Commuting by bike, aggression and staying alive

Most people would agree that I am a fairly calm and mild mannered person, rarely prone to outbursts of swearing and anger. In a car, I occassionally blast the horn (which is pretty pathetic sounding) at stupid bits of driving, but I tend to let things go.

But put me on a pedal bike, send me off in the general direct of work, and I’m a seething mass of energy, anger and agresssion. I recently tried to work out why over a few glasses of wine with friends, who were amsued at the thought of me as a lycra lout.

The conclusion I reached was that the aggression stems from the fact I’m pumped up, mega alert and concentrating hard on trying to defend my space on the road and stay alive.

My commute takes me along the busy A6 into Stockport and while some of it offers the relative safety of a bus lane, other parts are two lanes of traffic moving at between 30 and 40mph. Needless to say, with a busy bus route thrown into the mix, you need to have your wits about you.

It’s probably fair to say I’m often quite psyched when I’m on my bike, a Trek 7.2FX, pedalling hard to get to the next set of lights before they change, putting on a burst to blast past a slow cyclist, but also battling hard to avoid getting bullied and swallowed up by the heavy traffic behind me.

My kevlar-lined Schwalbe Marathon Plus back tyre at 900g, pretty much guarenteed to prevent annoying punctures, has slowed me down a little of late (but it means less late arrivals home).

I always like to think that I am good at anticipating what other drivers are going to do, and so the incident that ‘set me off’ tonight remained, thankfully, a near miss.

Coming up to lights which were red, a driver overtook me and then inexlicably cut into my lane (even though they were not turning left), causing me to break hard and swerve towards the kerb to avoid them. The red mist descended and I yelled at the driver, who was oblivious, that they needed to ‘f*cking look’ as they nearly had me off. I continued to rant at them, knocking on the window for effect, for a good 10 seconds, using some more expletives, before moving into the green cycle box and waiting for the lights to change. A bit calmer, I shook my head as they passed me and that was that.

We all make occasional mistakes when driving but this person’s driving was stupid, careless and dangerous, and I wanted to let them know that. I was still stewing about it when I got home, but it was only on reflection that I realised how out of character my outburst was.

I generally find cycling home from work a great way to de-stress after a hard day, and will often go hard at it to give myself a good workout and get it all out of my system. But sometimes the smallest thing, like a driver passing too close, causes me to swear and gesture and the blood starts to boil.

I’m interested in whether other people experience this Jekyll and Hyde effect when they jump on a bike to undertake a commute through traffic – or is it just me?

Anyhow, in the spirit of co-operation between the cyclist and the car driver, I’ve just ordered a few books that will hopefully help me ride safer, more positively and perhaps prevent drivers even thinking about doing daft things when I’m around.

1. Cyclecraft: the complete guide to safe and enjoyable cycling for adults and children

2. Watch Your Line: Techniques to Improve Road Cycling Skills, Second Edition

3. “Bicycling” Magazine’s 1,000 All-time Top Tips for Cyclists: Top Riders Share Their Secrets to Maximise Fun, Safety and Performance

4. Complete Book of Road Cycling Skills: Your Guide to Riding Faster, Stronger, Longer and Safer (Bicyling Magazine)

5. Cycling for Everyone: A Guide to Road, Mountain, and Commuter Biking (Knack: Make It Easy (Outdoor Recreation)

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About Wadsterboy

30-something Yorkshireman, living in Manchester, close to the Peak District. Love the outdoors, love her indoors, not so keen on the film Sliding Doors.
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