If you ever ride with other people, then you’ve been to the meet up. Maybe you even hosted the meet up, like people came to your house to do this thing you have to do before you ride bikes together. The meet up is the eye of the needle every group ride passes through. It’s the amorphous shape that wants to be a straight line, riders strung out in loose order of ability or motivation on the day.
And what happens?
First of all, there’s a noodler. There’s always a noodler, the one who just HAS to adjust something before the group can go. This adjustment always strikes me as unnecessary or the sort of thing a non-sociopath would have worked out before leaving their own home. Really, noodle on your own time. Trim your derailleur. Find your rain jacket. Arrange your tools or whatever the F you’ve got in that bag you don’t need. When you get to the meet up, you need to be ready.
There’s usually a joker too. This person drifts around the group making merry. Is it nerves? Insecurity? Or the sort of confidence that leaves a person with no filter, all manner of dad jokes, bike nerdery, puns, and nonsense come spewing out. The joker does not hear “polite laughter.”
Then there’s the weaver. The weaver shows up for the meet up, but does not stop, does not put a foot down, but weaves in and out and around the others, quietly, impatiently. The weaver hardly acknowledges that the meet up is a necessary phase of the ride but seeks a frictionless transition from riding to the ride, straight into the actual ride. I respect the weaver. I want what the weaver wants, but one day they’re gonna get hit by a car and probably deserve it.
Who else is here?
The old head. The old head is often first to the meet up. The old head is ready to ride but feels no stress about the roll out, feels no ill will toward the noodler, is amused by the joker and weaver, is fine really with whatever needs to happen. The ride will leave when the ride leaves. The old head might say something perfect like, “All right, should we go then?” I will never be the old head.
The one rider not at the meet up is the chaser. The chaser is never on time for the meet up. Even with the noodler delaying the roll out, the chaser has never once made the meet up. The ride leaves and depending on the day and the situation and the group, maybe it leaves at a pace that is not that cool. No warmup. Just right into a low-key hammer, everyone quiet now, the joker finally S-ing the F U. The chaser still manages to catch up. It might be 5 minutes or 20. The chaser shows up, high on the frantic energy of lateness. Maybe they have it right. Maybe that’s the best move, blow off the meet up, get the heart rate up and planed out before even joining the ride. If I didn’t have the problem of being genetically punctual, I’d make myself the chaser. I’m not fit enough though. Ever.
One of the problems of the meet up is that the rolls are seldom strictly defined. There’s a bit of Game Theory (not to be confused with Game Theory) to it. If there’s already a joker there, for example, someone else can’t just start blabbering over top of them. That person might then opt for weaving, but sometimes there’s already a weaver. What do you do? Park yourself next to the old head and pretend you’ve achieved some level of chill and maturity you definitely don’t have? You better hope this ride leaves before you have a full-blown identity crisis.
For me, the big problem with the meet up is its artificiality. Consider the Law of Cycling Relativity, which states that none of us is any one thing on the bike, but we ride to determine who we are relative to each other (among other reasons). Put another way, the meet up asks the question, “What is a ride that has not yet started, and who are all these people standing around in the coffee shop parking lot?” It is a question that can only be answered kinetically at a point AFTER the meet up.
The meet up is nonsense. It is absurd. Sartre famously said, “Hell is other people,” which is not really what he meant. What he meant is that living in other people’s expectations, just that, with no action, is a sort of torture. What he meant was, just go. Ride your bike. All this standing around is killing you.
If you like TCI and the stuff you find here, consider subscribing or even just sharing our content with other folks who like bikes and biking and bike-related nonsense. We sure would appreciate it.