We all know the type, but don’t be fooled; the loose cannon is no mug.
He knows his way around a big day on the bike, he can mix it with the best of us on the climbs, he never shirks for effort or determination, and he wears all the kit and rides the fancy bike. To all intents and purposes he takes himself semi-seriously as a cyclist, but for some reason – annoyingly, frustratingly – he’s incapable of engaging the top two inches of his physique.
Ask him politely about his unpredictable riding style, and whether he has noticed the fact that there are 7 other riders sharing the same patch of tarmac as him, and his brow will furrow in confusion. He is apparently unaware of the pack mentality of a moving group of cyclists, whose key aim is to reach that Zen point where the group becomes one.
He doesn’t engage in even the most basic of signalling. If you are riding on his wheel and there’s a pot-hole up ahead (and let’s face it, here in the UK, there is a pot-hole up ahead) your only choice is to ride on the edge of panic, tensed and ready to bunny hop, swerve, or grip the bars tightly and hope for the best.
Don’t expect any prior warning from this man.
Hi tactic for negotiating a parked car is apparently the same as for a sharp bend – to take evasive action – and if you manage to get yourself into a lengthy mid-ride conversation with him, then you only have yourself to blame.
You will inevitably find yourself two abreast with him on a blind downhill bend as he regales you with an anecdote about something entirely unrelated to the near death experience you are both engaged in – tire width, arm warmers, or celebrity big brother, for example.
In his mind, completion of this conversation has taken on far more importance than any concerns for personal safety.
A ride with this man pans out differently to every other ride – rather than fighting for position at the front of the group in mock competition, those of us who are wise to the loose cannon’s reckless riding style congregate further and further towards the back, simply to get out of the firing line.
Eventually you find yourself riding along in a state of heightened stress, in something approaching a survival situation, never sure if he’s about to accelerate and cut recklessly across your front wheel, or grab a bottle for a drink and swerve left to right, all but bringing the group down like a pack of dominoes.
Don’t get the wrong idea – I’m not suggesting that we should all be adhering to some arcane and exclusive set of rules* whilst out on the bike, just that there’s no harm in learning (and practicing) a spot of group self-preservation.
And a word of warning …
If you don’t recognise the loose cannon, it could be you.
*I am aware that raising the subject of ‘the rules’ in any cycling related discussion is akin to raising the subject of gun-control in a Texas bar.
For the record, I have never known a single cyclist who actually, seriously follows ‘the rules’ beyond the odd fashion tip; I don’t see the problem.