Two by Two

Sitting in the cafe this weekend on a local ride, the conversation turned to whether we should go back the way we had come, or take the more direct main road. The way we had come meant a long and fairly steep climb into a headwind, and on a Saturday at least the main road wouldn’t be infested with timber lorries, although it still would mean fast and fairly frequent traffic. We were swithering until someone pointed out

‘Of course, the main road would mean going single file’

Well that settled it. As far as I’m concerned, the whole point of riding out in company is riding side by side so you can chat. The ride out had been wet and windy and not in any technical sense of the word pleasant, but with a couple of like-minded companions it had at least passed quickly. I don’t get nearly enough time spent riding with others so I had made the most of it. I can’t even remember everything we had talked about – the joys or not of chopping vegetables, the guilty pleasure of a good battenberg cake (somehow the mind always reverts to food) – but it was enough to take our minds of steadily dampening gloves and frozen toes.

There aren’t many traffic lights or pavements around here, so when people choose to tell me about the sins of my fellow cyclists (because I am their queen, of course, and I am responsible for their every crime) it’s always, but always, about them riding two abreast, despite the fact that it’s perfectly acceptable in the Highway Code. If I can be bothered I try and explain that sometimes it’s safer – and even easier – to pass a compact group of cyclists riding in pairs rather than in a long line that takes longer to pass, and besides if there isn’t room to overtake them safely as if they were a car you shouldn’t just squeeze past them as if they weren’t there, and blah blah blah, but the truth is I know that when you see a pair of cyclists out there riding side by side, they’re not really doing it because it’s safer. No, they’re having a blether, probably about cake, and a jolly nice time of it they’re having too, even if it is raining. And if that just makes you jealous because you’re stuck behind them in your lonely car with nobody to talk to, then maybe you should join us.*

* I should probably say now, before someone explodes with rage, that we always single up when a car approaches, unless we’re riding with younger children

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8 Responses to Two by Two

  1. commuterjohn says:

    Interesting point here, only abour a week ago I saw 2 club cyclists out on a run on a rather merky morning. They were 2 abreast but had their lights on. As I approached from behind I thought of how sensible this was – 2 rear lights across the road – how much more visible they were on this merky morning, they could have been any other vehicle if they had had a number plate between them!
    They rode around a large 3 lane roundabout in complete confidence and complete control of the lane.
    Now granted they were club cyclists who could put a bit more speed into their cycling than most but it proved a valuable point – put your lights on so your easily visible and take control safely of your lane.

  2. Jenny says:

    Indeed, my sister and I attempt to cycle side by side on the cyclepath, getting a crick in the neck from twisting to see no ‘lycra’ cyclists are fuming behind us. I don’t know why bells are so scorned by the faster cycling crowd – maybe they stop the streamlined effect – but a quiet tinkle on the bell always seems a polite way to get past. As far as our open roads are concerned, it’s hard enough cycling single file, sadly, and there is A LONG way to go before cycling in pairs would be seen as acceptable. Sigh.

  3. disgruntled says:

    @John – I’ve often pondered the practicality of slinging a number plate between two bikes, although even so I’d never have the guts to tackle a 3-lane roundabout.
    @Jenny – well, if they won’t carry a bell and won’t say anything, I don’t see why you shouldn’t just let them fume! They can always say ‘excuse me’ if they want to get past

  4. charles says:

    Purchase a compressed air horn to give a suitable reply. Speed does not equal superiority, it just puts them in the same category as ill tempered car drivers.

  5. Nick says:

    ‘Swithering’? Is that perhaps a Scottish term, or something secret that only you cyclists do?

  6. doughook says:

    What a lovely little article and I know exactly what you mean about cycling two abreast, or not, as the case maybe. Also like you I often need to explain or account for the way other cyclists may transgress in the eyes of motorists. That keeps me very well occupied in the staff room at work!

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