I recently moved house and between finding a reputable haberdasher and a new source of platinum gilded golf tees, I found myself frequenting new local group rides. The group ride is an interesting beast indeed. Like a school of sturgeon responding to invisible cues, the group ride flows in a vaguely organic, sometimes erratic nature. Subtle clues can allude to substantial changes in its makeup and acceptance is rarely granted sans a primordial vetting process; the rules of which are shrouded in chamois cream and embrocation. As sure as you can rely upon the regularity of a different organized ride for every day of the week, you can rest assured that no matter where you turn the pedals you’re sure to interact with the same cast of characters. Like a traveling revival of Mama Mia, a fast group ride in Nice, France will have the same creepily familiar social makeup as a brisk jaunt in Sandusky, Ohio; just maybe with more fried Twinkies. So I present to you the troops of the group, those who take pride and pleasure in organized chaos, benvenuti al grupetto.
The Lung is an older gentleman who’s tanned and experienced skin is surpassed only by his near endless supply of old race kits. The lung has a near preternatural ability to NEVER get dropped. He won’t win the group ride but you can rest assured that there is no terrain or tempo that will shake him. His face is either perpetually contorted in pain or void of emotion; each just as powerful. Upon further investigation you will find that The Lung is a former multi-mountain bike world champion from the early 80’s.
The Town Crier
The Town Crier is fiercely concerned with group safety. He is first and loudest to call out any and every possible obstacle no matter how big or small its causal footprint. Calls of “SLOWING” or “GRAVEL” are bellowed with equal parts aplomb and audacity. This rider will not hesitate to chastise those who veer off course with “HOLD YOUR LINE”. Or the brazen individual who dares to not “KEEP BOTH HANDS ON THE BARS”. The manic nature of this individual is, thankfully, vacated once the pace increases. Just be sure to watch out for that “FALLING LEAF ON THE RIGHT” and may God have mercy on the soul of he who shows up not wearing a helmet.
The Reservist is forever keeping it chill. At any given time he’s coming off of a life threatening sickness, tapering for the biggest race you’ve never heard of or keeping it reserved for reasons unknown to anyone but himself.
The Reservist: Yeah man I’m not trying to go hard today, got the big State Regional District Divisional Championships coming up, just wanna keep it Zone 1-2.
Io: I am not familiar with this race.
The Reservist: Yeah man it’s like I just had a combo bout of Mono, MRSA, and all the Hepatitis’s so gotta give the system a chance to regroup ya know? Like I might just little ring this whole ride. Not trying to go hard.
The Land Mine
The Land Mine is a difficult character to spot, yet is extremely adept at catastrophic group dismemberment. The Land Mine can hold a wheel effectively in the flats and will defend his spot in the pace line with dedication and borderline aggressive resolve. You will resign yourself to merely staying behind him because passing takes more effort than its worth. That is, until the road goes up. With no warning, rhyme or reason the Land Mine physiologically detonates dropping his speed at a rate that seems unbounded by physics. This cycling IED causes havoc in the group as riders desperately hit their brakes and begin evasive tactics in order to not crash into the back of said rider. The pandemonium is further intensified by the guttural and disarming noises that come from The Land Mine post detonation.
The Waterfall is an unfortunate individual and one that should be avoided at all costs. Regardless of both ambient temperatures and barometric pressures, The Waterfall sweats – an uncomfortable amount of sweat. I have no problem with perspiration, it’s part and parcel as far as cycling is concerned. Unfortunately, The Waterfall includes anyone with the misfortune of riding behind him in this production. Sweat and whatever other bodily fluids the Waterfall creates are expelled with uncanny regularity. Like heat-seeking Scud missiles, these saline cast-offs will find your face with supernatural accuracy. More maddening is that the harder you try to avoid The Waterfall, the more you’ll find yourself behind his fluidic onslaught. Rain capes will do nothing to help your plight.
One would think Tri-Guy is instantly recognizable due to his tri-bike. Wrong. This particular iteration of Tri-Guy is cloaked in a road bike but, fear not, for there are telltale signs to aide in his identification. Firstly, look for the socks. Often times he will be wearing none or what the gentler sex refer to as “pedis”; socks which cover just the heel and toes. This, generally, is enough to out Tri-Guy, but continue up the subject in question. Ironman tattoo on the calf? Booty short length bib shorts? Sleeveless jersey with arm warmers? Bingo. While strong, Tri-Guy is erratic and unpredictable in the group. He’ll bob and weave, losing and regaining touch with the wheel he’s following with more frequency than a doping denial from Danilo di Luca.
While these personalities may seem to be more bothersome than laudatory within the confines of the group ride, there is a certain comfort there. Quick identification is paramount, but once achieved, a familiar rhythm can be established. You know these people. You endure these people. You avoid these people. Yet you’d probably miss them if they were gone. Who else would you complain about at your post ride coffee stop? What better incentive is there to be fit and able to ride at the front than a face full of another man’s blood, sweat, and tears…literally. How else would you be able to interpret the nuanced lexicon of a peloton in full gallop? So ride forth with the knowledge of the informed and may The Waterfall always be at your back and the road rise to meet you.