Being overtaken by another cyclist (and doing your own thing)

I like to think I am reasonably fit, able to cycle 80 miles or so without too much trouble (although my usual spin is nearer to 25 miles). I am not 'super fit' nor do I particularly want to be. I don't cycle fast but generally ride at a pace I can keep up all day if needs be. That is generally. Sometimes I put on a burst – up a hill, say – or I might stop for a few minutes to gaze on the landscape. My bikes are probably a bit slow and besides, I realise it's pointless trying to keep up with an equivalent 'younger man' or woman. So I tend to be overtaken by other cyclists more than I overtake them. I don't care. In fact I try to ignore other cyclists as far as possible. This is not always easy.

The other day I was cycling along, my mind elsewhere, when I was overtaken by a man on a bike. He shot past without saying anything. I don't care about that either. Do your own thing. But then, about 20 yards in front, he slowed down. I heard some puffing, a muscular bloke in very short shorts and T shirt, riding some kind of hybrid. It happens a lot – they shoot past then slow down. Why?

Do walkers try to pass the walker in front? No. So what is it about bikes? Anyway, along we went with him 20 yards in front. I tried to ignore him. We came to a dip where you freewheel down then power up the other side. It's one of my favourite 'power spots' but he began to slow down and it became clear that doing my own thing would mean me overtaking him. "This guy is an idiot," I thought to myself as I began to catch him going up the hill. But if I re-pass now he'll think I'm trying to prove something. I'm not. I'm going at my own pace, so just go on past and say nothing. As I said, not always easy. I saw him look sideways, pretending to enjoy the scenery. As it happens there was a junction up ahead so I stayed, ten feet behind, until we got there before coming up alongside. He went left, I went right.

Afterwards, of course, I knew the man was not an idiot at all. He just felt like overtaking the cyclist in front (me) and having done so, there is no obligation to stay ahead. This was of my own making, a lapse, letting the presence of another cyclist influence my ride when all I needed to do was ignore him completely. Must try harder next time.

It's a strange thing though, the instinct to race, or at least to pit oneself against a 'target' cyclist. I don't know if this is a male tendency or if women feel it too (I am also overtaken by females and I really don't mind – in fact I like it). That same day, incidentally, I passed an old chap I often see on his bike. I passed him only because he was stopped for a moment. He's 70+ with wiry build, normal clothes, rusty old fashioned bike, behind his saddle a canvas bag with holes worn through. He sits quite upright and pedals at a slow cadence but it's useless trying to keep up. After a minute or two, effortlessly, he cruised past at the start of a long hill. I lost sight of him on a bend, expecting to catch a glimpse of him again as I went round, but he was gone. He never says anything, no acknowledgement, nothing.

17 comments on “Being overtaken by another cyclist (and doing your own thing)”

  1. welshcyclist wrote:

    Just came across your blog and post. Very much enjoyed the read, and recognise so much of what you say as fact. Like you, I ride at my own pace, enjoy stopping to view wildlife and scenery, but I do acknowledge other cyclists, and can't understand why 70% totally ignore my presence. Or perhaps I do, I wear a mish mash of gear, workboots, shorts, t-shirts, and ride a hybrid tourer, no helmet, no lycra, no fancy shirts etc.. I believe it's all to do with a sort of snobbery, still I enjoy my cycling. I commute the best part of 40 miles three and four times a week, and then take the odd leisure ride up and down my welsh valley of 20-25 miles a couple of times a week.

  2. Mary wrote:

    Im with Welshcyclist here. I thought it was an English thing, that when cycling in the UK – no one talks to you. I notice it a lot. Especially in towns and cities if Im on teh cycle paths. Where I live, I speak to everyone on a bike, regardless of type. 95% of the time they beat me to the wave, or the nod or the smile.

    Scotland cyclists waved a lot when I was up there. Southern ones tended to be very reserved and I always felt a bit snubbed by them.

    As for the target thingy, its very common here! everyone being a potential Cav I suppose or wish to be at least.... and... Im sorry to say, I've done it on occasion myself... 'looks at floor while shuffling from foot to foot' (emotion). – but its gotta be a cert or I dont bother, cos 99% of them are men and I have no chance of winning.

    But there is NOTHING in the world quite like Tram racing!

    Every evening at precisely 4.30 I skoot out of work smart like... pedal like heck to the coast road and wait... wait for the whistle of the electric tram.. I need a slight head start as the first mile or so is uphill, but once I get going its hell for leather for the next 5 miles to beat it home. :) Its my High Intensity Training hit :)

    Some times I win. Mostly it does. But occasionally I even get an audience from the passengers and the race is well and truly ON. Sorry Patrick.... But I do go slowly most of the time... dunno what comes over me ....

  3. Tom wrote:

    Enjoyed reading this. I do have to suppress the knock to my pride when someone overtakes me with apparently very little effort (it's hardly surprising they do – I'm hardly a sporty cyclist). However, I can think of situations like the one you described, where I've been the overtaker. I find myself behind someone who is going at a very similar pace to me, but fractionally slower (or so it seems – it's probably the competitive impulse coming in). So, I find myself putting on a burst of speed to overtake them, but ease off once I'm past. They invariably overtake me a little later...

  4. Patrick wrote:

    Tram racing is a brilliant idea! Does the driver know he's in a race? LOL

    Just to clarify... by 'ignore other cyclists' I didn't mean I don't say hello or whatever. I do, but if they want to keep themselves to themselves that's fine by me – except perhaps when I hear voices coming up behind and it's a couple of diehards chatting so loudly to each other as they overtake that they are obviously making the point that you do not exist.

    I suppose if you are going only slightly faster than a cyclist in front, good manners requires either (i) maintain the same speed and pass slowly enough to start a conversation or (ii) accelerate and overtake so quickly there isn't time! (either way, do not look backwards)

  5. Kern wrote:

    It's the rush of adrenalin that does it, the competitive edge that makes you want to push that extra bit harder. When someone passes me on my rides home (sadly lacking these days) I say to myself "I can work harder than this" and then try to keep pace.

    Tram racing! Mary, be careful – you could start a new sport on IOM :) .

  6. welshcyclist wrote:

    Adrenalin? I thought that was produced by the body as an auto response to a life threatening situation, say to escape a predator. I don't know what the body produces to provide a competitive edge, perhaps that's why so many drugs are used in sports these days to boost natural ability.
    Patrick I agree with you on your points (i) and (ii)

  7. Rachel wrote:

    Interesting comments. I like passing other cyclists just because I can.
    Sometimes I get comments from them, not always polite.
    I do say hello when I go past.
    Just a thought, why do blokes feel the need to point out what, in their opinion, I'm doing wrong?
    It's really patronising. Just because I'm female it doesn't mean they know better than me.
    One bloke passed me and shouted " Your saddle's too high."
    So I shouted back that it wasn't and overtook him.
    He was riding a hybrid with an annoying creak and had his saddle way too low.

  8. Patrick wrote:

    Rachel wrote: why do blokes feel the need to point out what, in their opinion, I'm doing wrong?

    Protective instinct perhaps, but I agree... patronising if it's just because you're female. The competitive instinct – as a reason to overtake a cyclist in front – would be understandable if there was a competition taking place, but clearly, an instinct to overtake kicks in even when they are minding their own business. That is the interesting bit.

  9. Hilary wrote:

    Do walkers try to pass the walker in front?

    When I used to be into hill walking we would do exactly that – especially when going uphill! I think some people can't help turning things into a race – and it doesn't just apply to blokes!

    I have to admit I loathe being overtaken by other cyclists who don't speak as they are passing. I interpret this as meaning they don't see me as a proper cyclist but as some inferior being who can't go as fast as them. This is of course entirely a figment of my imagination and it means nothing of the sort. I'm still niggled by it tho! I don't mind being passed by riders who do speak and if they just cruise away into the distance I don't give it a second thought. However if they don't pull away I bide my time until a suitable opportunity arises to attack them on a hill, preferably not long before I'm going to turn off so the race can't go on too long! Quite why I indulge in this infantile behaviour I don't know!

  10. Keith Edwards wrote:

    This has reminded me of something that happened on a family ride 16 years ago in the Vendee. A nice pleasant ride was interrupted by an older teenager on his MTB (we were on road bikes). He wanted to race so much so that it became dangerous and our son (12 at the time ended up on the wrong side of the road.
    I said should I get rid of him, son very enthusiastic wife though I meant beat him up. Plan was hatched and we set of again but this time with me in front.
    When we caught him up I forced down the left of him and as arranged we all sped up, just like Cav's old lead out team. This was to hold him in position for me to do the necessary. Sure enough he sped up but I held his position just level with the axle of my back wheel.
    The faster he went the more I did and held him there if he slowed I would stretch the elastic just slightly then slow, just to make him think I was tiring. So of course he would try harder to overtake.
    This carried on for about 2 miles until I thought we had enough distance ahead of the others. Then I just went as in a full out sprint but I knew not far was the junction that we had arranged to meet at and it was around a few bends.
    When he caught me up I was stopped having a drink having smoked nearly all of the fag (I broke it in half).
    He hung around for a while obviously wanting some sort of rematch. That was until the other 2 stopped and we had a good laugh with our ice cream.
    At that time I was riding with our local cycling club, that just happened to be a racing one. So I had learnt how to hold of others in a sprint and how to do dummy attacks when out on training rides.
    Good fun and a nice memory.

  11. Patrick wrote:

    Good story Keith. As it happens, my brother used to holiday in the Vendee and he said there is a local custom that if you're cycling and you see another cyclist, you are obliged to race!

  12. Garry wrote:

    I seldom have a go at passing a cyclist who passed me, unless I feel that I've been dawdling and need a bit of faster stuff. It can ruin your spin.
    I mostly cycle easy and sleep well after it. When I race I get wound up and find myself waking early and feeling rashered. (Do the English etc. say rashered too?). A good word!
    I don't like it when cyclists don't salute you. Triathletes always do, racing cyclists sometimes don't. In Ireland it's the norm to salute strangers, or even to talk to them. I suppose it takes our minds off the wxyk34r.

  13. Kern wrote:

    "Rashered". It sounds like you're hamming it up, Garry :) .

  14. Elaine wrote:

    I get this a lot, it's quite fun to wait like you say until they have 'blown up' then overtake them, if you can! I heard a great tale of a young racing cyclist out training who was overtaken by an elderly chap wearing a cloth cap on a hybrid bike! When the young cyclist reached his local bike shop he told them he was giving-up racing, only to be told that the elderly chap was actually on an electric powered bike!

  15. welshcyclist wrote:

    Something similar happened to me Elaine, I was cycling to work early morning, about 05.00 when in the distance ahead I saw a cyclist tootling along. The road was flat and I was pushing the pace, but no matter what I did, huffing and puffing, I made no impression on the distance between us, yet he still was, seemingly, gently pedalling along? Finally he was stopped at a set of lights, and I almost drew up to him, the lights changed to green and he glided off with no effort at all. His bike looked heavy, then I realised it had an electric motor, via a large battery. Doah......!

  16. Peter wrote:

    This page ranked 2nd to my query: "find difficult to cycle at moderate pace, can't help wanting to catch and overtake other cyclists".

    I can identify with nearly all the opinions and experiences expressed. I'm not sure if it's my ?damaged ego or perhaps healthy and natural, instinctive, unconscious, competitive behaviour, but I can't seem to help myself. Only rarely does it feel like I win the internal struggle and 'force' myself to just keep pedaling along at a comfortable pace, trying to ignore the cyclist in front.

    I do try to push myself moderately hard most of the time on the iron horse; I enjoy the speed and excitement of urban cycling, overtaking all the cars stuck in jams, and recklessly drafting/slip-streaming buses and lorries as much as i can. I think its part of my predisposition to the buzz of sensation-seeking behaviour.

    I like to think I can laugh at myself, after the event mind; however at the time I find myself taking it all too seriously and even when it wasn't easy to catch the person ahead, more often than not I can't stop myself from 'needing' to overtake them. If I don't say anything its because I'm gasping for air and/or don't want to feel like I'm patronising the other person (perhaps that's how I feel when the tables are turned- most likely). ...Whatever you do, DON'T LOOK BACK; that's my curious logic. So today I found myself pushing harder and for longer than I wanted to after having 'had to' overtake the guy in front. It won't be the first or hopefully the last time this happens, unless I can learn to take it steadier.

    Conclusion: Our Father in Cycling Heaven, I have sinned or have I; either way its good to confess. :-)

  17. Alan wrote:

    I have just returned to cycling after about 25years off a bike as I thought the combination of a very stressful job and middle age needed some antidote. I am aiming to complete a 90km sponsored ride and gave myself about 5 months to build up slowly. Initially I even avoided wearing cycling kit so as not to appear as having all the gear and no idea. On the odd occasion that I do overtake somebody, particularly if they are on a nice bike, I just assume that they have already covered some distance whilst I am fairly fresh – no shame in being overtaken when you have already done 40+ miles. I have trained by myself and gauge an increase in distance and increase in ease ( read reduction in pain ) that it takes to get up a hill or complete a ride. Still find it nice to catch somebody occasionally but I have my own aims and am happy that I have gone from being spent after 5 miles to doing 45 without a stop in just a few weeks – just ignored the idiots as you will probably never see them again.

Leave a comment

Add a Smiley Smiley »