|Pro cyclist and bike mechanic Tristan Uhl, unflappable|
For me, the sound of a car horn is one of the worst in the world, like being called the dirtiest of all dirty names. I find that even when I'm mostly in the wrong, if a driver lays on the horn, I'm more likely to defend whatever action inspired his anger and respond in kind. If a car intentionally cuts me off or does something dangerous, I give the person a piece of my mind with colorful words and descriptive gestures. I take it all so personally that I'll still be angry days later.
At the root of it, I get startled or scared. Being on a bike is a vulnerable position, and with Austin's roads and traffic, I often feel like I'm entering an all-out war zone—without the two-ton steel armor everyone else is wearing.
But when I ride with a truly "pro" roadie, the atmosphere is much different. Someone just yelled at us to "get off the road"? Or (an entertaining Easter Sunday a few years back) to "get to church"? The experienced roadie responds one of two ways: sarcasm or complete disregard. A wry wave, a smile, a blank stare, an expression of casual indifference...all seem to communicate smug disdain rather than anger.
I aspire to that, like a kind of Buddhist bicycle philosophy that, while not accepting a call to battle, doesn't back down from it, either. It's dignified. It's productive. You can't be arrested for it.
These unruffled roadies, whatever their true intentions or compulsions, have a good strategy. A calm approach will usually get you further in a dialogue with someone. If the only words a driver can exchange with you are antagonistic, you probably weren't going to accomplish anything with the communication anyway. And, of course, sometimes the fact that you're keeping your calm when the other person clearly can't has its own hidden bonus: it can be infuriating. All in all, the system works much better for minor infractions, and can be adapted as needed for other situations. There's certainly a time and a place for being angry and taking a stand in spandex and cleats, but it should probably be the exception rather than the rule, if for nothing more than your own sanity and a little positive cycling PR.
Maybe the important thing to at least TRY to remember, in the quest of roadie cool, is that the person on the high road usually does win. Or at least looks really suave in the process.