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Cycle-Haters or not, the ride must go on

The Orlando Sentinel: Cycle-Haters or not, the ride must go on

COMMENTARY
10:27 p.m. EST, January 6, 2010

All cyclists are sickening narcissists in their pervy Lycra no-jocks playsuits. I live for the day I see one go under a semi. I’ll dance in their guts.

Cycle-Hater

You can kiss my skinny Lycra butt.

— Mike Thomas

I should not have responded like that to Cycle-Hater because it only ratchets up hostilities. But we are a proud, narcissistic people and have been provoked.

Cycle-Hater’s online venom was one of many tirades spewed on our Web page after a recent article about the growing motorist-versus-cyclist conflict.

I would like to be a peacemaker — a member of the Clan of the Two Wheelers reaching out to the Clan of the F-150s. But accommodation is not in the cards.

So instead I will explain our history and our ways.

More than 25 years ago, in a time when orange trees still covered the land, a pack of us rode free and uninterrupted on the long rural roads of west Orange and Lake counties. We were like the Indians on the open prairie, our steeds made of steel and aluminum.

One ride began on Sunday mornings in Windermere. It started with a handful of us. And then word spread and more began showing up.

The ride grew in size and intensity. Soon the triathletes arrived. Then came the bike-racing teams, decked out in their matching colors like gangs on wheels, shaved thighs glistening like honey-roasted hams.

They came from as far away as Miami. They came for the hills.

On the flat lands, weak riders can hide in the pack’s slipstream, allowing others to do the work at the front. But there is no hiding from gravity. The hills were where the strong shed the weak, where lactic acid burned legs like fire and lungs gasped to keep up with the demand for oxygen.

Getting dropped was failure.

Then the freezes came and killed the citrus. This attracted the developers to our barren land.

They began building the dwellings of the Cycle-Haters.

If you saw Avatar, we were the big blue monkeys. We existed in harmony with our surroundings, linked by the primitive desire to go faster, each warrior judged only by his ability to hang on.

And then the army of metallic vehicles descended, determined to take our roads by force.

They ran us down and danced on our guts. Our banana peels and water bottles bounced harmlessly off their armored hides.

The Cycle-Haters issued their terms of surrender: Ride single file. Stop at the stop signs. Get on the bike trail. Get off our roads.

We were racers, not feeble old men riding tricycles with orange flags flying high on skinny sticks.

You cannot race single file. You cannot race on a bike trail populated by mommies, daddies and kiddies.

You cannot stop at every stop sign when the margin of error between bicycles is inches, when a brake hit too hard will cause the bodies to fly and the ambulances to roll out.

A pack moving at top speed is not a thinking organism. When one of our number shifts to a higher gear and attacks, all must follow regardless of situation, because severance from the group is unacceptable.

We are not people who surrender no matter how badly we are outweighed.

The roads do not belong to the fossil-fuel demons, their expansive bellies grazing their steering wheels, their Big Gulps clamped between wobbly thighs.

Put them in the Lycra they ridicule and they would look like Jimmy Dean sausages.

We will not allow them to banish us from what is as much ours as it is theirs.

Our numbers are growing. To the Sunday Windermere ride, we have added a Wednesday Windermere ride and a Thursday Windermere ride.

Tribes have formed in Winter Park and Seminole County. They venture east to University of Central Florida, Oviedo and Tuscawilla to battle the Cycle-Haters there.

Horns blare. Threats are shouted. Curses fly. SUVs swerve menacingly. And when the cyclists catch up to them at the stoplights, challenges to do battle are issued.

This by no means happens every ride. But it happens too often.

Peace with the Cycle-Haters is not possible. Too many of our number have become like the enemy we despise. This is our version of the Middle East, two basically intractable sides with moderates pleading for a truce that will never come. Minimizing hostilities is all that is possible.

The joy and freedom I once knew on the open roads is gone forever.

But such is the thrill of the race that the ride goes on.

See you Sunday, Cycle-Haters.