The Bike Race
I try not to race other cyclists when I'm riding to or from work. It feels sad. Like blocking a 4-year-old whose playing basketball. But once in a great while, I'll see another rider. Usually a guy with a bike that you can tell has seen a lot of miles, regular use. Not a bike that looks cool, but something utilitarian. A kindred spirit, in other words. A primordial urge to measure myself against this person will well up. I'll relent and race, but it has to be subtle. Today I rode behind a young man for about 10 blocks. We were comfortably stoking through the intersections, him in my sights, like a pace line through the city. He looked back once or twice, kicked it down a bit and speeding up just enough to be noticeable, the commuter-racing equivalent of flashing your headlights at a driver in the next lane. And we ever so nonchalantly, without ever trying to look like we were trying to outpace one another, raced through the night. I passed him after another five blocks, and that's when I noticed he was smoking. I may have won our little race, but he pulled off the not-trying attitude much better than me.