In the heat of battle, it can be easy to forget that you're not actually doing battle. You're a middling cyclist attempting to exorcise some inner demons and/or living a mid-life crisis while wearing what amounts to nothing more than expensive underwear, astride a bicycle likely worth the annual earnings of a miner in Bolivia. I don't say these words harshly. I, too, spend more than I'd care to admit on bicycles, bicycle computers, Lycra short with built-in gooch protection and sunglasses to make my face look skinnier under my fancy helmet. It's not a hobby. It's a lifestyle.
I simply write this post to remind you that we're fortunate to live in a country where we're able to ride bikes. Nice bikes, in beautiful settings, with other people who like doing the same things we do. Don't forget that this just doesn't happen, can't happen, in many other places in the world, where hunger, poverty, and conflict deprive people of the simple pleasure of riding bikes.
I, (Your Name), swear to the Gods of cycling - Merckx, Pantani, Absolan, and Dahle, that I will:
1. I won't be a dick. To anyone. Period.
2. Remember that, win or lose, I have to go to work on Monday and that all of my words and actions to my fellow racers should reflect that fact.
3. I will warn slower riders of where I intend to make an overtake on tight singletrack. No matter how slow they're going, I will refrain from elbowing them into the woods. They paid their entry fee and have every right to be out there.
If I'm in 49th place in the beginner category, I will, however, get the hell out of the way for the Elites who have sacrificed a whole lot of time and even more Twinkies to go as fast as they do. Don't spoil it for them.
4. I will be nice to other people, even if they're not wearing the same jersey as I am. After all, we're a community of cyclists first, and being kind and generous to our small community should take precedence over any perceived competition in an amateur cycling event.
5. You will cheer for the kids during the kid's race. They are outside for Pete's sake; not watching TV, not hunting Pokemon, and they look up to us 29er-ridin' adults as role models. Act like one. Give them a shout.
6. I will support my local bike shop and sponsors, who, for whatever reason, want to associate their brand and image with someone who finished in the mid-twenties in the Sport class. Your local bike shop sponsors you because they love the sport, not because they get oodles of publicity on ESPN from your race. Wear their jersey. Don't buy stuff on eBay. Fly the flag with pride.
7. I will make sure the women at the race feel welcomed and equal. Want to know why only five women show up at bikes races? It's a bunch of skinny dudes in painted-on clothes bragging about how light their seat post is. We're lucky as hell that any chicks want to come ride with us, so be sure to be nice to them so they'll keep coming around.
8. I will thank the volunteers as I ride by. At any given bike race, there is a Grandma manning an intersection in the middle of nowhere for 6 hours on their one Saturday off that month so you can whiz through the crossroads of Cornfield Ave and Backhoe Road without getting creamed by a milk truck. (Ha, get it? Creamed? Milk truck?) Thank them. Then buy them a beer after the race and thank them again.
Before your next race, take The Pledge. Ride bikes. Smile. I'll see you there.
Wes is the starting first baseman for the Detroit Tigers and part-time violinist in the New York Symphony Orchestra. You can follow his blithering rants on amateur cycling and cookies on this blog by following him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.