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Cycling and Ricky Bobby Syndrome: An Exploration of Cycling Fast for Fun


April 2016

The movie Talladega Nights doesn’t offer much in the way of touchy-feely, gooey cinematography, though it has its moments.

Ricky Bobby, easily one of Will Ferrell’s best roles in a palmares of awesomeness, epitomizes the “gotta win” attitude. Amongst other things. His mantra is simple: If yer not first, yer last. Thus, Ricky Bobby syndrome, the need to always be first…

After some time, I’ve come to fimd there is no place for Ricky Bobby syndrome in recreational cycling, especially for a guy like me – plenty fast but not all that fast.

I have all of the goods… A fast, light and expensive bike, fast clothes, fast shoes, a fast helmet. I have fast legs (though my lung capacity and heart sometimes don’t live up to my expectations)… and an insane lust for two-wheeled human propulsion speed.

Last year at a friendly weekend century ride put on by a member of the club, my buddy Adam and his partner, Diane were doing their normal pacing at the front of the group. Mike was second bike and I was third. Seemingly forever. There were several guys behind us enjoying a much better draft. As we were rolling into town to eat, all of a sudden an older gentlemen and owner of the local shop who handles a bike exceptionally well for his age, Matt shoots to the front of the group, passing everyone. I just pedaled on wondering what that was all about.

Twenty miles later he did it again. I was befuddled, just pedaling along… Then I saw the green City Limits sign. This was the first time I saw any of us sprint for a sign. I wanted one.

Over the next month nobody collected sign points. Then came DALMAC. My buddy Adam said I should make sure and take that final sign at Mackinaw City “because Mike loves to win DALMAC” (you can’t win it, it’s not a race, he was referring to being the first in the group to cross the sign). Our first day, nobody raced for signs all day. Until the last one, in Vestaburg.

It had been a rough day. Hot at first followed by a lot of rain, followed by warm, windy and cloudy. I was towards the back, struggling to catch a draft in the crosswind when we turned left with a tailwind. I could see the City Limits sign 3/4’s of a mile up… and I was going to take it. In the last mile of a 106 mile century I launched my attack almost a full half-mile out and kept the hammer down until I was certain nobody could catch me. I cruised across the line with a healthy lead, maybe 20-30 seconds.

The next day was a lot of the same. Until the last 20 miles. Diane and Adam were struggling and a few of us started taking fliers off the front. First me and Phill, then he and I and Mike… Each time we were reeled in. Neither of them wanted to try a breakaway.

Then Chuck and Ron went and I quickly bridged a small gap to them. We worked our lead to 30 seconds before we saw Adams son, just 15 years-old, trying to bridge the gap. We let up just a little bit to give him a chance and he made it. Five miles later I took the sign to Lake City by a matter of feet… Everyone was catching on to what I was doing and we had quite a few laughs about it.

My fortune wasn’t so good on day three. I was hammered into submission on the hills.

I took day four with Ron and Adam’s son by default because our group always allows the first-timers to lead the group home on their first DALMAC. I can’t possibly explain in a post how cool that practice is, in a blog post. I still think about that last mile quite a bit, pulling into Mackinaw City after four days and 385 miles. If you don’t do that for your noobs on a big ride, consider it. You will gain some good friends for your group that way.

There have been a hundred rides since then and there’s almost always a sprint for City Limits signs now, even on a Sunday cruise. I’ve taken more than my fair share and it’s been fun (especially on Tuesday night).

However, the sprints have lost some of their luster of late. First, it’s kind of uncool to hide behind a tandem all day just to crush them a hundred yards before crossing a sign. Second, when a buddy has been pulling the group for three miles while I’ve been resting at the back, it seems a little rude to sprint it out just for bragging rights while their tongue is dangling and they’re gasping for breath just to keep their pace.

Ricky Bobby syndrome isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, when I think about it. Sure, it’s fun cranking up a sprint every now and again – and that’s done wonders for my fitness – but really, I’m just beating my friends.

And I’d rather ride with them than without.

I started letting others take those signs. Better to spread the glory. Laughing about it is a lot more fun that way.


Ride hard my friends. Just remember how you got there.


1 Comment

  1. bribikes says:

    So awesome that you have a great bunch of cyclists to ride with. It is worth to lose the signs!

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