One of the things about the recent Divas ride to Haverhill that was really different – besides the unseasonably cool July weather – was the fact that I was not the one leading the ride. It’s unusual (though certainly not objectionable!) for me to be situated elsewhere in the pack, and it creates a really different riding experience.
Of course, the ride leader has the responsibility for plotting the route and keeping the group together as best she can, and getting the group re-united if separation occurs.
But the members of the pack have a responsibility, too, and it’s one I admit I haven’t had much experience with. It’s the responsibility to pay attention to what the rider ahead of me is doing.
Perhaps it was simply the novelty of not being the ride leader that turned me into a slacker. But whatever the reason, more than once, I found myself gawking at the scenery… blissfully unaware that my pal Dakota Coyote actually had her blinker on, signaling for an upcoming turn! In these butt-puckering instances, I not-so-blissfully hit the brakes, said a quick “Oh shit,” and managed to make the turn.
But not without kicking myself for shirking my duty! For you see, it’s not just my duty to pay attention for my own sake. It’s also my duty for the benefit of the rider behind me, so she knows where we’re going too, and so I don’t cause an accident behind me!
And here’s a tip that I haven’t really incorporated into my own “ride leader” repertoire, but will try to remember: hand signals REALLY help! Now I’m religious (pious, even) about using my electronic turn signals, wagging my foot when there’s something in the road, or pointing to one side if there’s a potential hazard such as a car inching its way forward from a stop sign. But I don’t typically use directional hand signals, and yet I noticed: while I might have easily missed Coyote’s blinking turn signal, I couldn’t help but see her arm hanging out, pointing left… or bobbing over her head, pointing right!
So the simple lesson is, pay attention! Responsibility to yourself and other riders doesn’t take a holiday just because you’re not leading the pack!
And now, for your further reading and purely as a public service, here are some common hand signals every rider should know:
*haha, no we’re not. Of COURSE we don’t drink and ride.
Whenever we are out on the bikes, my husband likes to ride sweep – which means he likes to be the last rider in the line-up. (Here’s what happened when I tried riding sweep last summer.) He has said he does this because he wants to keep idiot cagers at bay – you know, the ones who insist on driving so close to the vehicle in front of them that they couldn’t possibly stop in time to avoid a rear-end collision.
I was thinking about this the other day while driving to my dad’s, and noticing one of those really huge pickup trucks that was so close on my bumper I couldn’t see his headlights in my rear-view mirror. The whole thing made me wonder what I would do if, in fact, I had someone tailgating me on the bike.
It seems to me there are a few options:
1). Tap my brakes and hope they get the hint before they actually rear-end me.
2). Give a wave or other appropriate gesture which says, “You are too close and should back off.”
3). Ride with a .38 Special tucked visibly into the back of my waistband. Good only if no cops happen to come up behind me.
4). When safe, pull off to the side and let them pass.
5). Pull up to a stoplight, shut off the bike, put the kickstand down, and walk back to the offender and ask them just what the hell they think they are doing.
Another one I’ve heard bikers talk about is to throw small objects from your pocket at the vehicle. Of course, you don’t throw your housekeys or other personal effects – you carry something specifically for this purpose. Examples might include small ball-bearings, chunks of busted ceramic material from old spark plugs, small pebbles, glass marbles, frozen peas, or even Skittles. While I can relate to the sense of glee one must get from exacting revenge in this way, it seems to me that these days you might only be provoking someone’s sense of righteous road rage.
What I usually do in the car is slow way down so I’m at least 5 mph under the speed limit, and wait for them to get impatient and go around me. I’ve never had that not work, so that’s probably what I’d do on the bike – followed by hand gestures if necessary. Or maybe even if not necessary.
How about you – what’s your best strategy for discouraging tailgaters?