Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sweet and Sour

Frequent visitor and commenter Steve A has described a "line of sweetness" on his blog, which is the line he likes to ride in when taking the lane. I would like to claim that I was experimenting with lane position and taking video like Keri and Mighk did recently, but the truth is that during a mental/riding lapse I discovered what I consider the "line of sourness" yesterday morning on my way to work. I don't normally ride the "line of sourness". I'll show you what happens in a second, but first, a picture to make clear where these lines are:

Steve A's visage used without permission. I hope he's not the litigious type...

As you can see, I wasn't hugging or riding in the gutter at all. What happens when you ride the line of sourness is that most cars see you and straddle lanes to pass. The trouble is that the odd car will try to pass you within the lane. In the video that follows, you'll see how close that can be and hear my reaction, a reaction I must say I'm rather proud of:

Did you hear that? No profanity, reasonably calm. No hand gestures either, by the way. I am getting better at finding my road zen. I have a pretty high tolerance for close passing, but that was too close even for me. Video from the bars makes all cars look close, but that white car had to be about 6 inches away and was moving fast. Cyclists often complain about being "buzzed"; unlike some I'm not convinced it is something most drivers do out of hostility. I think many treat the painted line like a wall, and if their car will fit between me and it, even by a small margin, they will drive through that gap. I wouldn't do it now, of course, but when I was young and stupid, I did it too. It had nothing to do with any animosity toward cyclists and everything to do with an overconfidence in my ability and a desire to go fast.

I don't think it is fair to rant and rave about people doing something I've done myself, whether it was eons ago or not. That's why the arguments made against a "culture of speed" really appeal to me. They attempt to address root causes rather than just calling individual people mean names.

I find the centre of most lanes I use every bit as good as the rest (not usually rough or oily) and for me, that is probably my own personal line of sweetness.

Keep it Sweet,



Steve A said...

The video is an illustration of the peril of making videos from bars. Those bar guys tend not to be as jolly sounding as Rantwick. I would be churlish to be all legal on RW after all my comments and the "Rantwick Saluting" graphic.

Seriously, he makes a very important point here. If you are stuck right of where you want to be, go back bit by bit so the overtaking motorists don't individually notice. It's just the same if the road suddenly narrows.

One other observation - I'd never noticed how similar Ontario and Texas license plates are to each other.

Mighk said...

That motorist was haulin' butt, too.

I think that "line of sourness" is what results after cyclists take the League's Road I/TS 101 course, in which they are encouraged to "use the right track." But being timid, many cyclists will ride towards the right side of that wheel track -- which ends up being that "line of sourness" in most lanes. No wonder many say it doesn't work for them.

It's counter-intuitive; it gets worse as you head left from the white line into the right wheel track, then gets better as you head through the right wheel track and into the center and left.

Get cyclists out towards the center early in their training and they'll see the difference.

Skyers said...

Wow Rantwick.
Could you tell how fast that white car was going before you pulled out to make your left turn? I am a fan of the line of sourness, and I will tell you why. If you turned left directly into the "line of sweetness" instead of going to the right side of the lane as you did it is my firm opinion from your video that the white car would have drove right overtop of you. He was obviously speeding and most likley pissed off that you pulled out in front of him. I agree that you were, or would be right by riding in the "line of sweetness" but in this case you would also have been a victim if you had done so..Stay safe 1st and worry about where you have the right to be 2nd. SS out.

RANTWICK said...

Steve A - um, that's not my real face. I've never noticed the plates either.

Mighk - They were indeed moving. If you're back, look at Skyers comment and my reply. I would be interested in your take on it.

RANTWICK said...

Skyers - First off, I don't remember seeing that car before pulling out, which is possible considering his speed. If I did see him, I did not guage his speed very well.

I guess there is a chance that car would have hit me, but I really doubt it. Regarding your closing statement, I don't assert any of my road rights "just because"... the ONLY good reason to do so is to maximize my safety.

I'm afraid I have to disagree on this one, because even with that car's speed I believe the centre of the lane would have been a better amd more safe position, not only in dealing with him but every car after.

Apertome said...

Your comment on my blog just freaked me out, as I was literally in the middle of reading your post at the time. Thanks, by the way.

I usually ride on the left side of the right tire track. Sometimes I move further left than that, but admittedly sometimes it's hard to do so. Taking the lane that completely can feel brazen, and I have a hard time doing it at times. I am working on it.

RANTWICK said...

Apertome - As I said, wow we're similar.

CarFree Stupidity said...

Holy shit that looked really close. If it had been summer when you shot that video, I think your arm hairs would have felt the car pass by.

Over the course of the last year I have gotten much more confident about taking the lane, but usually ride in the RH track. As I'm starting out however I'll take the LH track and then move over to the LH once established. Though in this situation I would have to agree with Skyers

Steve A said...

Rather than leave a LONG comment here, in which I find something to disagree with from Skyers, Mighk, AND Apertome, I did a post on my blog, entitled "Rantwick and the Line of Sweetness." Rantwick might like it, until he considers me alienating all his commenters!

RANTWICK said...

Carfree - I think even being fully into the RH tire track would have been quite sufficient in discouraging such a close pass.

RANTWICK said...

Steve - Just read your post, and it is all good. Good call too... as I've said before, LONG comments make my undegena hurt.

Steve A said...

Carfree, don't feel neglected we all love ya!

Rantwick, "undegena" sounds like it relates to the post I've been avoiding about the outer fringe of cycling I've been avoiding...

RANTWICK said...

For those unsure of what "undegena" means: It can mean whatever you want, since it is a captcha word recorded for posterity by our friend Doohickie, origianlly appearing in the comments on this post

So use it for what you will. In my case it is a part of my anatomy, but I don't know where it is.

Tracy W said...

You know what I like best about that video? Your reaction! Had a similar one the other day with a silver pickup. Pretty much the same situation...I got lazy about protecting myself.

Skyers said...

I feel like your waitng for my response....
I have been reading other blogs on this subject (I never knew there were so many) and have noticed they all assume the car driver see the cyclist.

I think it is possible at least that the white car in your video did not even see you. You stated "I don't remember seeing that car before pulling out". Maybe he didnt see you either.
I feel that this is the downfall of riding the line of sweetness. It requires the car drivers see you.
I also understand that the line of sweetness puts you directly where a car driver is likley to be looking however if they are not looking it is the Bike rider not the car driver that will pay for this mistake. I feel that if the bike rider was on the shoulder or close to it they can still be passed unharmed (like you were in your video) even if the Car didn't ever see you

I thought that there must be other examples of the this... I did a quick search for "motorcycle hit from behind" and found this is not unheard of. MC riders ride in the "lane of sweetness" all the time and some pay the price for it.

When I ride I feel I am VERY visible but I ride as if I am invisible to the other cars on the road. I can't bring myself to assume the cars can / will see me and take it unto themselves to move to the left in order to keep me safe.
This will be my last comment about the "Lane of Sweetness" as I feel riders can ride where they please. I just wanted to clarify why I disagree with it.
I like this blog and look forward to reading it,I hope I havent made any enemies with my comments.
I look forward to seeing you riding someday (you almost ride past my house) and stopping you for an introduction.

SS out

RANTWICK said...

Skyers - Hey man, everybody has every right to their own opinion, and if you made any enemies by voicing yours, they are just dorks anyway. Most people who visit here and talk about this stuff all the time do it for the discussion, not the "win". I sure as hell have no interest in "winning".

If you see me, flag me down, because 1) it would be a pleasure to meet you and 2) I would feel like I was famous.

See today's post for my current "look"!

ChipSeal said...

If you want to be seen by motorists, don't stop at stop signs. It's the surest way to be noticed!

Keri said...

Hey, I'm late to the party. Busy week last week. Great video! I like you're response too :-)

Last fall I was riding with Angie from We were in the right tire track on a 2-lane road and several car drivers squeezed between us and oncoming traffic. She shot the stink-eye over her left shoulder and moved to the the left tire track. Shut that crap down right quick. One of these days I'll edit the video.

(Your response to Sykers is excellent)

BTW, I didn't do the stairs. I didn't want to put the instructors in an uncomfortable liability position if I screwed up. However, having watched it, I plan to go back to that location and give it a try. Didn't look that hard. I have the set-up for all the drills, I'm going to practice them on my own. Great bike handling skills!

RANTWICK said...


I had little doubt you would be around to this one sooner or later! Thanks for checking in. Have fun on those stairs!

danc said...

Excellent video! Thanks, Nicely ties to Mighk/Keri Mythbusting on Highway 535.

RANTWICK said...

Thanks danc. I thought so too.

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