4.26.2004

Cycling
Cyclists
and
the Individual Strengths of each Cyclists

Many years ago I remember passing John Stamstead on one of the last climbs on one of my laps at the 24 Hours of Snowshoe. My pace was strong enough to catch him, I cheered him as I passed, and kept pulling away. He never batted an eye. He was not threatened or challenged by the passing of another rider. Why? Because he was running his own race. As I was doing this race on a 4 person relay team, he was racing the same 24 hour race/the same rocky and rooty course, but solo.
In the daily journeys of a cyclist there are all sorts of encounters. At times when people are passed they feel challenged or threatened by the passing cyclist, so they pick up the pace and start a little race. Well, this little aspect of CYCLIST INSECURITY is a valuable tool, it adds to the fun, can add to the challenge, and can even make us all faster cyclists. But it is rarely a fair race. No one has the rules set up. One person may be on a mountainbike with knobbies, another may be on a vintage touring bike with panniers, and another on their Titanium race machine, the list continues.... there are fixed gear bikes....single speeds...cruisers...etc. While the of list of various bicycles can be a contributing factor then there is also the idea of how far each rider has ridden before the encounter and how far they plan to go. If I run alongside a rider on his fancy road bike with his team shirt and team shorts and sprint ahead and then turn off at the next intersection, have I won? How do I know if that individual is just on the start or finish of a 100 mile ride. That is why racing can only fairly happen when these things are discussed up front, as in an actual race.
This topic is approached because I had a discussion with a few friends on a prior posting where there was the mention of couriers. I ride in the city and through the city everyday, I have worked as a courier, and I know many couriers, and know other couriers by reputation. There are many who can ride. There are a select few who ride and race. And there are a long list of jokers out there scrapping for respect. Just showing up to work as a courier does not make a person an elite cyclist.
let me FLASHBACK
there are so many tales
but I can just dip back to the mid 80's and my commute home
I was in college and working as a messenger during my breaks from school
a great way to spend my time and a great way to get some beer money

Conneticut Avenue is a great route home from downtown Washington DC to my parent's house in Bethesda. It is a roller coaster of climbs, but with a little luck and some good timing it can be a glorious sprint.
Each day after a long day of work I would sprint home from work as a messenger to shower change and then head back downtown for a night on the town, often heading back downtown in a different outfit back on the same bike. To aid in my motivation to ride fast I used to reel in each cyclist that was within my field of view. There was always this one guy Scotty. He was a slightly older black gentlemen who did not like being passed, or at least he did not like being passed by the likes of me. Over a number of these informal challenges we got to talking, we pushed each other and pushed the pace, I looked forward to our encounters and our meetings. He is a clever and funny guy. Just a month or so ago I gave him several bicycles and some random cycling gear, he is still a cyclist and still making that Conn Ave ride, only he goes no further than Chevy Chase DC, I was going several miles further.
THE POINT?
I forgot....
Okay, here is a better one....
So I am cruising up Conn Ave after a long day of work. Then appears in my blind spot is another young white courier on a mountainbike. We start pacing against each other. All sorts of risks are being taken. Mutual respect is earned. Our competition is healthy and strong. We are raging. As we hit a flat stretch of road before the intersection of Porter and Conneticut we pick up speed, as we get faster we notice that the light is red. This does not intimidate either of us. We each chose our own line. I go straight through the middle, the other rider opts to dip behind a the same cab that I went in front of. He hits a patch of sand and goes down. I glance back, his helmetless body is on the ground, clearly not hurt. I jam on forward and further, not letting up the pace.
I have been at too many parties where Chris Beach likes to tell that story....he tells that story and tells that is how we met, and how I was such an asshole for just riding on.....
Well, that is how it played out....
But from then on we were friends and always got a rush out of racing through the city streets together. We would go out of our way to catch the other. Shouting and screaming over the path of cars between us, running lights, popping curbs, and laughing all the way.
I must admit that he could do some things on the bike that I could never do.
There was a period one summer when the couriers would gather at Dupont Circle (circle jerks?) , there would be 40s in brown bags or even a keg tucked in the bushes. It was always a party....When the mood was right there would be some impromptu three lap races around the circle. There were no real rules. There was no real race. Just a mess of guys sprinting around the heavily trafficed traffic circle on their bikes. One time Chris and I were going head to head (the other competitors dropping off early in the first lap) and Chris bunny hopped the sidewalk barrier the gapped the different lanes of traffic. That blew my mind. At maximum speed the variables were high and the risks were higher. I can not recall who was able to do three laps faster, but I do know that I bowed down to him for that move. Bowed down to him then and I bow down to him now. He is a great dude with a big heart.

John Stamstead
I have never met him. But I respect his drive and his contribution to the sport. By pushing his own personal limits he has pushed the limits of the sport.


Chris Beach managed the local bike shop around here City Bikes (Adams Morgan), the same shop that sponsors my mountainbike team. He rides less than he plays hockey, and perfers to go fly fishing than to do carpentry or work on his house.

Scotty is still a messenger. He may be a lifer. He may be a late bloomer. I have not seen him since I gave him those two bikes, he may be riding them or those bikes may be taking up space in his basement. Scotty is a person that I have always seen a great deal of myself in and that is as much of a compliment as it is not.

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