fitness had a big impact on his concentration and control. No, we weren’t happy that he wasn’t coming back, but based on what happened, not surprised.  Like @ChrisO says, you want to encourage people, but not beyond what they can do so they get in a bad spot, and not to the extent that they endanger other people.

    It was really just an example of what can happen when a new person appears out of the ether.

  3. being a relative newcomer to the forum, i am always rediscovering old threads that are relevant to the everyday issues of road cycling.  i remember my first group road ride, and it was a fucking live action comic book.  i had my brand new (to me) Merckx Corsa, two sizes too big, because i was so stupid as to be swayed by the name on the downtube. (the bike i passed up, a correctly-sized Bridgestone RB-1/Ultegra600, only adds to the asininity)  anyway, i digress, again.  so, i showed up to the start, thinking i was in shape..  lol.  the dude that invited me to the ride said, “the pace picks up after a few miles, you’ll know what to do”.  i surely did know what to do.  i grit my teeth, mashed a 53×14 until i was so far in the red my teeth hurt, swaying in and out of the paceline the entire time, until the rest of the group smoothly dropped me on my ass.  the last thing i saw through my greyed out tunnel vision was a sea of Klein, Serotta, and Ritchey WAAY down the road.  i suffered along for a few more miles, not keen on giving up, but around the time i was gonna throw in the towel, i saw a BIG dude on a shiny Klein heading toward me.  he stopped and asked if i was alright and did i need help? i was trying to be a tough guy, but i was WASTED.  i couldn’t even muster a reply, i just looked at him with bloodshot eyes and empty futility.  he said can you follow my wheel?  give it a try!  the dude then proceeded to pace me back to the start of the ride, the whole way telling me what i was doing wrong.  we were going 20mph (cut me some rules slack, in the ’90s, only pretentious shits used km in the States) and i was SO wasted, it was one of the labors of hercules for me to hold his wheel.  i remain impressed by this truly selfless act by a dude that had ZERO reason to help me out.  he was one of the officers of the club and held an impressive racing pedigree.  later on in his career, he did a ride with Greg Lemond, where he rode across China on a tandem with a blind stoker.  to this very day, he helps organize and officiate local races for the club, though i haven’t seen him on a ride for many years.

    so just lately, there’s a new-ish dude on a nice bike, showing up to some rides.  he’s lost a ton of weight since he started riding, which, ya know, that weight comes off QUICK at first, so good for him, and he’s really a pleasant enough guy to be around.  he’s a little over focused on his data, though, and stares at his power and hr constantly.  it is surely hard for a new rider to hold a line while doing this, so he’s all over the place.  this type of shit makes my nervous as hell at tempo, and it’s all i can do to keep my mouth shut, but i do.  i figure he’ll be around awhile, get it figured out, and be leaving me for dead soon enough.  i always think of the big dude on the Klein. if not for him, i’d probably have given up after that first hellish group ride.  in the long run, it’s really good to pay it forward.  rule 3 is pretty important.

  4. When I was a newbie I found a Rabbi who owned a local bike shop. He was friendly, funny, and knew his stuff. I had just bought my first real road bike and couldn’t figure out the presta valve. I sheepishly ask Greg for advice and he gave a good natured chuckle and asked someone to help me pump my tires. When I got my first clipless pedals I showed up at his group ride and tried to unclip. While unclipping both feet, I lost my balance and went arse over elbows while my new steed continued for several feet without me. Fortunately, both rider and bike were fine with the exception of some wounded pride. After giving an appropriate guffaw, Greg patted me on the back and said it has happened to everyone.

    Last July, the guy who showed me kindness and patience when I was an utter newb won the National Title in the Masters 2K individual pursuit. He gets to wear the jersey for an entire year. It could not have happened to a nicer guy!

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