Not Asking for It

The other day I was biking to work when this happened:


I wouldn’t think anything of it if it happened once. But I’ve noticed my attire seems to prompt certain responses in other road users.


How do I know it’s not just an off day? Because I have the ability to change clothes.

Some days I’m this cyclist:


And later that same evening I might be this cyclist:


I’m called out on my appearance daily as I go about my business on public streets without the cover of a car.


Even “ordinary” attire has drawbacks.


It’s no surprise that most days I find myself dressing to get the reaction I want when I bike. Or at least the most benign reaction.


But no matter what I’m wearing it’s still just me: complex, multi-dimensional, and in awesome shape.

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87 Comments on "Not Asking for It"

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In frame one, when I’m doing that, it’s usually “Oh crap, if I stay behind her she’ll think I’m staring at her.” (Though my tires are *usually* full of air…)


I drafted a young woman for about 10 km a few weeks ago and worry a bit that that’s what she thought. But see, that presumes that she doesn’t know about drafting, entirely on the basis of the kind of bike she was riding…


LOL. …or drafting.


That’s so true! Is there any etiquette guidance for what to do in that situation???

If you stay behind the woman, she might think you are ogling her firm cyclist muscles, but if you try to overtake (and, worse, end up just sitting in front of her!) you look like a total d**k.

I find myself “suddenly thinking there’s an odd noise from my drivetrain so I’d better stop and check it, right now” ™ to avoid the whole situation.

Bikeyface – you’re a woman – what would you advise?

I’m a woman who cycles daily. I have never once been concerned that a guy riding behind me was ogling me. I have however been incredibly annoyed when I have passed a guy cycling slower than me, only to have him get in front of me at a light or something, and force me to pass him again, because I am going faster than he is. I don’t know if it’s ego or obtuseness, but it is annoying. Point being, pass her if you are actually riding faster than she is, otherwise, just ride behind her (at a reasonable distance).

“I have however been incredibly annoyed when I have passed a guy cycling slower than me, only to have him get in front of me at a light or something, and force me to pass him again, because I am going faster than he is.”

That particular annoyance is not restricted to any gender-related factor as near as I can tell.


Mark – drafting without notice or permission is a terrible idea. You’re assuming that the person in front of you is going to take responsibility for your safety. If it’s me, I won’t, guaranteed. I’m gonna take you through potholes. You’re also endangering them in the city. If someone pulls out and they have to brake hard, you are going to slam into them and you’re both going down while you both slam into the car. That is why I’m gonna take you through potholes.

Quit it. Seriously.

David Huntsman

I’ve tried to find reasons to get dramatically upset that a stranger is drafting me, in the way John is so perturbed by Mark, but I just can’t. Is there really some place in North America where there are so many of us cyclists that you’d disdain the companionship? And deliberately run what may be an excited novice rider, who doesn’t know your proximity issues, into a pothole? You couldn’t just wave him up next to you and let him know the hazards, and your concerns?


Doesn’t it make the ride harder for the person in front when you draft them? The aerodynamics of the arrangement effectively mean that you’re transferring their energy to your ride… seems like a rude thing to do to a stranger for very long.

Alex Pline

Aerodynamically, it actually makes it easier for the lead rider when someone behind is drafting by reducing the turbulence behind that first rider, thus reducing profile drag.


It’s not the loss of gain of aerodynamic drag. It’s having some unannounced on your wheel, someone you don’t know you can trust. It’s true that the person whose front touches the rear wheel of the person in front will go down hard. But someone who is willing to draft on the wheel of someone he or she doesn’t know is likely capable of doing other really dumb things.


That’s what I get for learning my racing facts from “Days of Thunder”.


I hope mark just means following at a one bicycle length distance and not literally drafting. I don’t expect the person in front of me to point out obstructions in the road. I wasn’t even aware it was a thing until I rode with someone who does racing/cyclocross. It was kind of nice, but not really necessary as I wasn’t following that closely.

John Pavelich

Nice post. Very observant about how one dresses invokes different reactions.

Island Dave

Excellent observations.

Alex Pline

To paraphrase Joe Berkeley from ten years ago: you need a shirt that says “Ex ‘husband’ got car” 😉

Mercury Flash

I remember that story. It’s awesome. I’ve been trying to find a copy to share. No luck Googling for it. Can you help me find it, please?


Alex, that’s BRILLIANT!

Alex Pline

It’s hard to find, but here is a link that has it:

One of the all time classics. I saved a local copy a long time ago for posterity…

I notice this phenomenon too, but another observation is the quality of the bike, and the fit of the rider to the bike. It’s almost a perfect correlation between how poorly fit the rider is to the bike, or the condition of the bike (inadequate tire pressure, wobbly wheels, rusty squeaky chain, saddle too low or too high), and how poorly the cyclist is following the rules of the road (and cycling etiquette). When I see a cyclist riding a bike in good condition with a good fit, they’re almost always confident and following the rules. As a male cyclist,… Read more »
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