Are you guilty of racing other cyclists?

Last week I was having an incredibly fun cycle home. I don’t know why I was enjoying it so much, perhaps because it was towards the end of a successful day and I was making up my route home on the go. As I’m waiting at a one of the many sets of London traffic lights a fellow cyclist rolls up on a road bike and they cautiously go through the red light. For some reason something ticked in my head and as far as I was concerned the race was on.

As soon as the light turned green I was racing after the unsuspecting cyclist who was travelling at a decent speed. I caught up and overtook only to be stopped by another set of red lights. Again the cyclist went straight through the lights. I waited and caught up again and successfully took the inside cycle lane to get ahead as they got stuck behind a bus.

At this point I realised I was having a lot of fun. I had a rough idea what route I was going in but largely I was following the other cyclist. It was a pretty fun way of making my way in the general direction of home. Eventually I had to turn off and head back in the right direction. Though, by now I was in a speedy mood and the rest of the journey flew by.

I don’t always get this urge to race fellow cyclists. Often I’m quite content with the speed I’m travelling at. When I do I usually pick someone I suspect will be faster than me such as a bike messenger or someone I can see travelling fast. For that matter it doesn’t even have to be a cyclist, occasionally it is a bus. (Why do I feel like I’m sitting on the couch with a psychologist explaining my behaviour! – maybe they should start a “Cyclist racers anonymous”.)

I can see why a bit of racing is good for challenging yourself to improve, a boost when you manage to “win” and just a lot of fun. I was just wondering if anyone else is guilty of doing this? Am I just being silly or is this a good way of improving performance?

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29 Responses to Are you guilty of racing other cyclists?

  1. Charlie 09/02/2010 at 9:29 am #

    You should get yourself along to and look up the Silly Commuting Racing thread on the forum. There are many, many people at this and a rigid hierarchy in terms of where different types of cyclists sit, how many ‘points’ you get for ‘scalping’ fellow cyclists, etc. The time that some people have…!

  2. Pete 09/02/2010 at 9:31 am #

    Hahaha, I play that game all the time!

    It is especially satisfying when you catch up with those red light running cyclists.

  3. Su Yin 09/02/2010 at 9:34 am #

    I never realise how much faster I’m cycling these days—until I get stuck behind another cyclist! But that’s okay because it means that there is one more person on a bicycle on the road and it warms the cockles of your heart.

    I don’t ‘race’ but there is a much satisfaction to be had when wooshing pass a cyclist who shoals you at the red lights (mostly men). They quickly cotton on and don’t do it again 😉

  4. Joby 09/02/2010 at 9:39 am #

    I did a similar thing this morning 🙂

  5. Alex 09/02/2010 at 9:44 am #

    I do this all the time and red light runners are my favourite opponents as well.

  6. Josh 09/02/2010 at 9:52 am #

    Definitely guilty – most pleasurable was constantly overtaking a car full of idiotic Arsenal fans up through Camden as they got stuck at red lights and behind buses.

  7. Tim 09/02/2010 at 10:40 am #

    I am in my mid fifties now and my boy racer days are probably a little bit behind me. Sometimes as the twenty two year old whizzes past me and looks back with that poor sucker look, I chuckle to myself and think will you still be doing this daily commute into London at my age! I do get schadenfreude type glee on catching people up who have got caught by the next set of lights.

    My biggest weakness though is comparing bikes and getting much pleasure when I think mine is better quality. I guess we are all still little boys and girls at heart showing off on our bikes as we did when we were 10 !!

  8. Donavan 09/02/2010 at 11:22 am #

    This is always hoe I know if I am as fast as I feel I am. Some days I am tired and worn out and never catch up. Other days not only to I catch up, but I start having a casual conversation with said cyclists while they are huffing and puffing to maintain their pace.

    It is that much sweeter when I am carrying 50+ pounds of cargo and they are on a 15 pound bike and wearing spandex.

  9. Tim 09/02/2010 at 11:36 am #

    I love using my gears to get away quick and leave the pack at the lights only to watch the lycra clad fixed wheelers catch me up 50 yards later.

  10. George 09/02/2010 at 12:15 pm #

    I often do this, but never go out of my like you did; you must have an advanced case 🙂

    I am a fairly slow cyclist I think (14mph average from Barnet to the City) but can still enjoy a race.

    I was racing a lycra clad someone a while back though up a bit of a hill; we were both belting along when some guy, wearing his work clothes, on a knobbly wheeled mountain bike and with a fag on whizzed past 🙂

  11. Teresa 09/02/2010 at 12:23 pm #

    Totally. And the more professional they look, the harder i try and keep up. And the more silly people may have been (hopping red lights across 4 lanes of traffic the more satisfing the catch up and the take over…

  12. Andreas 09/02/2010 at 12:24 pm #

    Su Yin – good reference to the shoaling 😉
    George – always hilarious when someone who looks really slow ends up being really fast

    Glad to see you all engage in a bit of this occasionally. Everyone is just a massive child!

  13. Joby 09/02/2010 at 12:24 pm #

    George – its horrible when that happens isn’t it 🙂

  14. Clayton 09/02/2010 at 1:40 pm #

    I am guilty. I take particular pleasure in nailing a red light runners on a pimpy Italian bikes; stealth slipstreaming for a while (taking care not to cough or freewheel which would reveal my presence) and then performing an out-of-the-saddle sprint to nail the victory.

  15. Bizzy_bee 09/02/2010 at 3:19 pm #

    I’m so guilty of this! I spend two hours commuting to and from work every day and I have to say I can’t help racing other cyclists. It’s sort of shameful really! But oh so entertaining. My real bugbear is Bromptons. I guess I’m not that fast because every once and a while some old man on a Brompton will whizz past me. I very quickly overtake them at the lights again (of course) but the shame of it!

  16. George 09/02/2010 at 4:14 pm #

    Bizzy, I used to ride a Brompton, and on more than one occasion got “For a bike with little wheels, you don’t half travel”.

    On one occasion I got “For a fat bloke on a silly bike, you take a lot of catching”

    I /loved/ my Brompton, but do prefer the big bike for the whole journey.

  17. Bizzy_bee 09/02/2010 at 5:13 pm #

    Ha ha! George, I’m relieved to hear I’m not the only one who gets passed by a Brompton once and a while. I think they’re very nifty bikes, but just can’t help feeling embarrassed when they whoosh by me on a busy road.
    To be honest, I don’t really like being competitive on the road. I dream of a beautiful world where everyone cycles to work and we all smile at each other and wink as we wait patiently at the traffic lights. Or even better, a world where there are no traffic lights and just lots of roundabouts. Now that would be nice!

  18. George 10/02/2010 at 11:33 am #

    Tim, we all get our pleasure in different ways. I love love love passing bikes that are obviously better than mine.

  19. jumax 10/02/2010 at 11:50 am #

    I also enjoy catching up to red light runners, its just to say see you didn’t get that far and you might have got killed, also I like to cycle after pushy people at the red light who like to squeeze past the little gaps between the stopped cyclists just to get a little ahead of the pack.

  20. Deptford Dame 10/02/2010 at 1:56 pm #

    I get passed regularly by other cyclists as I’m not a particularly fast rider. Some seem to think they are racing me and like to cut me up as they go past which can be dangerous, and many others whizz past very closely without any warning such as a little ring of the bell. I prefer to travel at my own speed so that I can stop safely if necessary – yes it irks me when people squeeze into a little gap in front of me at the lights, or run them, but I find it much more satisfying not to get competitive over it.

  21. Phil 10/02/2010 at 4:15 pm #

    I can’t be bothered racing; on my Yuba Mundo it’s not remotely feasible. I’m perfectly happy to let people in a hurry go past, and pootle on at a comfortable pace knowing that I’ll catch them at the next set of lights- which happens nine times out of ten. Also, there’s no shoaling a bike which is 7 ft long, and can be 4ft wide if I have the crates strapped on.

  22. Su Yin 11/02/2010 at 9:05 am #

    @jumax: Haha, my point too exactly

    @Deptford Dame: That’s a bit rude when they do that—and then complain that cars are passing them too closely. Oh the irony

  23. Andreas 11/02/2010 at 12:08 pm #

    Quick note to say special thanks to Su Yin for helping me redesign the top bit of the site. I really disliked the snotty green background that has now been removed. The plain white looks much more simple 🙂 hope everyone likes. Cheers!

  24. richhinvitc 13/02/2010 at 10:04 am #

    I’m lovin this thread.

    For me it happens more in the summer than the winter.

    When firstly i or the other start racing, then gradually a comradship builds up and each rider takes their turn in the front so the other can slip stream. This is by far the quickest way to get home and makes for a great commute.

    On a windy day it’s a real bonus.

  25. Tiago 13/02/2010 at 6:11 pm #

    Guithy ! But I do it with elegance… Just a tinny bit faster… lol…

  26. Ali 15/02/2010 at 6:12 pm #

    Check out for all the rules 🙂

  27. Hazel 24/02/2010 at 11:02 pm #

    hehe – I like this post and the comments. I used to have random mini races in the morning between me and a guy that went roughly the same route to my uni, if I happened to find myself catching him at the traffic lights, I then found it quite fun to take over when possible, maybe even skip over to a few different roads and see who ends up there first! adds a little challenge to the morning.

  28. David 19/04/2010 at 1:41 pm #

    I don’t live in London or England for that matter but I have been accused of tormenting the roadies.
    I have a velomobile Quest and even a very fit rider on a very high end road bike cannot maintain the speeds I’m capable of in my Quest.

    I must say that I am quite enjoying myself………(-;

  29. Dave 20/04/2010 at 3:33 pm #

    Great to hear about people getting thrashed by Bromptons – I take great pleasure in zooming past people on decent road bikes on my Brompton here in Glasgow most days….especially uphill. This city on only 2 gears takes some work!!

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