Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Joys of Road Biking **Insert Sarcasm Here**

Nearing Woody's Gap
(Road pictured is not where the
incident occurred, but is a popular
Dahlonega area ride.)
Today (blog post written yesterday) marked my second road bike ride ever. My first ride was an amazing experience, conquering some of the high gaps in the mountains outside of Dahlonega with my good friend Matt. The beautiful countryside, challenging climbs, and crazy downhill speeds got me hooked! I knew that I needed to try it again.

This morning, I decided to get out for a quick ride before school on my borrowed road bike. I mapped out an easy 18 mile loop from my house, utilizing as many rarely-traveled backroads as possible. I figured that it would take no more than an hour to knock it out, so I kitted up and started riding.

The first 45 minutes were so refreshing! The air was still cool, as the sun had yet to bring the Georgia humidity up to a painful boil. The wind was blowing just enough to keep the sweat down, but not enough to be a force to reckon with when riding into it head on. I was thoroughly enjoying watching the countryside roll by at a slower pace, and I noticed cool houses and abandoned stores that surely had stories to tell that I've never noticed while whizzing by in my pickup.

The first 45 minutes were amazing, yet this ride still managed to sour the rest of my day.

I was on the home stretch, with less than 5 miles to go until I reached home. I had the road to myself, and I was thinking, "Hmm, maybe all of the reasons I had for not road riding exist only in my head. I haven't had much traffic to deal with, and the cars that have passed me have all given me plenty of room and have slowed down." I was thoroughly enjoying my ride: it was the perfect way to start the day!

No sooner had these thoughts run across my gray matter, then I heard a motor coming up behind my. I scooted over to the right side of the road, just to give him plenty of room. It was a pretty long straight away, and no one was coming the other direction. We were the only two people on the road, nothing to worry about, he had plenty of room to pass.

Suddenly, the engine revved up, and a white pickup truck flew by me at over 50 mph, mere inches from my elbow! I was shocked. If I had picked that moment to accidentally swerve just a smidge, he would have clipped me with his mirror, or much worse.

He had the entire road to pass me with, there were no turns coming--there was not one single reason for him to make such a dangerous pass.

Lacking a car horn, I gave him the one finger salute to express my gratitude for his accomplished passing skills.

I know I shouldn't have done it. I'm a little ashamed of my reaction, and I know I should really not have responded at all and just kept riding. Nevertheless, that's what happened.

He must have been watching me in his mirror, as he returned the salute. I just thought, "Whatever, buddy," and kept pedaling.

Suddenly, the front of the truck dove and a cloud of burnt rubber filled the air as he slammed on the brakes and came screeching to an abrupt halt about 50 yards ahead of me. The driver side door flew open, and a large man vaulted out, throwing his arms back, and screamed:

"What the fuck do you think you're doing, you little mother fucker?"

A number of thoughts instantaneously coursed through my head:

  1. What the heck just happened? I thought he was going to just keep on driving.
  2. He must have decided that since I was alone and the middle of nowhere, he could pick on me.
  3. There is no one else around
  4. Compared to him, I guess I am little. He appeared to stand a full 6" taller than me, and weigh at least 100 pounds more. Judging by his truck and his dress, he's a manual laborer, meaning he's probably got serious guns. 

Obviously, this wasn't the response I had been expecting, and I didn't care enough to make a scene, so I tried to defuse the situation:

"Hey bro, you could just give me a little room."

At this point, his beer belly had finally stopped jiggling from his initial dismount from the driver's seat.

My logic and reasoning seemed to go over well, and he responded with an appropriate:

"Get your ass out of the goddamn road!"

He was still standing with his arms flung back in the "You want a piece of me?" pose, and while I did want a piece of him, I knew this was probably a fight I wouldn't win. He was definitely a manual laborer, and as such he was probably strong as an ox.

Now, I have nothing against people that work hard with their bodies to make a living. I have several friends who are contractors, and I myself have spent several years working hard and sweating a lot. Many of my friends in those professions are smart individuals, and I have the utmost respect for them. However, this exhibition clued me in to the fact that this person was definitely a redneck, and that he wasn't smart enough to aspire to anything other than digging holes and picking fights with strangers. I knew that no reasoning I could employ would make any difference.

I stood there for a couple of seconds, and neither one of us moved. I was on the homes stretch of my ride, and while I didn't want to pick a fight or attempt to ride past him, there was no way in hell I was going to turn tail and retreat.

I decided to simply click into my pedals, and ride in circles and ignore him until he decided to keep on driving. As I turned to make my first circle, he shouted a falsely victorious:

"Yeah, that's right bitch," as he climbed back into his truck.

I turned around, pedaled back up a little bit, swung around again, and kept making tight circles. The truck didn't pull away immediately, so I know he was watching me. I just kept riding circles, letting him know that there was no way I was going to turn around, but that I was just going to wait. After about 30 seconds,  the engine revved up, and he burned more rubber as he pulled away down the road.

I pedaled for a couple of seconds, and considered if I should actually keep heading that way. It was definitely the quickest way home, but what if this pot-bellied moron decided to wait for me up ahead and jump me? Well, I decided that if he was really that stupid, I might actually stand a chance with him in a brawl, but that hopefully he'd just keep going wherever he needed to go.

In retrospect, I don't think he would have thought of starting something if I had been riding in a pack. At first it looked like he would just be content by saluting me back, but then he slammed on his brakes and decided to make a scene.

Anyhow, I have learned a few key lessons for my next road riding adventure :

  1. Next time I probably won't be flicking anyone off.
  2. Riding in a pack is a good idea.
  3. Oh, and I'll probably be slipping my folding buck knife into my jersey pocket.
Your Turn: Sound off. I'd like to hear any thoughts you have.

Really, I could just use some comment love...


Anonymous,  June 16, 2011 at 7:58 AM  

Good lesson learned. Glad you're o.k. but it is funny.

Greg Heil June 16, 2011 at 8:00 AM  

Yeh, it was kinda funny, especially after the fact. I was standing there looking at the guy, thinking "seriously?"

JB,  June 16, 2011 at 8:18 AM  

glad it wasnt me, I would have thrown the first punch. Even if I had got my ass beat, he would know where I was. Also, a quick punch to the nose takes care of most 'ox's'. Im also 6" 215lbs. hahahahahaha

Greg Heil June 16, 2011 at 8:25 AM  

Haha thanks, I'll file that away for the future!

Greg Heil June 16, 2011 at 8:31 AM  

PS I'm nowhere near 6' 215 lbs either, haha!!

Trail Monster June 16, 2011 at 8:32 AM  

So I have been there as well. Best not to flip them the bird, or say much of anything. Get the plate and description of the driver and alert the proper authorities.
On the other hand, Odds are good he drives that road everyday and you will not always be on your bike...research, revenge, relax.

Anonymous,  June 16, 2011 at 8:51 AM  

Write down or take a quick pic of the licence plate and report it to the police. We had a local tird try to "buzz" some riders in theCSRA. Sadly he hit them killing a doctor serving in th US Army. -brianW_

Wendy Davis June 16, 2011 at 9:31 AM  

Girls get some of that too. here's one of mine We can only control ourselves , not what others do or how they react. I have had several bad experiences with mostly men. Weird! I have also had children yell obscene things at me from the cars being driven by parents. WTHeck?

Greg Heil June 16, 2011 at 9:34 AM  

@TrailMonster, good thoughts, duly noted.

@brianw, that's horrible! I'm really sorry to hear that. Did the driver get thrown in prison?

@Wendy, Sad story. As for the kids, what the heck are their parents thinking??? That kind of parenting breeds hate!

Matt June 16, 2011 at 11:48 AM  

I try not to flick people off (ever) - in part because of the chances of conflict escalation - the last guy who was furious at me for "taking up the road" (and tried to force me off it) had a bunch of pro-gun stickers on his van... figured he was probably carrying. I don't want to deal with irrationally angry people, and I DEFINITELY don't want to deal with irrationally angry people who have weapons!

I do think it's odd that most of the people who have buzzed me, shouted at me, etc. have been in work vans or pickup trucks though. Makes me wonder about the correlation between vehicle and attitude.

dgaddis June 16, 2011 at 12:40 PM  

Dang dude, that's a scary situation. You know GA just passed the '3ft Law' right? That dude could get a ticket (or more) for sure if you had gotten his license and called the police. I know they're handing them out here in Augusta already.

As far as the guy himself...I've spent a summer doing fire protection sprinkler piping hanging in Savannah (one HOT summer!) working with a lot of uneducated manual labor kinda guys (one guy could barely read). Now I'm an engineer working with lots of highly educated people from all over the world. I can tell you without a doubt - there's some great people in both, and there's A-holes in both. Be the bigger man...especially if you're not physically the bigger man LOL.

Greg Heil June 16, 2011 at 1:38 PM  

@Anonymous, thanks man, and yes they WILL fall on their faces!

@Matt, yeh I think I'll refrain from now on!

@dgaddis, I had heard about that law, but didn't know it had passed in GA. Several different people have suggested taking the plate number down. Next time, if it does happen, that'll be my first move!

And you're right about there being A-holes and bigots in both white collar and blue collar jobs... they're everywhere. I guess the only thing we can do is not be one of them!

Anonymous,  June 16, 2011 at 3:48 PM  

The person who struck the Army doctor was not charged at first. The doctor himself was in the hospital for a few weeks before passing away. Heard on the news that the police were waiting in case the doctor did not make it. It is in the court system now. Happened a few months back.

Greg Heil June 16, 2011 at 4:53 PM  

Dang, that was recent! I hope that justice is served.

S.y.d.n.a.h. June 16, 2011 at 7:55 PM  

Glad you're safe :/ The knife is a good plan... maybe some pepper spray too? haha

Greg Heil June 16, 2011 at 8:29 PM  

Haha thanks syd! I'm considering bear spray. Probably works on horses too....

Greg Heil June 16, 2011 at 8:29 PM  

(Only in self defense, of course)

Anonymous,  June 16, 2011 at 9:19 PM  

Strange that you posted this today. A guy honked at me on my road bike and i flicked him off. I then felt bad because he will probably take it out on the next biker. I usually just ignore the honks, but today i was pumped up from the ride and my emotions got the best of me.

Jesse.Turk June 18, 2011 at 1:56 PM  


As troubling things like this can be I strongly recommend to never react to people at all when they do stuff like that. Despite what the law says about cyclist, a lot of motorist (including motorcyclist) do not feel like you should be allowed to ride in the road. The reason I recommend not reacting is not particularly for that exact moment but for the riders that this motorist will come in contact with in the future. His anger will be even greater if the next rider reacts similarly which could result in actual harm to someone. It like if you are driving your car and a person driving a particular color, make, and model of a car does something very rude and/or dangerous. Every time you see that type car you will be fighting those similar feelings you had the moment it happened initially. So in essence every time he see a cyclist he will see you. This is the only way I can curb the emotional response. It's for the next guy...and we are always the next guy to someone else.

In reference to the knife: Carrying a knife is wise on and off the road. Not particularly for self-defense but just in case you need to free your arm from a misplaced rock. However if packing a blade in your jersey you are at great risk for it coming open during a crash and injuring you during that process. Especially if it is open assisted. Your best defense is your cell phone for people that are inconsiderate and just quickly send a text to yourself of the tag number and then call the police.

Love ya brother.

Anonymous,  June 20, 2011 at 2:31 PM  

Be careful carrying a knife, if someone knows what they are doing they will easily take it from you, and then what? Mace is a better choice here. Be safe!

Greg Heil June 20, 2011 at 2:56 PM  

@Anonymous, I know how you feel!!!

@Jesse, thanks for the well-rounded response and all of the great advice!

@Justin, I've heard that too :D

@militantcyclist, Good thoughts.

Dozzerboy,  June 20, 2011 at 5:23 PM  

Cattle Prod or a tazer.

Caleb,  June 20, 2011 at 8:25 PM  

Im kinda large guy and I learned a long time ago you dont take lip from contractor (having being one for a couple years). I cant actually attest what I would do in that situation, but I can tell you what I would like to have done. I would have definately charged him like a crazed person and then just honestly greted him normally (Good morning sir, how are you?) And the reason for that is because of two things Ive ben told. One, It doesnt matter how small, tall, big, skiny, or ugly you are If you blitzkreig every confentation that comes upon you, you will begin with the upper hand. And secondly, I would never actually fight someone over my issues, or plight. If it was a child or family member in question though...only the Lord knows to what extent I would go...

Anonymous,  June 21, 2011 at 11:33 AM  

Concealed carry. Along with the requisite safety and training classes. The sight of a .45ACP is enough to drive most people back into their cars.

Greg Heil June 23, 2011 at 4:38 PM  

@Dozzerboy, Pretty sure I need to mount a cattle prod to the front of my bike like a lance now!

@Caleb, Interesting thoughts, thanks!

@Anonymous, many people above were mentioning that if you're going to pack heat, you'd better be ready to fire when you draw. What do you think?

Daniel Jessee July 1, 2011 at 8:47 AM  


That sucks man. All I can hope is that you still get to enjoy the road as you seem to have begun to. Mile for mile, the assholes are few and far between and like you said, most of the people who pass me in the mountains are plenty courteous.

As for drivers, motorcyclists, and cyclists... I have NO IDEA where the sense of entitlement to the road has evolved from. Last I checked, pedestrians and cyclists came a LONG TIME before cars were on every road. But every time this happens it just exemplifies that despite the new bike safety laws that passed in GA, the next equally (more?) important step is mandatory pedestrian-cyclist safety courses for drivers.

"Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one." -Malcolm Forbes

Anonymous,  July 26, 2011 at 12:32 AM  

I'm a motorcyclist, MTB rider, hiker...the best advice is to let it slide. People are crazy, many are on drugs, more are inconsiderate.

Hiking and just walking in the woods on the Bull Mtn trail system, more than one jerk on a bike has yelled 'coming through' demanding a leap from the trail. Just as outrageous and dangerous. Foot traffic has the right of way, and keeping ones bike under control is a trail rule.

On the motorcycle in the N Ga mountains--same roads as this story, more than once a crazed driver has crossed the line and violated my lane and safety zone to pass a bicycle--just because I'm on a motorcycle and they know I must move over to not die so they can pass. When a crazed driver does something to evoke a response, I give a limp-wristed wave--really angers 'em, but it's not a traditional provocation, just an insult. Tailgaters, I either blast off, or pull over. Let crazy go.

Seriously, though, I don't ride a bicycle on pavement--seen too much happen, had too many nar misses, and with digital distractions, it's only worse. You are taking your life for granted assuming the "cage" drivers to borrow a motorcycle term, are paying any attention.

For those who clearly have the intent of doing me grave harm or present the threat of grave harm, directed at me, I carry a gun. Concealed and permitted. Assume they do too, and that you don't want to even go there, but in a life and death situation. Should that kind of confrontation ever arise, you don't want to say--"it started with shooting birds or name calling or yelling". Guns and knives invite lethal force--and even having a knife in your possession can escalate any confrontation--a knife, too, is lethal weapon.

Always best to just let crazy go on. I stay off the pavement without wearing a full set of crash gear (full face helmet, gloves, boots, jacket, back protector, reflective glow vest)and a lot of horsepower and big disk ABS brakes when on two wheels. And running bright lights, front and back. Godspeed and good luck to those that are pedaling on public roads, but honestly, I think it's delusional thinking to believe it's safe. It's playing the odds, and in Georgia, they aren't good.

The N Ga mountain roads are the worst of mixes--SUVs, sports cars, sportbikes and cruisers, trucks and trailers, and bicycles and tourists. Not the place for bicycle riding, legal or not. Be safe and alert if you play the odds. It's likely you'll get killed or gravely injured in any vehicle incident, not just yelled at.

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