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    Bike Path Thugs

            There’s a new bike path in Falmouth. Actually, it’s an extension of the pre-existing bike path that runs from the middle of Falmouth to the edge of Woods Hole, thirteen miles away. The new part of the path extends it all the way from Falmouth to my town of North Falmouth. That means that I can bike from practically my own back yard all the way to Woods Hole, twenty-three mikes away, and only hit two miles of road (from my house to the path). The remaining twenty-three miles is all beautiful, pristine, smooth, relatively flat, scenic bike path, that travels through cranberry bogs, marshes, and forest, and by beaches and the ocean. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
            But there is a major problem that the bike path has created. A problem that could turn this spectacular new gem into nothing more than an oozing, puss infested shanker on the face of Cape Cod.
            I witnessed the origins of this festering pustule weeks ago when I first started biking on the path. I’m a very friendly dude when I’m out and about, and when I’m biking, I say hello or wave to everybody I come across. On the bike path, I noticed that about half of the people I said hello to said something back. The other half did not. This didn’t seem unusual to me, because as I’ve written before on this very blog, cyclists can be some of the most unfriendly exercisers on earth. It seems the more serious they dress, the more serious they are. I understand that exercise can be serious business, but let’s put this in perspective. You’re biking on a flat, straight, very public path, full of people, dogs, birds, and magnificent scenery. Is your game face really necessary?
            Anyway, as I said, getting the cold shoulder from over half the cyclist I encountered has always been de rigeur. But a few weeks ago, I noticed something else. Some of these cyclists were starting to stop and congregate in small groups at certain points along the new bike path. When I passed these groups of cycle enthusiasts, they not only didn’t say hello back to me, they stared at me. All of them. The first time it happened, I thought maybe I had a massive snot hanging from my nose, that, like a horrible car accident, they just couldn’t turn away from. But then it happened again, several times. A gaggle of neon-spandex clad, helmet-wearing, wrap-around-sunglass donning cyclists would literally stare me down as I rode past. They would all turn my way, and glare at me with hostile, sour puss expressions that I hadn’t seen since the eighth grade.
            Even for cyclists, this was unfriendly. Was it because I wasn’t wearing a helmet, therefore desecrating their ancient, sacred rules of safety? Was it because I wasn’t wearing a shirt, and they saw this primitive display of skin as a mocking of their strict dress code? These questions remained unanswered until the other morning, when one group actually waived me down and stopped me. Actually, they set up a wall of bikes across the path, so I had to stop or I’d run over one of them. I figured somebody was in trouble, or maybe there was imminent danger ahead and they were warning me. “Perhaps I misjudged these guys”, I thought. “Maybe they’re just looking out for me, or for one of their own, which I can certainly understand.”
            I stopped, got off my bike, and said, in a consciously friendly voice, “What’s up men?”. They didn’t respond. They just stood there and stared. Glared actually. After a few moments of awkward silence, one of them slowly approached me. He looked like the leader of the pack, a little taller than his compatriots, and dressed even more flamboyantly than the rest. More neon. More garishly graphic helmet. Tighter shorts.
            As he approached me, he started taking his helmet off. The others kept theirs on. His motions were slow and deliberate. Actually, too slow and deliberate, as though he was self-consciously trying hard to be...slow and deliberate. Like a guy who’s trying to look tough, but isn’t.
            And he was walking funny too, because he had on those cyclist shoes with the clips on them. The whole effect was comical, borderline absurd, and I had to choke back the chuckles. I didn’t know what the fuck was going on, but I didn’t want to laugh at the guy. Well I did, but I knew it would be in bad taste. And I like to show respect for my fellow living organisms. Until they give me a damn good reason not to.
            And he was about to give me one. Actually, he was about to give about twenty.
            He turned and threw his helmet to one of his underlings, who proceeded to drop it. None of them smiled. I did. From ear to ear. They didn’t like that. After leader guy turned back around towards me, he spoke. “What are you doin’, boy?”, he said in a slow, measured cadence with just a hint of redneck drawl. Before I answered him, I thought to myself, “Boy”? I haven’t been called that in a while.” Before I could answer, he said “Ya know, we don’t like your kind on this here bike path.” Well that did it. A wire tripped in me, and I instinctively went into Wise Ass Mode. “My kind?”, I asked. “What kind would that be, Mr. Armstrong?” One of the guys in the back snickered ever so faintly, but it didn’t go unnoticed by me. Or by Lance, who turned around, pointed at him, and said “Give me twenty!”, upon which Mr. Snicker hung his head, dropped, and gave him...eight. That’s all he could muster, as he looked somewhat malnutritioned. So I did the right thing and offered him a Power Bar. More glares form Lance and the peanut gallery.
            Resuming his focus on me, Lance stepped a little closer and said “Looks like we’ve got a wise guy here, don’t we? Well listen up, Mr. Wise Guy. If you’re gonna bike on this path, you’re gonna have to abide by some rules. Now these rules aren’t written anywhere, but that don’t mean they aint gonna be enforced. See, we’re the unofficial Falmouth-Bike-Path-Proper-Bike-Etiquette-Poe-Leece. We’re a cross between a corrupt police department, a vigilante group, and a street gang. And you do not want us as your enemy if you intend on using this bike path. Once you step foot on this path, your civil liberties take a back seat to the preservation of established American values like religion, proper clothing, more religion, conformity, yet more religion - this time crammed down your throat, and the acceptance that, because we say so, we know better than you.” Suddenly, he didn’t sound much like Lance Armstrong. He sounded like George W. Bush.
            Then I realized what this was. This was a Cycle Gang. A self-appointed group of holier than thou, self-righteous, control freak bike addicts that look upon the casual cyclist like myself who doesn’t wear a helmet or a shirt as a bane to their sport. I’m everything they don’t like. I smile when I ride. I dress like I’m at the beach. I never wear a helmet. My bike is less than state of the art. I’m not carrying a water bottle. I have an enormous back pack on, which means I’m biking in part at least as a form of transportation to do something else and not exclusively as a form of no-holds-barred-balls-to-the-wall exercise. Which makes me a heathen. I’ve got on earrings, which increase my drag, so I’m not in the least concerned about my time. I’m doing this because it’s fun, I like it, it’s beautiful out, it’s great cardio, and I can get a tan and show off my bod. In other words, I am the the Obsessed Cyclist’s Anti-Christ.
            As soon as I understood what this was about, something overtook me. I shifted past Wise Ass Mode and into Complete Dickhead Hyperdrive. I walked up to Lance W. Bush, got right into his face and said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega. I am Shiva, the God Of Death. I am going to bike right past you lame fucks. And so is anybody and everybody else on this path. Every minute of every day of every year, as long as I’m alive. And I intend to live forever.”
            Seconds after that, the group behind him started to disband, grumbling as they broke rank. They knew their days of terror were over, over before they actually began. And word of this would spread quickly, so effectively, every other Cycle Gang was doomed as well. It was only going to take one act of aggressive, potentially violent act of cycle defiance to thwart their ill conceived plan of bike path domination, and I was lucky enough to have been the right guy for the job, in the right place, at the right time.
            The bike path was now perpetually safe form the likes of unfriendly, control freak, elitist, obsessed cycle addicts. So come down and enjoy this new addition to the landscape of cape cod, knowing that you and your kin can safely enjoy the benefits of this path. Even if you don’t wear a helmet. Or a shirt. Or a stitch of neon.

    ©2009 Clint Piatelli. All Rights (and a bike path of Wrongs) Reserved.

    Reader Comments (4)

    I find it interesting Clint that you have commented before that you have
    found elite cyclists to be some of the most unfriendliest people on the
    face of the earth. Now I know what you mean however I have found
    this in just about every sport, hobby, path one can take: people become
    obsessed with thinking they own "the path" and you should know "the rules".
    I liked how you got in this guys face and brought him down to earth so to speak.
    Good for you! Now you know of my level of fitness and you know of my
    athletic endeavors. I for one am the cross between the elite cyclist/runner/rockstar.
    Waving and smiling at everyone and loving every minute of it...and throwing
    in a guitar solo.....a high hat drum hit......and a vocal scream here and there......

    But dude.......honestly........wear a helmet.

    It may not look very cool but look at the consequences.

    Diamond Dave

    May 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Lee Roth

    Diamond Dave, as always, an entertaining comment. I'm sure the satirical, light-hearted nature of these "cycle posts" are not lost on you. I'm not trying to tell people what to do or how to live. I just find it strange how unfriendly people can be when they are "enjoying" exercise, the great outdoors, and interaction with others. I suppose it shows just how isolated and guarded people can become. I know that pain, so I'm sympathetic to it. But that doesn't mean I can't lampoon the shit out of it.

    And thank you for your concern for my safety. But alas, I can not head your sound advice. You are correct in your assessment, yet I will choose foolhardiness over sensibility in this case and hope for the best.

    May 13, 2009 | Registered CommenterClint Piatelli

    Egads helmet? Not even a strechy neon shirt?Think of the road rash you could leave on our pristine bike path, not to mention the cerebrogelatinous stuff that the guy from HULU is drooling about.
    Actually being a transplanted LI NYer I don't own a helmet either, but do enjoy the heck out of the bike path. Thanks for making it safe for all to enjoy.

    June 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Reardon

    Hey Mike, thanx for reading and commenting. Welcome to cape cod. I'm a big fan of Long Island.


    June 3, 2009 | Registered CommenterClint Piatelli

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