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Posts Tagged “cycling”

Motivational poster 2

It’s always a bit curious how cycling manages to attract so many spectators for what, really, is a pretty difficult sport to watch. Track cycling besides, the best we can expect when we go out to watch a race is a fleeting glimpse; a blur of speed, colour and noise. Then they’re gone. And we contemplate the two days it took to fight for our position beside the road, on top of the cliff, and for that motorhome parking lot that European alpine passes become whenever a Tour is on the cards. 

So it’s no wonder that the fans try so hard to add a prologue of entertainment of their own, to string out the fun. There’s the company of fans intent on alpine peaks of inebriation; the Tour village fair, and the fun of the pre-peloton parades. Our glimpse of bikes passing by becomes just a fixed point in a much bigger day of cycling social display. 

Think of the character of roadside celebrations we can watch as the season goes on. They are at least as entertaining as the bike race to which they are attached. 

If we could imagine some kind of scale through which to measure the passions of spectator display, the far left would have to belong to the bemused, frigid indifference beside regimented Chinese roads. The Chinese tifosi  are a bit like a plague of satiated zombies just after feeding time. Here, cyclists can almost hear the sound of one hand clapping as they jostle for points. These threadbare crowds are a bit like professional mourners at the funeral of an accomplished anti-social recluse. 

Then we move on through the quiet, controlled, still bemused, but definitely curious Middle Eastern cycling crowds. Here, the officials all seem to be wearing swords! In France they just rely on Bernard Hinault’s fists for crowd control…

The Malaysian Tour of Langkawi offers more of the same but with rain forests instead of sand. It’s always fascinating to watch the roadside crowd segment itself into the order of men on one corner and women-only on the next. I always wonder how the dressed-for-modesty spectators might perceive the rather less modestly attired cyclists they have come to watch. 

And of course, at the rampaging other extreme, the Italian tifosi rule supreme. How far can you get from those unimpressed Chinese cycling fans? How far is Mars? About that far. Watching those alpine Giro ascents we get another dimension added to the race. The peloton must peak the hill. And thread itself through the raucous, screaming hysteria of the tunnel of cycling fans. Thanks to the crowd, these roads become as narrow as an economist’s perspective on the social benefits of sport. 

Italian cycling fans are the true pros of the spectator side of our sport. Their colleagues in France are slightly less rabid depending on how many drunken dutchmen have taken up possies beside the road. The Belgians are scary for the intensity of their dedication; The Spanish seem to confuse the peloton with a running of the bulls… The English are very polite when the yobbos are all off watching their football instead. 

There are deep labyrinths of social nuance and history to inform why and how the European crowds perform. This stuff is in their DNA. Have you ever watched the miraculous parting of the wall of fans as the peloton threads its way up a mountain pass? It’s as though these crowds have a collective intelligence of their own.  If you could wrap such a scene through the language of mathematical Chaos, you might win a Nobel Prize. 

But there is an emerging New World of cycling fans. Most of them are in the US of A. In California, to be exact. Until recently, they simply grafted the appearance without the substance of the European cycling scene. Nutters with horns and funny sumo suits. The emphasis seemed to be on being seen on TV rather than seeing the riders at least some came to watch. These American fans were, once, a bit like one of those American remakes of already successful European movies; like the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the US rendering of The Office. All super whitened teeth with the intricacies of nuance all squashed out. 

But now I am not so sure. Something is afoot. This bear is waking up. These American fans are starting to actually understand. I mean, here we are, ready for Stage 3 and we’ve not seen one single naked American ass… Those fans with wet suits and surfboards running inland up a Cat 2 hill were making some kind of statement I’m still keen to understand… But these four with their Motivational Poster sign are showing some serious class. Now that is a sign of the times and one for the book. It’s now the wallpaper on my iPad home screen. Well done. And what a stunning landscape for a ride! I am starting to really relish this race. Actually, I am enjoying it more than the Giro that’s on at the same time…

 

 

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I was clopping the 50 metres up the local mall to fetch my papers – a distance which is the feasible limit for walking in cleated road cycling shoes – when a lady enquired about the price and availability of said shoes as it was her intention to buy a pair for her son-in-law. Which, apart from making her the world’s best mother-in-law, invoked a response to which I am not sure she was completely prepared. Actually, the answer I gave put her into something like a logic loop spin.

Which got me to wondering about the curiously asymmetrical dimensions of value. I’d always thought that, though involving of large amounts of cash, investment in the numerous accoutrements of cycling is just part of the scenery of being a cyclist. To me, the expense of these things causes pain, but not shock. And there’s not much of a notion that these expenses can be successfully avoided; no shoes, no ride.

Then I thought, what does it cost to shoe a car in tyres for a year? $800 for a set? More? What does it cost to keep that pile of stinking tin fuelled and oiled for a year? What does it take to payoff the local Road Mafia with taxes and insurance contributions?

But I don’t want to talk about the comparative costs of motoring vs. cycling here. I just want to consider the comparative mindsets of value folk tend to apply when they consider one thing over another. Here’s my main point: what happens when one applies a car driver’s mental model of ‘value’ to the parallel universe of cycling? What happens when you attempt to go all ‘accountant’ on comparisons like this? Does the ensuing benefit cost ratio of cars vs. bikes actually make sense?

Yes and no. Yes, you an make comparisons like this and bikes might come out on top (depending on the creativity of the calculations which might or might not include things like ‘opportunity cost of longer commuting time through cycling for fabulously overpaid senior executives’ vs. the ‘net present value of accumulated health benefits valued in extra productive time spent behind the desk for fabulously overpaid senior executives’ vs. ‘the net social loss from loosing said overpaid cycling super executive from the economic gene pool via the statistically higher chance of being run over by a lesser economic agent – like – gasp! an unemployed person – driving a car …’ ). No, because these two worlds involve an entirely different metric for value (time spent riding is not valued the same way as time spent driving because people with intelligence could not possibly enjoy their time behind the wheel vs time spent blissfully pedalling…).

No, I want to just suggest that the idea of valuing the cycling experience cannot and should not be undertaken from the perspective of ‘Car Mind’. That’s like trying to value the exhibits in the Museo National de Prado in Madrid via the cost of paint, boards and paintbrush depreciation. The answers won’t make sense.

Which is why so many motor-heads simply cannot comprehend the amounts we cyclists spend on our bikes and related gear. They scratch their heads in disbelief that anyone could possibly spend $600 on cycling shoes … and then run off to buy a pair of Gucci loafers for $700 enroute to get their cars re-tyred for a mere $1k. No. Car Mind is the wrong space through which to consider bikes. But the universal extension of Car Mind to things non-motoring is precisely why our planet is screwed! If you extend the curiously deranged psychoses it takes to belong to the game of cars, we start to get all manner of stuff ideo-valued via the same metric that gave us traffic jams, global warming and ‘Made in China’ stickers on everything we own.

If the sort of mental model that can accept spending $50k on a lump of fume-spewing tin is then applied to the other choices we make, it’s no wonder we get curiosities like driving to the gym; spending $100k+ to be guide-handled to the top of Mt Everest, big game bwana hunting, personal trainers, and that ultimate statement of a species in terminal decline: the drive thru takeaway! It’s no wonder that our forests are converted into toilet paper and packaging for McFat Bugers. Our value systems are screwed. Car Mind is exercising too much influence over the choices we make. It’s like seeing the world through the eyes of a virus. A bad, neurotic, evil virus.

So, next time someone asks ‘how much for those shoes’, the answer I should provide is ‘pure air and freedom’. That’s how much.

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girlngarbage.jpgPeople always conspire to wreck the perfection of economic and scientific theory. We are nasty uncontrollable creatures always prone to odd and unruly behaviour. Indeed, so frustrated with this kind of thing were the early economists that they invented a new classification for those of us who refused to conform: we became the irrational minority on the dangerous pathway to a majority. And so in love with the nirvana that their theories described they felt compelled to invent a new species of people who, other than them, would solely qualify to ascend to their vision of paradise. The new species was homo economicus; a perfectly rational well behaved super-race who would conform to all the predictions their theories could describe. I don’t jest. It’s true. Like the followers of an impassioned cult, these economists then went on to write their theories only for the species they, as the gods they declared themselves to be, created for that higher plane. The troubles started when those who succumbed to the advice economists gave forgot for whom these prognostications were made. Instead, the politicians started applying the theories to us.

And so we ended up with our unquestioning reverence for the pleasures of the globalised market place. And for the ultimate rewards in pecuniary heaven that our devotions would inevitably provide. Such a well ordered pace that will be! Where all ‘factors’ (that is, you and I and all the other inputs into the production system) will gravitate to their (our) highest value (lowest cost) deployments and thus squeeze the last infinitesimal cent from the last remaining unused resource available. Even if we are all wearing gas masks on the toxic asteroid the Earth will thus become. Because economic theory is entirely and totally anthropocentric (meaning that any species other than homo economicus is unimportant; including you and me), all is to be geared only for them. Which is why, dear fellow cyclists, we must breathe the fumes of cars and go to war over oil.

But this world of ours is persistently resistant to fantasies such as those to which the economic rationalists aspire. For starters, there are lots of economic irrationalists around (the foolish rationalists gave me a Phd in economics as an exercise in self flagellation, I am sure…). There are lots and lots of much more intelligent economists who admit all manner of odd behaviours and surprising things once they agreed to tie homo economicus to the stake and set it on fire.

I’ve discussed one of these before (the lovely theories on the Small and Beautiful by E F Schumacher, for instance). But let me focus on alleviating the gloom I painted in my previous post. Namely, on the world wide trend to centralise everything we make in that toolbox of the world: China.

Our world plays out like sculptures in the sand. Shapes come and go, always shifting and reconfiguring. One minute, the economic rationalists (the theorists and their political servants) hold sway. Laws are written and agreements signed; wars are declared and programes deployed. All designed in the workshops of economic rationalist thought. Included here is the notion that it’s all perfectly OK to pillage our entire cultural heritage for the sake of the global market place. And to believe in such astoundingly stupid notions as carbon credit trading where the rich and wealthy can purchase their penance’s for environmental destruction through paying for trees (or other kinds of carbon sequestration) someplace else. As though we are all, somehow, not really all citizens on the one shared environmentally challenged planet. No, all this compounding dumbness builds like a tide and then … breaks. Sometime, and sometime soon, we the schmucks of the marketplace will start demanding stuff made locally again. Right now, the tide is turning. Consider makers’ fairs. And the fact that more bicycles were sold in Australia than cars over the past year. And, despite all, and beyond all the possibilities of economic rationalism, some of us are still prepared to pay vastly more for our bicycles than for our cars!

As the tide of Chinese nationalism continues to grow, and probably ignite through the Olympic torch, we, the rest of the world are becoming a bit concerned. Visions of a world population frog marched to the glory of Chinese economic imperialism is a bit like the spectre we saw once before; the last time the Olympics were hosted by a vile autocracy. In 1936. The Berlin games. And we did recover from that. Eventually, after millions had died.

Our collective concern will, it is to be hoped, inspire us all to search out those last bastions of the locally made. To seek and be prepared to pay slightly more when we know that investments such as those will return, ultimately, so much more. Like the continuity of a civilisation it has taken centuries to build. And which globalisation requires only years to destroy. And why we are at it, let’s be really irrational here. Eschew cars. Take up bikes, or public transport, or the horse. Let the oil companies weep as their desires to turn our planet to toxic sludge evaporate along with their profits. Vote regional. Stay out of wars. Commute via the internet. Avoid Chinese goods like the plague. Fight economic rationalism with its own weapon; spend your cash like the tactical weapon it should be. Buy local. Spend locally. And above all, we should treat our planet with the reverence that finds no place in the tyrannical theories of economic rationalism. Think long term, instead of just for tomorrow. And know that what we each do is a contributor to a collective action that can either destroy or repair.

That a society could ever conceive of an obscenity like carbon credit trading schemes as a solution to the warming of our world is a screaming indictment that something is very very wrong with the society we vote and spend to support. The notion that we could and should shift the garbage we generate into the yards of those who are too poor to respond is of the same moral calibre as lighting the Olympic torch in Beijing. We each need to take control, individually, of our responsibilities to this one single world we inhabit and persist in destroying. What we each do has consequences for everyone including ourselves. There is no escape, even if it hurts, we cannot continue to subscribe to the theories of economic rationalism while our planet, literally, burns. For myself, I am watching in glee as oil prices expload. Only now are the sheep in the economically rationalised flock starting to shift their gaze; bigger steps are needed than the feeble non-solutions from those who are only too keen to fuel our enfeebled excesses of spectacular self-interest. Hybrid cars for people too fat and lazy to ride or walk. Government subsidisation of the price of oil. And carbon trading schemes that allow us to pollute all we like so long as we pay for biodiversity destroying monocultures of trees where rainforests once grew. They’re tunes to play while the place is on fire. We need vastly more enlightened thoughts. The first step, I suggest, is to reconnect with our regional places. Let globalisation be the the only thing to overheat and burn.

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madeinchina.jpgI went on a crusade the other day. My toaster broke. It was a ‘designed in Australia, made in China under our strict quality control’ affair. So, off I went to the shops to find a toaster that would be less apologetic about where it was made. I figured that if a manufacturer needs to advertise strict quality control, there must be quality issues to address. So there I was, surveying rows upon rows of shiny new toasters; computer toasters, toasters that could warm a house and others promising my entry to a new world of style… I think I must have alerted the security camera voyeurs; because I turned each and every one upside down; took some out of boxes and really went to town. Every single one was made in China. Every single one! Each proclaiming diligent quality control; all were most carefully and explicitly ‘designed’ someplace other than China.

As a dedicated researcher with too little to do, and standing as I was in a large department store, I decided to investigate some more. Off I went to the audio visuals. DVD players were a good place to start. Nope, even the most established brands are all made in China. Clothing? You know what that search would reveal. But how about this one: books. Check out where most paperbacks are now printed. Camping goods, luggage, kitchen utensils, motor mowers, garden pots. All universally made in China.

OK, that’s almost what you would expect from a department store; a place where the balance between quality and price is managed to the precision of a actuary’s closest cent.

How about a quick foray into the specialist high end? I needed to check a couple of the icons of genetically coded unassailable quality. High end audio would be a great place to start. Where are those sentinels of British high fidelity made these days? Kef, Wharfdale, Mission Audio… No! Yes! All made to ‘our exact quality specifications in China’. Well… mostly all. The real nutter stuff is still hand made in the UK, USA and Sweden. With extraordinary prices to match. But that’s a plot I will leave for next time.

Camera gear? 90 per cent plus made in China. Ultralight bushwalking gear? Same. Computers? No, not Apple! Not my iMac? Not my MacBook Air?!

Time to seek refuge in the solaces of a good cup of (Yunan Chinese) tea and a nice visit to my favourite purveyor of goods from the artisans of Treviso (aka Pinarello selling bicycle shop). Time for a good old moan. ‘Where, I asked, is that Bianchi made?’ China. Where does that Colnago come from? China. Ridley Noah? Scott Spark? NO! YES! No…not, no, you don’t mean… Pinarello?? Well, not my Prince; that’s designed in Italy from carbon made by Toray in Japan and put together in Treviso. It says so on my ‘Prince reborn’ jersey. But further down the line? Sorry.

Some sage once said that you can purchase any quality you like from China. I don’t doubt it. With the will-power and dedication, any human can create to the highest possible standards. That’s not my concern. If Pinarello or Apple Computer decide to make their stuff in China, the quality will be anything they desire. That’s not the problem.

The problem is that we are all, collectively, as consumers and makers, busy outsourcing our connection with control. I recall that Fausto Pinarello once said that ‘no one can make carbon frames in Italy these days’. There are more layers to that statement than in a 13K carbon weave. We know that all these makers who take pride in what they produce are deeply embarrassed about making their stuff in China (and Taiwan, which, I suggest, is basically the same thing). Otherwise, why this overwhelming need to emphasise their exercise of ‘strict quality control’? But these quality control qualifiers are also indicative of a deeper concern. They know and we know that making something ‘over there’ rather than ‘here’ is simply not the same.

Most of us can be convinced that ‘Made in China’ is not necessarily a sentence to product failure and frequent warranty claims. No, the issue is vastly more insidious than that. The issue is an economic system geared to dependency on globalised cost minimisation. We are outsourcing much more than our manufacturing skills. We are outsourcing our claims to regional pride, to our capacity to nurture our own regions and embedded economic systems. We are divesting our heritage and regional cultures. We are so busy out-sourcing (or plunging into the global marketplace) to the point where all that is manufactured in the factories we once admired are reputations and image. Our once proud engineering icons are, these days, busy only with spin. The tools of the shop floor are replaced by the fantasies of the marketing department.

As the proprietor of my local bicycle store noted, a visit to the Treviso headquarters of Pinarello is a sobering experience. All that’s left is a shop front. You can buy only memorabilia. Apart from the paint shop and assembly room, all the action is now off-shore. How can we possibly be content that the only link to the heritage of the past is through marketing rather than in the art of the making? What are we left with here? Meaningless brands to be placed at random on production lines of uninspired uniformity in Shanghai? Our economic system of globalisation has allowed, if not compelled us to sell off the one thing we should never sell; our heritage and pride.

And what exactly is the endgame here? As we export more and more and more of our heritage and skills, what will be left of our cultures when we have cashed China to the point of total global control? China is now landlord to the US economy. They are buying up Africa. They are the engine room to Australia and Japan. What sort of master will China be? (And we are all set to endorse their reign at the throne of the forthcoming Olympics). What is the ultimate outcome from the game we are now playing? The answers are to be found in the same place that inspired globalisation in the first place. Economics 101. The ultimate outcome of our drive to pure economic efficiency is total and complete uniformity in all things as we ascend to the only metric that matters; the minimisation of all costs and the realisation of that last marginal dollar of revenue. Even if that last dollar is the only dollar we get. It’s a nasty, dehumanised, artificial world of economics ruling complete; of the rule of the machine accountants; of a matrix world where we are all here only to support the ultimate realisation of the perfection of the marketplace.

But, and there are more buts in view here than one can see by following the pro peloton, there are more qualifiers to this story than the quality assurances of Italian high end bike makers striving to hold onto the glories of their artisanal past. You see, the world is more than economics 101 and I shall take up that story and what it means to us anxious admirers of illustrious heritage in my next instalment.

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SevenRishis.jpgWe road cyclists seem to be in a perpetual game of chess with car drivers; the game is all about strategies to stay alive and retain our rights to the road.

Strategy is all about understanding the ‘enemy’. Now if it sounds a bit harsh and uncharitable to describe our car driving road co-users as the ‘enemy’, consider this: who is going to suffer in any car-bicycle altercation? The driver or the cyclist? How many car drivers are killed by cyclists? Who is always going to come out worst in any collision? Not the tin box set, that’s for sure. So maybe it’s handy to be a touch wary in the way we negotiate with car drivers on the road. That’s where the chess analogy comes in handy. Your chess opponent can be the very nicest kind of person. And I am sure there are lots of ever so lovely car drivers out there (especially when we cyclists are drawn reluctantly to be behind the wheel…). But it can’t hurt to know how to play what really is a deadly game of chess.

To sharpen our game, let me offer a simple classification scheme through which to interpret and predict the behaviour of those poor souls confined to their coffins of fume-belching tin.

I reckon there are seven tribes of motoring. Each tribe acts in slightly different ways, and if we keep that in mind, we might know how best to prepare and react to each encounter.

First, we have the Bimbo tribe. The bimbo is a technical term to describe a mainly female demographic of a particular young age (less than 25) who are rather more attentive to adjusting eyelashes in rear view mirrors, furious text messaging on the fly, a perpetual mobile phone attached to the ear and rather peripheral attention to the boring and tiresome necessities of paying attention to the road. Bimbos never see cyclists. Mainly because they are not watching the road (being engaged in furious debates with fellow bimbos over questions of fashion and boyfriends via their mobile phones). Bimbo’s generally drive near new sub-compacts otherwise described as motorised shopping trolleys. Usually in some lovely pastel colour to match the colour of their nails. Or hair. Their driving skill is pretty well indistinguishable from zero. But they are pretty easy to pick from the crowd. Their cars are a sign; so is their usually leisurely speed (it’s ever so hard to go fast when you need to hold the steering wheel with your knees while you are on the phone).

Advice to cyclists: when you spot a bimbo, never assume they will give you right of way. Best option is to pull off the road.

The second tribe are at the other age extreme. When you are out riding, you can spot these with ease. Like the bimbos they drive slowly. But here’s the clue. Look out for a fuzzy mop of blue rinsed hair or grey circled bald patches just slightly above the headrest of their driving chair; or lower, in which case the car will appear to be driving itself. These are the 70 plus ‘senior citizens’ of the wheel. Quite unlike the bimbos, you can pretty well guarantee that these drivers will not be preoccupied with their phones. Actually, they will be utterly attentive to the road. In a rigid coma of attention to the road. The only problem, their attention is given only to the immediate metre of so in front of their nose. Never to the side or to the rear. This tribe do not give way; mainly because they will never see us. Even if they are looking straight at us. Eye to eye. They still won’t see. Probably because they can’t. Eyesight is a bit of a problem, you see. They don’t hear either; so there is no use presenting your compliments though their side windows if you should survive a close encounter. This tribe is easy to spot. After all, they tend to stay in that spot for a long long time; proceeding, as they do, at walking pace.

Advice to cyclists: when you spot a member of the senior tribe, don’t expect to be given your right of way. Do not overtake (as they will probably veer into you in fright), do not ride behind (as they usually stop around every corner and tend to confuse accelerators with brakes). Pull over and let them go. And smile. You might belong to this tribe one day. If they don’t kill you in the meantime.

The third tribe are a challenge. The members of this set have entirely different motivations to drive. To them, the car is a phallic symbol; a tool of aggression and domination. Speed and acceleration are the icons of their trade. Their job is to run everyone else off the road. They are the provisionally licenced young male youths of the road. The twentysomethings or younger. Pimple faced, windows wound down to facilitate the hurling of insults to other road users; drivers with enhanced horns, beer advertising on rear windows, huge antennas on the roof, front guards and rear bumpers. These guys need to make a statement with their big masts, big bull bars, big engines! They are really easy to spot, or to hear. They will be the ones cornering on two wheels, leaving tyre smoke at traffic lights and sporting paint jobs that are seriously LOUD. To match the earth-quake-like booooom booooooooom of their car sound systems. Be in fear of these drivers. They regard cyclists as a prey to maim and kill. These are the drivers most likely to throw cans at us as they pass. To shout abuse. They are also the most likely to declare war against trees and seem to love the excitement of police rescue operations; first hand.

Advice to cyclists: hide.

The fourth tribe are a touch unhinged. Sometimes difficult to sort from their pimple faced third tribe relations. Indeed, they are all graduates from that tribe. Here we find the mid-life crisis males seeking fantasies of renewal and rebirth. They too drive as though possessed. They have no more skill; and possibly less (age wearies us all). Their cars cost more, but are no less loud. Here you will find Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s, Porsche’s and Jaguars. Expensive toys. Driven by balding flabby passed-it men. They are a slightly more sedate crowd; they rarely seek to kill. After all, unlike the twenty somethings they seek to be, they probably know more about the law; they probably are lawyers. Or doctors, or judges, or corporate CEO’s. But they do aim to command the road. The road, they think, belongs to them. They do not like cyclists because cyclists have what they do not. Fitness. And they are probably not ignorant of the engineering perfection that you are riding; which is a cause of further grief as they are too fat and unfit to share your joy. Jealousy can be seriously ugly here. These are the drivers who approach slowly from behind and leave you with wheel smoke, fumes and engine roar in a tragedy of pointless display.

Advice to cyclists: do not throw rocks at these guys as they pass. The damage to their car could cost you your house. Just wave. Let them dream. You have what they cannot buy.

The fifth tribe are the most difficult of all. They are not aggressive; they do not seek to annoy. They are our mothers… Yes, the matron tribe are well meaning and mannered. But they just can’t drive. They don’t seek to push us off the road; it’s just that no one told them we are allowed to be there. And, they usually always think we are all just naughty kids who should be inside; under their maternal care. Kids should not be on the road. So they never give way. They seem unable to comprehend that a bike could ever approach their speed. We are all pedestrians to them.

Advice to cyclists: breathe a bit easier but never, ever, expect them to give way.

The sixth tribe are easy to spot. They drive nice and slow, in the middle of the road. They brake around all corners and are prone to merge into us when we overtake (as we usually have to do). They all drive four wheel drives, rusty old utes (utility vehicles with tray backs), or old old cars. Or expensive Mercedes, Audies and SAAB’s. They all wear hats. Big shade hats. They are the farmer drivers. There are some give-away signs to spot drivers of this tribe. Look for tanned elbows hanging out of windows. Look for the hats. Look for cars driven as though the driver is drunk.

Advice to cyclists: pull over and wait until they are gone.

And the seventh tribe. The hybrid and biggest tribe of them all. The ignorant brain-disengaged long distance commuter brigade. Male or female, of any age. These are the drivers enroute. Enroute to somewhere that is not here. Their minds are set to destinations and never the journey. They drive in a kind of coma. A holding pattern until they ‘arrive’. They drive fast; overtake everything in sight, tailgate each other, parade like lemmings. These are the turkeys who like to overtake other cars right into cyclists coming the other way. These are the turkeys who recognise us only after they have passed. Wondering what all that noise was when their side mirrors push us over into the dirt. This tribe are to be found mainly on the highways. They are the robots of the road. Driving for them is no joy. It is a chore. And inconveniences like us are a curse.

Advice to cyclists: assume nothing other than death. Stay clear. Ride the back roads.

Does this help? I am sure you can think of other tribes; Darwinian selection can be highly localised. I have, for example, left out the trucks. And the busses. And police car drivers… And, I must confess, I have avoided the very worst tribe of all: the dreaded, pathological, misguided, psychotic Volvo drivers. All good for a later discussion, I am sure.

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