Editors' note: BikeRadar is pleased to welcome Elden "The Fat Cyclist" Nelson as a weekly columnist.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s during a race or a recovery ride. As cyclists, we simply can’t help ourselves. Every time we get near another rider, we must chase them down. And any time we pass another rider, it’s a victory.
Just how much of a victory, however, depends on a number of factors. Fortunately for you, I have created an objective and thoroughly scientific method for determining the value of each cyclist you pass.
The objective of assessing your passing score for each ride is simple: get as many points as you can on any given ride. Equally simple are the basics – each time you pass a rider, you get to add one point to your score.
Of course, it would be ridiculous for you to get the same credit for passing a four-year-old on training wheels as a semi-pro in a time trial tuck. That’s why you must apply the following score adjustments.
And, of course, you must apply these same adjustments in reverse whenever you are passed, subtracting points based on these same factors. Hey, that’s only fair.
Let’s begin, shall we?
Every cyclist I’ve ever met is confused by the title of Lance Armstrong’s first book, It’s Not About the Bike. “Well, what else could it possibly be about?” we ask. We’re not being argumentative; we simply just never think about anything else. Naturally, then, the bike your opponent – that is, the person you’re passing – is a crucial factor in your score:
Expensive Bike: If the person you’re passing has a bike that costs more than 50% more than your bike, give yourself an extra point. If the bike costs more than double your bike’s cost, give yourself two points. Regardless, be certain to comment on what a nice bike the person you’re passing has. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as a backhanded compliment.
Misidentified Bike: If you’ve pushed yourself as never before to catch a cyclist on the road, thinking how awesomely fast you’re going to appear as you blow by, only to discover that the person you’re passing is on a mountain bike or a hybrid with frame material that can best be described as "rebar," subtract a point from your score.
Silly Bike: If you pass a recumbent, add ten points to your score, as long as you are going 10kph faster – at a bare minimum – than he. Be sure to snort in derision as you go by.
It’s very nearly creepy how carefully cyclists study one another’s legs. I of course except myself, because I never do this. That said, your passing score relies heavily on the attributes of your opponents legs.
Hair: If the person you pass has shaved legs, give yourself two extra points. If he has shaved legs and you do not, give yourself four extra points, because he’s going to eat his heart out when he sees that he just got passed by what appears to be a Fred.
Rookie Mark: If your victim has a chainring mark on his right calf, subtract a point from your score. If he has a chainring mark on his left calf, add two points to your score, but only if you can find out how he managed that trick.
Tattoos: If the person you pass has a bike-related tattoo on one or more of his calves, add ten points to your score. You have just defeated someone who identifies so closely with cycling that he is advertising it, permanently. Say “Nice tattoo,” as you go by. You may also want to add, “What is it, exactly?”
This one’s tricky. The truth is, many riders will wear a jersey in support of their favorite rider or team, and that doesn’t mean anything. Thus, to assess how many points to give yourself for what the cyclist you’re passing is wearing, you must look at the full package:
Full Kit – By this, I mean everything: helmet, shorts, jersey, socks, gloves. If he’s outfitted like a full-on pro, give yourself seven points. If it turns out that he is a full-on pro, give yourself ten points, unless you stop him and ask for his autograph. In which case you must reset your score back to zero and give up biking forever, because you are shameless.
Club Kit – If he’s wearing just the jersey or just the shorts, no point adjustment is made. If wearing both, you should give yourself two points. If the club kit is ridiculously ugly, give yourself three points. This is a judgment call, but I think I can trust you on this. Unless you’re one of those people who design really ugly club kits. If you’ve designed a jersey that is regarded as ugly even by your club, you must start every ride for the rest of your life with a score of -10. You brought it on yourself, man.
What they say
There’s a fair chance that the guy you pass will say something as you go by. This tells you something about how deep the wound has gone – or, in other words, how complete your victory is.
Greeting: A simple “hello” or “How’s it going?” means nothing. Your score does not change.
Congratulations: A “Hey, nice climbing” or “Keep it up” means that they – unfortunately – bear you no ill-will. Subtract a point from your score.
Excuses: This is the holy grail of passing someone – they are so deeply humiliated by your passing that they want a chance to explain themselves, usually by saying something about being at the tail end of an all-day ride or being told by their coach they must keep their heartrate under 80. When this happens, smile knowingly as you go by, then double your score because I guarantee the person you just passed will be able to think of nothing else for the next 72 hours.
There are a few other miscellaneous factors that affect your passing score. Be certain to make a careful note of each of them.
Gender Misidentification: If you think you’re passing a man and it turns out to be a woman, subtract two points. If you think you’re passing a woman and it turns out to be a man, add three points. Why the inequality? It is not for you to question.
Knee In Gut: If the other guy’s knees squash into his gut on each upstroke, you get no points for passing him. Unless your knees squash into your gut, too, in which case you get an extra three points.
Re-Pass: If, after passing the other guy, he makes a superhuman effort and passes you again, give yourself an extra two points. This may seem counterintuitive, but this kind of re-passing is your victim’s way of admitting that you have cut him, and cut him deep.
No-Pass: If it turns out that the other guy really was just spinning along and is now happy to ride at your pace and chat, and seems capable of riding at your pace and chatting even though you are at your absolute upper limit, and continues doing so until you explode and collapse in a quivering mass on the road, set your score back to -25, for you have just been totally pwned.
After each ride, be certain to tally your score and then evaluate yourself on the following scale:
50+ points: You are the stage winner. Puff out your chest. Add this score to your race resume, for it is a magnificent accomplishment.
20 – 49 points: Not a bad ride, but you may want to exaggerate your score when comparing with your friends. Since there’s no way for them to disprove your score, you should feel confident in your “exaggeration.” Hey, you think your friends aren’t “augmenting” their scores, too?
Fewer than 20 points: You may want to consider changing your training route, so as to encounter different riders. After all, it isn’t how you play the game, it’s whether you win or lose.
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