The Must Pass Rule

Posted by SuperClydesdale on March 2, 2010 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

Last week, I was riding on the American River Parkway with my buddy Chris.  The American River Parkway is an absolute gem in the Sacramento community.  It runs from Folsom Lake in the East, all the way to downtown Sacramento, hugging the American River the entire way – it’s a wide swath of undeveloped land that allows deer, coyotes, foxes, and any number of other species to exist within a fairly large metropolitan area.  Many people use it to commute every day.  It’s wide enough to allow cyclists to ride side-by-side in either direction.  Normally, I don’t ride the Parkway, partly because it can be crowded on weekends, but primarily because it’s pretty flat.   I have come to enjoy the challenge of the hills around my house, and stick to hilly rides almost entirely.   But sometimes, a cruise just sounds fun.

So, there’s Chris and I cruising down the parkway.   We had both done pretty difficult rides the day before, so we promised each other a more relaxed pace.   Chris is one of my primary riding partners.   Our fitness levels are pretty closely matched so we can usually enjoy the same rides.  Despite this, Chris and I probably shouldn’t ride together.  I don’t know how may “recovery rides” I’ve done with Chris only to have them turn into a total hammerfest.  A “cool down” back to the car often times turns into a sprint.   Somehow we feed off each other, and the energy level slowly rises to the point that we are almost always at or near maximum output – and it can go on for hours.  Usually, there needs to be a third party to moderate the pace.  A psychologist might be useful.   It’s not that we have anything to prove to each other or anyone else, there’s just this thing that happens on most of our rides.

We’re “relaxing” down the parkway at about 21-23 mph on a 20-mile out & back loop for a total of 40 miles.  For those who read my last article on the “No Pass Rule,” it was a beautiful day.   Nobody challenged us, and if they had, I would have pitied them – right before I crushed their hopes.  Passing us certainly wasn’t going to happen that day.   To the contrary, we passed scores of riders.

The ugly half-sister of the No Pass Rule is the Must Pass Rule.  One behavior I’ve noticed is that many people will not attempt to pass riders if they do not feel they could “hold it.”  If a rider knows that they cannot best the pace of the riders ahead, they will back off.  I don’t understand these people.  They are a mystery to me.  How can you see a rider ahead, and not pass them?  The only thing better than passing someone is passing someone who really doesn’t want to be passed.  There’s a sweetness to it.   If it’s on a long climb, it’s particularly fun, particularly against smaller riders.

The most challenging part of overtaking on a hill – besides the cruel effects of gravity on a big guy – is getting your composure for a few seconds as you pass.  I like to make it look easy.  “Hello!” I’ll calmly say as I go by.  What I’m really saying is, “oh, I just noticed you there.  Out for a leisurely ride?  Me too, but I wish this hill were a little steeper.”  Then, out of view, I will go back to the incredible agony I was in before I caught them.  Never mind that the huffing and puffing of a 230-pounder coming up behind them probably sounded like a freight train two counties over, I pretend that I’m just cruising by.

I have a Must Pass Rule; If I can see a rider ahead of me, no matter how far, I must pass them.  I’ve gone out of my way to pass people.

Of course, once you pass someone, then you have to hold it.   It makes your entire ride a little series of races.

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