There has been some debate recently about whether or not ‘rubbing is racing’ in the cycling world. Although it may seem that rubbing is not (or should not) be involved in cycling and racing, the fact of the matter is that it is involved, and the reasons may not be what you would think…..it’s for safety!
Ever watch a big stage race on TV, and see the overhead shots of riders along the narrow streets. They seemed like they are packed onto the road in a sardine container. They are so close to each other that 1 potential slip would cause a pretty serious crash, which often happens when you get about 180 cyclists on the road. Tension is high. Riders are moving around the pack, domestics are dropping back to get bottles, jostling for position before a climb, riders have to grab feed bags as they go through the feed zone, there is a rotation of riders at the front of the peleton that are doing the most work, teams have to gather and organize for sprint lead-outs.
All of this moving around with in the pack, this pack that is in constant motion, not only externally, but also internally is another reason that rubbing is racing. In both racing and many group rides, riders often bump into each other, but I would bet that crashes per bump ratio is pretty low. In fact, I would be willing to bet that riders bumping into each other causing crashes is much more rare than when riders over-lap wheels!
As you become a Stronger Cyclist and ride more group rides and especially if you race, you will at some point either be bumped or bump someone else. Riders may bump for several different reasons. The difference is A) how hard someone is bumped. If a rider is crashing, there isn’t much you can do. If a rider slowly shifts left or right then you may get bumped. B) the intention and C) the way it is handled.
The Intention: Often times, riders will simply shift slightly left or right and if you happen to be on that side of a rider, then you may bump into each other. Usually the little bump is neither planned nor intentional. The riders merely touch, separate and that is the end of it.
Sometimes this is a safety measure to let the person ahead of you know that you are on that side of them.
Sometimes in racing someone will bump into you attempting to move you over and/or take your position. Although this is more intentional, it is a legal move as long as their hands stay on their handlebars. In fact, this is a very common practice in a Velodrome race called the Keirin. (And much easier to take pictures of!)
If you ride in a group, you will more than likely get bumped. So here are some guide lines of how to handle it.
Guide Lines of getting Bumped:
A) Try not to freak out.
B) Do NOT slam on your brakes!
C) Attempt to hold a straight line
If you want to practice bumping, it is best to talk it out with a friend ahead of time, so you both know it is going to happen. Start by cycling in the grass, as you get close, try to barely touch elbows. Your goal is not to hit them or move them, but to just make contact.
Next time try to reach out with your elbow and attempt to touch the other person’s hip.
If you are not used to be bumped while cycling, there is a good chance that it will freak you out the first time. But if you handle the situation well, it really will become 2nd nature after a while. After a while you may find that like I did, I would bump my friends that I know how to handle the situation and I knew don’t mind, so much that eventually I would bump them and with out them seeing me, they would say ‘Hi Stephen’.