1. They haven’t been riding much lately (also referred to as "I’m not that fit at the moment")
If they’re on a bike, in the bunch, and not so out of breath they can say these words, chances are they’re riding more than most of the population.
Be particularly wary of someone who says these words then snakes you on a hill. Some of our best muscle adaptation comes with an improved training:recovery ratio.
2. It’s a recovery ride
Unless recovery means surges, the odd sprint and a light but constant sweat. It might be a recovery ride for some people, but for others it’s a huge achievement just turning up. Be kind to those people so they keep coming back.
3. It won’t be an early start
I’m not sure if this is something limited to bigger cities where traffic is an issue, but 5:45am is an early start. 7:00am is an early start. Anything before 10:00am is an early start.
4. They don’t want your croissant
I bought two croissants the other day so I’d be sure to eat at least half of one. I was hungry after that morning’s 'early start'. I got about a quarter of that croissant. It was like watching a tornado.
5. The state of your bib shorts
Telling someone about the state of their bib shorts takes courage. Most riders will find it easier to say nothing than tell you yours are see-through or it’s not the done thing to wear underpants. Besides, it’s not something easily yelled from behind when you don’t know the person in front.
There is only one time you should wear undies under your bib shorts: when you’re standing in front of a mirror trying to ascertain whether or not they are see-through. (Patterned undies work best in this situation.)
6. Their new piece of equipment is the best piece of equipment
Take this with caution if the rider a) has recently changed sponsors or is best friends with the distributor b) is the distributor c) hasn’t had the opportunity to use a range of better products yet or d) has bib shorts you're building up the courage to talk to them about.
7. They’ll pass all the calls
“Pass the calls, pass the calls, pass the calls,” came the rider briefing the other day. “OK,” said everyone.
“Can you guys please pass the calls,” came a voice from the back of the bunch part way through the ride.
“Seriously, why is nobody passing the calls?” said the person next to me.
If someone points out a hole, some debris, a lane change, an anything, PASS THE CALLS. It’s the difference between an excellent bunch and a non-aspirational one. You might know the roads, but that new rider at the back of the bunch sure doesn’t.
8. This is the last hill
It’s never the last hill. Just keep pedalling, suck down on an energy gel or that saliva that’s creeping out of your mouth. Hold on to the fact other people have got through this ride and surely you will too. Besides, it's just a recovery ride, right?
To be clear, I'm not claiming roadies can’t be trusted. Or that these traits are shared by every rider in every bunch. But there’s something about the road cycling culture that can induce a lack of perspective even in the most rational of people.
If someone says they haven’t been riding much lately, it’s just a reco ride and won’t be an early start, only take these words at face value if you know this rider well.
Otherwise, plan for a steady effort, have an alarm clock at the ready, be prepared for an extra hill or two, and throw some extra food in your jersey pocket, just in case. The ride will be much more enjoyable that way. And the sunrise is always worth it.