Without a doubt, there’s one thing that scares most bike riders: looking totally fat in bike shorts. No. I’m sorry. The one thing that scares riders is that they one day might feel compelled to buy a jersey with a psychedelic red eyed tree frog on the back. No. Really. The one thing that scares most riders is carnage.
Which brings me to my next point, the one thing that most club and new riders have in common is looking as flamboyant as Cameron on Modern Family in a XXXL Primal jersey. No. Seriously, the one thing that most new riders have in common is the butt-pat. Now I don’t know what numb-nut started this whole butt-pat paceline pull-off thing, probably the same douche that invented the tree frog jersey, but it must stop. Dear Ricky Bobby and little baby Jesus it must stop. Don’t make me print up anti-butt-pat t-shirts and jerseys and sell them out the trunk of my car at the next club century ride, because I will. You might think the reason I disdain the butt-pat is because it’s totally Cameron and draws attention to your fat thread bare Lycra covered caboose. In all reality, it’s what could happen after the butt-pat that gives me the heebie jeebies. The butt-pat could lead to four men sitting cross-legged in Lycra sipping espresso at the café while discussing last night’s episode of Cougar Town. It could, but aside from that, the butt-pat, like a 50% off Nashbar tree-frog jersey, is pretty much a disaster waiting to happen. Think about it. If I really wanted to get some pro-looking road rash scars and maybe a nifty shoulder bump the first thing I would do is get in front of a group of riders, take my eyes off the road to look back, let up on the pedal cadence, contort my body to throw off my equilibrium and center of balance and attempt to pat my own ass at 25mph.
A wise veteran rider and regional pro level racer once told me, “Always hook your thumbs.” It’s Guinness Beer type “brilliant!” Notice that he said thumbs, not thumb…but thumbssssssssss. Secondly, notice he said hook, not rest or gently curl, but hook. The one bit of latitude is that you can probably get away with hooking fingers if you’re on the hoods, unless you have gangly baboon thumbs that can reach around a hood. I can’t say how many times this has saved me from certain George Hincapie with a broken steerer tube type death. If this is too hard to imagine, the key is to actually…physically…hang on to your handlebar.
But you’re a good rider, you couldn’t, wouldn’t possibly crash by not hooking your thumbs or fingers. That’s silly. I ride around all the time just resting my hands across the tops and hoods. I can pat my ass when I ride. Well if you look closely at the following video, you’ll notice the rider looks super cool in the first bunch across the climb with his hands resting on the tops just before he, Saxo Bank super star Jens Voight, goes all silly rag doll down the road at what appears to be 900mph at the top of a mountain in the 2009 Tour De France.
When that first aired, commentators remarked and pointed out as French television rolled back the wreck footage over and over and over again that there was a bump or raised crack in the road that caused him to crash. Really? It’s the Tour de France. It’s like 2500 miles long, with I’m pretty sure, an equal number of bumps in the road, not to mention the fact that the ten or so guys in front of him all seemed to navigate the pit-fall without incident. I’m sorry, but I’m darn tootin’ certain that the reason Jens, one of the most respected riders in the pro-peloton, crashed and ended up in the hospital is because he wasn’t holding on to the handlebars. Thumbs, fingers…not hooked.
Now, I’m not one to use scare tactics or make light of tragedy, but I am one to point out the ridiculous things that irrationally filter from one rider to the next, like horrible looking theme jerseys, 30 cubic foot seat bags, and patting your own ass while in front of a bunch of your best riding buddies. If you want to signal to the closet Cougar Town watching tree frog jersey wearing guy behind you that it’s his turn to take a pull, flick your elbow. The pro’s sometimes do that. Even still you’d be missing out on one of the most beautiful parts of group cycling: a buttah smooth look back and butt-pat free zenlike flowing paceline. I have found no better example than this video featuring one of my favorite riders, Danny Pate in the Tour of California. It’s so awesome to watch, that I could delete every episode of Modern Family and Cougar Town from my DVR and replace it with a six hour loop of this. Enjoy and keep your hands off your fanny.