7 Things Cyclists Know to be True

I’ve been a cyclist for more than 40 years and the longer I ride the more I realize there are some truths that are simply inescapable. If you’re a cyclist you’ve undoubtedly experienced most, if not all, of these:

1. Flats Happen in Threes

I don’t know why but I swear it’s true. Actually, I have an inkling as to why it’s true. Tires wear out relatively equally (rears wear a bit faster than fronts), so when your tires are thinning to the point where they are more vulnerable to sharp objects, they’re probably both vulnerable to sharp objects. Similarly, both tires tend to run through the same stuff, so glass in the front tire can certainly mean there’s a sliver working its way through the tread on your rear tire as well. As for the third flat, I don’t know how that happens but it seems like it always does. What am I riding? My Pinarello F8 below is rolling on Kenda Kriterium Endurance 700×25 clinchers. I love them.



2. You Will Be Yelled At

Whether it’s an angry driver, a startled runner wearing headphones, or your kids encouraging you from the side of the course, get used to being yelled at. When it comes to drivers I’ve found it best to smile and wave as if you’re saying hello. Half the time it de-escalates the situation and we both get to go on with our days. The other half of the time the driver thinks I’ve completely misunderstood why I was being yelled at, which is fine too. When it’s your family or friends yelling encouragement from the sidelines, give them a wave or a hoot or some form of recognition. Being focused doesn’t mean you have to be grumpy.

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3. Espresso Tastes Best After at Least 30 Miles

I don’t mean that espresso tastes better after 30 miles than after 50 miles. I mean that compared to any other time of day or any other situation, espresso will taste the best after you have ridden at least 30 miles. Call me old fashioned, but a straight up espresso or maybe a small, nicely done cappuccino is what I go for. If it takes more than 3 words to order, it’s too complicated.

4. Coke Tastes Best After 70 Miles

Similarly, a Coke will never taste better than when you get one from a convenience store after at least 70 miles on the bike. It’s like the donuts on top of Pikes Peak. They’re not that good by themselves, but after you ride, run, or hike your way to the summit they taste like heaven.

5. Ice-Cold Beer Tastes Best After a Long Ride

As for the beer, it may not be the best post-ride recovery strategy (actually, it’s pretty much the worst), but I’d be an absolute ogre for denying an athlete the occasional pleasure of an ice-cold post-ride beer after an epic day on the bike.

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6. To Many Drivers, All Bikes Look Alike

The more interested and knowledgeable you are about a subject the more you notice its nuances. Like many of you, I can recognize the differences between a transient pedaling a beater bike, a guy commuting in his work clothes, a casual cyclist out for a spin, and a devoted athlete out for a training ride. But many drivers just seem to see two wheels and lump all of us together. Why does that matter? Because we all pay for the faults of the reckless and incompetent among us. The last time I got yelled at was at a red light it was because I stopped for the light and a homeless guy rode through it. The guy in the car next to me launched into a tirade about how “we” shouldn’t be on the road because we break the law. I smiled and waved (see above). But it does raise a serious point. We’re all in this together and our ability to create safe cycling infrastructure and secure access to trails depends not just on how you and I ride, but how everyone rides.

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7. Finding the Right Saddle Is Like Finding Your Soul Mate

When you find your soul mate in life everything just feels right. If you’re lucky you find that person without a succession of painful experiences, but more often than not you have to fall in love and then break up several times before you find The One. My only advice is not to settle for “almost right”. Again, what’s on my bike? I’m riding this customized Duster from SDG Components!

SDG Saddle top


These are just a few of the many joys, struggles, and oddities that I’ve noticed emerge after putting in many miles out on the bike that make cycling such a unique sport. I’d love to know what truths you’ve noticed about cycling, please comment and share your thoughts below.

[blog_promo promo_categories=”bucket list” ids=”” /] Chris Carmichael
CEO & Head Coach of CTS

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Comments 64

  1. I read all your posts and enjoy the cycling info. I just want to know why you referred to the person who ran the light as “a homeless guy”? How did you know he was homeless? You stopped and talked to the person? You knew them? Or is this just a stereotyping you apply because of the way they were dressed or appeared? I guess I get tired of the way we tend to identify people by a challenge they face (such as having no permanent home) or we make assumptions about others who don’t act the way we do.
    Just a thought.

  2. A group of us once did a century in 4:15 which felt great. When we pulled into the parking lot and the team workhorse opened a cooler of Newcastle English Brown Ale, that was heavenly!

  3. In Colorado, you will encounter that skunky pot smell oozing out of car windows as they roll past you with pumping sub-woofers. While I don’t really notice this on the main roads, I have had several pass me on the more remote areas where I’m climbing a winding hill or foothill rollers. I hate it! It’s a matter of time before some poor cyclist becomes a hood ornament of a doper’s car.

  4. I call it The Knot Theory. You’ll be riding for awhile with no one around and a car or truck and a jogger or whatever we’ll all meet at the same exact spot on the road at the same time in the middle of nowhere. This happens too many times to be a coincidence.

    1. I have heard it called Murphy’s Law of Vehicular Traffic (in relation to running) in some book years ago. I still use that!

      1. Yes, you will be chased by a dog(s) at some point. Be ready… I one time had two Rottweilers come at me, one from the front and one circled behind me. They had a plan to take me down! No joke. I dodged the one on the front and felt the nip on my shoe heel from the other behind me. Fortunately, I had a guy in a truck behind me who hit the horn hard and pushed them off the road. I got home, heart pounding, called the humane society, the Police, and considered loading my gun to go back and finish the encounter. Anyhow, a good shout, stop peddaling (dogs are attracted to movement), and a shot from your water bottle will usually suffice – if dogs are not hunting in pairs!

  5. You forgot the most important one, that you will eventually crash! IN fact there are two kinds of riders, those who have crashed and those who will.

    1. Brian,

      There are actually three kinds of cyclists. Those who have crashed, those who will, and those who will again. Try hard to identify the third kind and give them plenty of room. They are not that hard to spot.

  6. This had good article article potential but would have been better if 3 of the 7 points weren’t focused on beverage consumption. It feels a bit like the writer ran low on ideas and attempted to pad their piece.

  7. OK, here’s something many of us riders might “know.” Who are the most dangerous drivers for cyclists?

      1. Nothing scares me more than moms in minivans. I’ve had more near death experiences at the hands of them. Once one of them tboned me in a field after aggressively passing an oncoming car (in anger). When I stood up to get a license plate, another mom in a minivan pulled up, asked if I wanted her to chase the other stressed out mini van mom. Before I could say “please dont”, she burnt rubber after the other one. Crazy

    1. Jacked up black diesel one ton pick ups that will never see dirt, but make the tiny men driving then feel big. It’s an almost guarantee, when you see or hear one coming up, they are going to damn near brush you off the road, and blast you with black smoke as they pass you at 50mph in a 25 zone.

      1. Where I live she is driving an oversized SUV, drinking a Starbucks, talking on the cell phone and speeding to pick up her kids at soccer practice.

      1. Yep. BMW drivers are, hands down, the worst imho. Soccer moms, one-ton pickups and loggers are bad, but Beemer drivers believe they own the road. It’s not that they’re only dangerous to cyclists, they’re a hazard to everyone. Not sure why…

  8. Flats happen in threes because you believe the first two are simply due to back luck and you don’t spend much time trying to figure out a cause. When the third one happens, you start thinking it’s not just coincidence and start examining your tires. It’s only then that you notice the small cut or that small piece of embedded glass or metal that you didn’t feel when changing the first two flats.

  9. Keep ’em comin’. One common to thed northern great plains in springtime: The headwind you did your longest tempo intervals into switches 180 degrees to become a headwind all the way home. Bonus: best normalized power for longest distance.

  10. …Continuing on 6. To Many Drivers, All Bikes Look. Everyone has probably heard of L.A.B. (League of American Bicyclists) organization. Another fairly new organization that promotes and educates cycling safety and confidently in traffic is “CyclingSavvy.”
    Many of their instructors are former LAB instructors. They have fresh and problem-solving techniques for riding in all traffic situations. They’ve recently created a “Club” edition for more serious riders and are starting to teach youth cyclists as well. Check them out @ CyclingSavvy.org.

  11. Good stuff Chris! Under 2. You Will Be Yelled At, I’ve found a 5 finger wave is ALWAYS better than a 1 finger wave (everyone gets my meaning). Be Safe & Courtesy out there!

  12. I didn’t make it 70 miles but I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling, not the taste, of drinking that Coke last summer. It was near the end of my first 50 mile ride. Sat down on the side of the convenience store and enjoyed!

  13. I don’t do it but some of my friends rotate tires halfway through the rear’s lifespan. Early in the season I like to use Armidillo Elites. They are heavy but bullet proof. I also ride slightly to the left of the white shoulder line. It’s a cleaner surface. Even with my race tires I can avoid flats when not too far into the shoulder. Also I find that cars will give me more room if I am slightly to the left of or on that line, a double benefit As soon as I enter into the shoulder, I get no room or respect from cars. Last week I entered a short sprint in the middle of the lane before turning left onto my street,, 35mph in a 30. Still a car came right up within 5 feet behind me with its horn blaring. It’s usually young 20 something whiper snappers.

    Great post. Fun.

    1. You are right on.But no only yelled at .If you ride long enough you will have things thrown at you.firecrackers are a fun thing to have zip past your ear .No matter we will keep on riding

  14. Coffee is a vile malodorous substance, destructive of the human soul, Its bitter aroma of burnt water is an encroachment on civilization, THe voodoo priest and all his powders are nothing compared to espresso, cappuccino, and mocha, which are stronger than all the religions of the world combined, and perhaps stronger than the human soul itself. Every day the smell of roasting coffee hits me like a waft of skunk spray, somewhere between vomit inducing and eye watering; that half of human kind is addicted to that dark burning pitch and bitter assault on the olfactory senses is a mystery I shall never fathom. All my life I have waged a valiant, losing, one-man battle against the world’s most insidious enslaver: coffee. People need it to wake up, to go to sleep, to say hello and goodbye and seem to get intoxicated by its many varieties. All it is to me is a substance that stinks of the weakness of all mankind……….I’d sooner drink water from the sewer…..

    1. One person’s poison is another’s elixir! To me, like Chris good coffee after miles on the bike is one life’s great pleasures. No need to rain on someone else’s parade.

    1. Wasn’t on my my most important training ride that my Garmin died, it was my first Ironman. All the buttons were unresponsive and the thing beeped at me for about 25 miles before it finally croaked.

  15. You left out one very important known truism Chris. It has to do with dogs. . if you cannot hear barking and all you hear is clicking of dog toenails beating out an I am going to get you rhythm on the pavement and you could Likely be in for it. A barking dog seems to give you a chance while the quiet dog is a marauder just waiting for the right passerby wearing tights and on an expensive bicycle.

    1. Someone once told me that if you yell “Go home!!” to a dog there’s a split second hesitation that’ll give you enough time to get away from them. Doesn’t always work but it works often enough.

      1. When it comes to being chased by dogs, you don’t have to be the fastest in your group…just don’t be the slowest.

      2. A dog trainer once told me that yelling “cut it out” works best, as it sounds to the dog that you’re growling back at it. Personally, I’ve never met a dog I couldn’t beat in a sprint, but I was once riding in NC and there was a bull outside a fence that was giving me the evil eye. At the time, I wasn’t sure I could beat him… I went home and looked it up… not likely…

        1. “No” repeated loud and firm a few times always works for me. It’s a command every dog has heard, and it sounds like you’re barking at it too.

    2. The real dog experience is riding down in that dark neighborhood you have avoided until tonight. He (they) is the dog that is running for you in the grass silently for two houses and has not made it to the pavement. You only hear his toes on the pavement because he is so focused on you there is no barking. Then you notice the single dog is actually a pair and you pick up the pace to 25 mph and hope there are no potholes. Then the dogs give up after about 8-10 houses. The fun part was that I had to ride back through these animals. Gave it a good sprint early and no problems.

  16. An addendum to the “finding the right saddle” thing…as soon as you find the right saddle, it will be discontinued and you won’t find that out until you try to find a replacement. My favorite is the (of course!) now-discontinued Specialized Chicane. Luckily, there are still some leftovers in the warehouse.

  17. Maybe the reason you get a third flat is that you haven’t replaced the tire or tires where the first two flats happened!

    Actually, my experience is that I get twice the mileage on a front tire as on the rear, so I buy tires in multiples of three, and plan to replace the rear twice before putting on a new front. And I believe that 90% of my flats happen on the rear tire.

    This brings up the question – why do the pros still ride tubulars? How many races have been lost due to a late in the race flat tire?

    1. I completely agree with Colin C. on flats. My rear tires wear out much faster than the front, and an extremely high percentage of my flats are on the rear, even if it is relatively new. I have always figured that the rear does not track exactly where the front goes, and since I can see the front, I am better at missing things that might cause a flat with the front. Further, since the rear carries more weight, sharps that get caught in the tread tend to work through to the tube faster on the rear.

    2. 100% on the back tire. i put 28 touring schwalbe and 0 flats in 8500km on all kind of roads. … but i’m not cool anymore with those fatty…

  18. Why would a post ride beer be the worst strategy? Certainly not perfect and if 1 leads to 5 not good but one real beer can’t be that bad………

  19. That was a great read. I look forward to reading such great wisdom. Thanks Chris for taking the time to share your wisdom. I am moving to the Springs in the next month and looking forward to being part of CTS first hand.

  20. I have to work on car driver / cyclist interaction. I react the same way when someone yells (more like cuss at me) during my rides, just wave and smile back. But some drivers get close and honk their horns, in what I perceive, to scare me which works everytime. That part angers me. I went into a political tirade with one driver as I drifted, with my left hand out, to avoid a huge pot hole. First he honked, and I responded angrily. We met at the upcoming light after he cussed me out, I explained to him the pothole I was avoiding. I then enlightened him to stop voting for politicians who won’t put tax dollars into fixing roads and making wider bike lanes or just making a BIKE LANE!!!
    I admit it, I put gas on the fire. The point I’m trying to make here, is some sort of lobby group or some kind of political organisation is needed here to address our roads. I think more and wider lanes will make both cyclist and motorists pleased by coexisting on our roads.

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