This is the first opinion piece written by Fort Collins resident, Reno Toffoli. Reno’s opinions don’t necessary represent the opinions of Your Group Ride or its advertisers but I always enjoy his rants. 

strava assholesNo, it’s probably not what you think…let me explain.

Today I rode from Reservoir Ridge at Michaud lane to Pineridge and back. It was a pretty typical Sunday morning in July and the ride is one I’ve done hundreds of times in the 16 years I’ve lived in Fort Collins. My main goal this morning was to test out and break in a new fork and that particular mission was accomplished; the fork is awesome. What I noticed as I rode was something I’ve noticed before  but this morning it was too obvious to ignore: cyclists can be serious jerks. 

As I was making my way south just before linking up with the Foothills Trail there was another mountain biker headed north. At the place where I predicted we’d meet on the trail, it was flat so it’s kind of a judgement call as to who should yield to whom. Since I’m never really in any hurry, I pulled over and let him go by. He didn’t say thanks or acknowledge me in any way as if I was supposed to pull over for whatever he was doing. Jerk. As I continued on my ride, I yielded to several riders coming up a section of trail…I tend to call out ‘keep coming, I’m pulling over’ or something so they don’t have to wonder if I’m going to yield to them. No biggie, they had the right of way. It turns out I knew one of them so we talked for a few minutes. 

As I crossed over Soldier Canyon dam on the road, that same jerk cyclist that I yielded to a few minutes before had circled around and blew past me on the road without any kind of warning or hello. Further on, he was slightly ahead of me as we began the descent down Maxwell. There was a group of hikers about half way down and when I came upon them I called out ‘on your left’ and they got off the trail. I slowed way down as I passed them and one of them commented ‘thanks for calling out…you’re a smart cyclist, unlike that other guy.’

On my way back I yielded to several other groups of hikers and bikes. I got several surprised thank you’s as well as one guy who told me that ‘most bikers are just pricks, you know?’ 

Indeed I do.

The problem is that that one jerk mountain biker has began to either condition or confirm to every group that he runs across on the trail that mountain bikers are a-holes. The bigger problem is that undoing that damage takes a lot more work. In the time I’ve lived in Fort Collins, this lack of trail etiquette seems to be getting worse and worse. It may be that there’s more riders out there these days or that there’s more jerks, or maybe a little bit of both. I’ve gotten to the point where I have no problem calling people out when they’re in need of an etiquette lesson. One jackass actually decided he was going to play chicken with me as he came down Maxwell. When he pulled over 2 feet in front of me and I told him that uphill riders have the right of way, he asked me if whining got me up the trail quicker to which I responded maybe not but being an asshole must get you down quicker.

This arrogance and lack of consideration for others is going to ruin it for everyone and, like I said, a few bad experiences on the part of other trail users become very hard to undo…suddenly you have a conditioned response of negative to all things cycling and that’s not good for those of us who like to ride bikes.

This problem extends far beyond mountain biking on the local trail systems. Road bikers are guilty of it too and, because roadies essentially have more contact with non cyclists (e.g. motorists) they can potentially have a positive or negative effect on a larger part of the population. Perhaps a bigger problem in the case of road riding is that once a motorist becomes negatively conditioned to cyclists on the road, they now have the perception of anonymity while operating something that has the kinetic energy of a small cruise missile. That becomes a problem when you take someone who has an inferiority complex, or is having a bad day, and comes upon someone riding their bike on the road. 

I hate to admit it, but as a motorist, I sometimes hate cyclists too. I’ve seen so many examples of arrogance, complete obliviousness, or disregard for traffic laws by cyclists that I can understand where people are coming from when they complain about cyclists on the roads. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a casual group out for a ride, serious racers out for a ride, or the college student going the wrong way down the street and blowing every traffic signal they come across…I’ve been conditioned and it kind of bothers me.

Of course, this kind of conditioning applies to all kinds of groups in all kinds of situations. Our life experiences shape the way we fell about situations and the way we react to them. In talking about other trail users, I’ll admit that I’m not real fond of horses or dogs on the trails. I’ve had a handful of negative experiences with both over the years and it’s conditioned the way I feel about them. I’m really not too thrilled about constantly dealing with horse crap on the trails but at the same time, we’ve got to share the world with each other and, even though I’m not fond of the horses, it doesn’t mean that I disrespect them (or their owners) on the trail (honestly, they scare the @#$% out of me). It’s also always nice to come across a horse-person who is friendly and easy to work with when on the trail…it makes life much more bearable in the few moments that I have to deal with a skittish and unpredictable herbivore that weighs as much as a  small Toyota.

 Another thing that I think compounds the problem is that we constantly see where cyclists are demanding rights and respect but at the same time seem to be unwilling to yield or compromise. Let me clarify…there’s a perception among non-cyclists that there is a refusal to yield or compromise. That’s important because one’s perceptions create one’s reality. In other words, if someone believes something to be true, then it’s true. period.


I know that for me, when special interest groups get all in our collective face and start demanding rights, or things, or whatever, I just turn off and shut down. For me, examples of this would be groups like the NRA, PETA, and any other host of political activist groups. They may have good points and I may even agree with some of them but shouting the loudest and telling everyone else they’re wrong, or bad, or heaping guilt trips on them just doesn’t work.  I’m not saying that cyclists are like the aforementioned groups but when all the general public hears is respect us, we have rights, blah blah blah, I think they tend to tune out pretty quick. Education is one thing, preaching is another.

Whether you’re an individual or a group, demanding respect doesn’t work very well. In order to be respected, you must ‘command’ respect or earn it in your presence and in your actions. For us as cyclists that means that if we want the respect of other trail and road users we have to compromise, yield, give and take, or even just stop, pull over, say ‘hi’ wave someone through or any multitude of small gestures. For me, this includes yielding on the trail…actually stopping and letting people by. I’m amazed at how appreciative they are. On the road, I wear a mirror and when I see a car coming, I make damn sure I’m over to the right as far as I can be. I also obey all traffic signals and basically ride extremely defensively. I’m not about to get all arrogant with a motorist over a few inches of blacktop…I’ve got too much to lose. Sometimes knowing when to back down or call it off is the most important thing you can know. I could go on and on with ideas and examples but I think you get the picture.

Cyclists are cycling’s own worst enemy. Probably more correctly, humans are their own worst enemy. This isn’t a cyclist vs. non cyclist issue. This is a ‘humans not thinking about the big picture’ issue or even more basic and cliche, it’s a ‘golden rule’ issue. In my mind, the solution is pretty simple: go out and be the best cyclist you can be by being the best human you can be. Put your issues aside and command respect from others by giving respect to others. Be a good ambassador for cycling and see where that takes you. My guess is that it will probably be pretty effective and ensure that we can continue to safely ride our bikes where ever and when ever we want to