Two nights ago, I went out with a friend who used to be a regular in group rides. This year, the switch was turned off and he pretty much said "I'm done with it"--mostly because the douchbag behavior of so many road cyclists is so strong. When he told me this, I got it right away. It's one of the largest reasons I left racing almost 24 years ago, and it's the main reason I hadn't done larger group rides again until this year (aside from riding with my ragtag group of friends). I'm not going to lie, however, and say I wasn't a bit bummed. Although I know, in every cell of my body, I could never keep up with this friend in a group ride, it's friends like him who have gotten me to pick up my pace a bit this year.
Since I've been averaging one faster group ride a week for the past two months, I've definitely seen my share of stupid and downright dangerous behavior. Everything from riders wearing headphones, riding aero in a paceline, riding four abreast on a busy road, taking corners way too fast and almost going headfirst into traffic and not having a clue on how to "hold a line". Hey, we've all done stupid things out there--I am absolutely at fault at times--but when you see repeat offenders doing these things time after time, it makes you wonder if you want to ride around them.
Last night, I chose to do the Capital Brewery bike ride. I really had no business being there since I start a 24 hour urban race today, but I thought "what the hell, I'll take it easy and if I get dropped, no worries". I set out with a few friends but after about 10 miles I had to make the choice of pushing it at the front of the "b" group, or falling off the back and riding with the main pack. I chose to fall back, which now makes me think going balls out would have been a safer bet. As the group engulfed me, I instantly started seeing poor behavior. Riding 3-4 abreast on a busy road, not moving over when someone would yell "car back", and not holding lines. To me, some of these folks looked to be riding drunk because as we climbed, they swerved all over the road making it difficult to even pass them.
By the time we got a few miles to the finish, I counted four situations with vehicles that made me cringe (all in less than 15 miles). Each one I saw made me drop back a bit more, not wanting to be anywhere near this behavior, until finally I went to a complete soft pedal and let them move out of site. For me, the ride was ruined. I had enjoyed the first few miles with my friends, and I tried the best I could to recapture "why I ride" in those last few miles on my own. To be honest, it was tough. I tend to work myself into a bit of a frenzy when I see cyclists blatantly riding in a dangerous fashion. It makes automobile drivers hate us which comes back to haunt me on solo rides later.
Needless to say, I came back home, peeled my gloves off and just sat down to process for a bit. Is being connected to a group of riders like this even something I want--regardless if it makes me a stronger/faster rider? This is something I'll be thinking about for sure in the upcoming days.