One of the guys at work pointed me at an article from the NY Times Blog that addresses an issue I didn't know existed: commute racing.
...Or what some people "think" is racing but they don't realize they are doing it. Or maybe they know they are doing it but aren't officially racing. In the article they go as far as to call it "cat6 racing". If you know anything about bicycle racing you know about the various racer classifications of cat 1-5. With this in mind the reference to cat 6 references how slow and outside the normal racing structure this actually is. Yes, it's a joke.
When you get at least 2 guys together in some type of moving contraption (car, motorcycle, bicycle, horse, you name it) there will inevitably be some type of josteling for position, posturing, and even racing. It's just how guys think. We are wired to think that...
- ...every time we get in the car we are driving in the Indy 500, even if our commute is 3 miles long.
- ...when we pull up to a light with another bike we have to show how fast we can climb a hill.
- ...when someone pulls up next to you on a motorcycle that is louder than yours, you rev your engine a bit to liven things up.
It's just how things work with guys. We are competitive. Even if we look incredibly stupid doing it.
Several folks at work took the idea of cat-6 a bit further, adding/subtracting points for various activies such as overtaking a rider in a team kit (points lost if the rider is a woman unless you get the woman's phone number), if the target is a carbon bike and you are on a recumbant, and if you overtook someone who jumped a couple of red lights to gain distance on you. (Thanks Raajeev and Bill!)
I pondered on this for a while and then realized that I was doing this too, to some extent. I ride uphill both ways in my commute. No, really, I do: I live on a plateau. So every morning I ride down a big hill, across a valley, and then up another big hill to my office. Then I reverse that course going home. Climbing those hills I find myself constantly trying to pace other riders. On my bike computer I use the virtual partner in an attempt to best my previous times commuting to/from work. And, yes, I even try to catch and pass people on the flats down in the valley. It gets really interesting on sunny summer days when the fair-weather-riders come out. I help them realize how out of shape they are while passing them on the 520 trail, a 6-8% grade for 1.3 miles. As they see me go by (it's hard to miss 250+ pounds going by at such low speeds) I'm sure they wonder if I'm trying to show off or if I'm trying to kill myself.
I guess it's a little of both.