Biking Together: Don’t Let Your Cycling Friend Down
Cyclists can’t always finish every ride. Despite their best efforts and planning — and even the most fantastic physical fitness and comfortable touring saddles — some rides simply don’t work out as expected.
However, when this happens to your fellow cyclist on a group ride, it’s a critical decision-making moment for you. Your cycling friends or partners will insist on going back on their own and letting you enjoy the rest of the ride. But should you let them leave the group solo? Or should you turn back with them and continue biking together?
Longtime cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie has an emphatic answer to that very question. Read on to learn what you should do in this situation — and why your response matters so much.
The Code of Cycling Camaraderie
In general, cyclists have a penchant for sticking together and supporting one another.
“Cyclists are known for their camaraderie,” says Coach Darryl. “We love pedaling together. When one cyclist gets behind on a hill, the others wait for them. We look out for each other.”
Whether it’s stopping to help when another rider has a mechanical issue, sharing tubes and parts, or simply biking together to train for the next big ride, cyclist groups tend to be a social, supportive bunch.
“But there’s one situation where the tight connection between one cyclist and another tends to be lacking,” Darryl continues, “And oddly enough, this is the time when it is most needed.”
If you think Darryl is alluding to that moment when one rider isn’t up to the task and needs to turn back, you guessed right.
A Dangerous Ride Home
To understand why this is such an important moment for cycling partners to support each other, consider an example of one of Darryl’s cycling friends. We’ll call him “Chris” for this story, though that’s not his real name.
Several years ago, Chris was on his typical weekly club ride, a 30-mile loop he had done many times before. This time, though, he was having real trouble. He couldn’t keep up with his fellow cyclist group. He felt tired and sweaty, and it just generally seemed like he was working harder than usual.
About 10 miles into the loop, Chris decided it just wasn’t his day. He wanted to turn back, and he insisted that the rest of the group go on without him. Despite feeling out of sorts, he wasn’t one to show any weakness. And, like any cyclist, he didn’t want to ruin the ride for everyone else who was biking together. So, he turned around, and the other riders let him go.
Chris eventually made it to his car and drove home. But, when he arrived and still wasn’t feeling right at home, his wife insisted that he needed to see a doctor. As the situation turned out, Chris was having a heart attack. He would spend several days in the hospital recovering.
Thankfully, Chris made a full recovery, and a crisis was averted. That day could have been so much worse, and that’s why Darryl insists that any struggling cyclist should never be left to pedal back on their own during a group ride.
“Chris’ solo return to the car could have been catastrophic,” says Darryl. “It could have been fatal.”
The Right Response When a Fellow Rider Needs To Turn Back
Cycling camaraderie shouldn’t end when a rider has to bow out of a ride with a cyclist group. To illustrate what that camaraderie should look like in a critical moment like this, let’s turn to another story.
This time, Darryl was on the ride with Terry (again, not her real name), who actually worked for Selle Anatomica. This ride was Terry’s favorite — one she’d pedaled many times before.
However, not only was it a particularly hot day in San Diego, but it had also been a hot week. Terry had spent a lot of time outside over the past few days, so she was already starting on the wrong foot in terms of dehydration and potential heat stroke.
About 5 miles into the ride, Terry was ready to turn back. She felt overheated and exhausted, knowing she was in no shape to finish. Coach Darryl immediately said he would ride back with her to ensure she got home safely. Of course, she resisted and insisted that he should go on and enjoy the ride. But Darryl would not be deterred.
When biking together on the way back, Darryl and Terry stopped at a seaside marina to enjoy the ocean breeze. They each ordered a large, refillable soda so they could recharge with carbs and cool down. After half an hour, Terry felt much cooler and ready to finish the ride back. Once she was safe back in her air-conditioned home, Darryl called to check in a few times over the rest of the day.
That’s what cycling camaraderie should look like in this situation. Sure, Darryl missed out on the rest of the ride that day. But he spent time with a cycling friend and ensured her safety, and that’s the most important thing he could do in that circumstance.
“If someone is not feeling well and leaving the ride, never allow them to pedal alone,” he insists. “Treat the situation like a good cyclist’s life depends on it.”
It may be awkward when they push you to go on without them. But, in this case, Darryl says it’s better to “treat them like a drunk” and make sure they get home as safely as possible. Nine out of 10 times, they’d be fine on their own. But every now and then, a cyclist’s lack of energy could indicate something serious. Don’t leave them alone to find out.
Photo by Munbaik Cycling Clothing on Pexels.