Study Abroad Program
Director: Professor Jolanta W. Wawrzycka
Adapted from Expedition Behavior: The Finer Points, by Howard Tomb,
and distributed to the participants of
France Bicycle Tour Summer Study Abroad Program-- Dr. Mick Stewart, Director
(Thank you, Mick!)
A good adventure cycling group is like a powerful, high functioning, effective relationship. Members carry burdens together, face challenges together and finally share a unique awesome experience together.
A bad adventure cycling group, on the other hand, is an awkward, ugly, embarrassing thing characterized by bickering, frustration and negative memories.
Nearly all bad adventures have one thing in common: poor Adventure Behavior (AB). This is true even if members follow the stated technical rules, such as riding in single file, proper hand signals, pulling completely off the road when stopped, riding in a straight line, etc. Unfortunately, too many rules of adventure behavior remain unspoken. Some organizers seem to assume that group members already have strong and generous characters like their own. But judging from a few of the adventure cyclists we've encountered, more rules ought to be spelled out. Here are ten of them.
RULE #1 Get the hell out of bed.
Suppose your teammates get up, eat breakfast, stretch, fill water bottles and load their bicycles while you lie comatose in your bed recovering from your after hours expedition. As they run a mechanical inspection of their bicycle, lube the chain, and discuss today's route they hear you start to snore. Last night you were the life of the party and their buddy; however they went to bed while you went on to paint the town. Now they're drawing up a list of things about you that make them want to ride on and leave you behind. They will devise cruel punishments for your behavior. Accept them, you have earned them. The team concept is now defunct. If you had the maturity to know when to say when, go to bed at a decent hour, get a good nights sleep and gotten out of bed in the morning, no one would have had to suffer.
RULE #2 Either A) Learn how to secure your gear, or B) Accept the consequences.
As you will come to understand from this being mentioned in several of the other rules, this is an important one. After a day or so on the road, it will become obvious who learns from their packing mistakes or who is willing to lose equipment and accept the humiliation that comes with looking like a "Stupid Tourist." We are on a group cycling adventure not a bunch of gypsies wandering the French countryside. Learn to stow your gear neatly and securely.
RULE #3 Do not be excessively cheerful before breakfast.
Some people wake up perky and happy as a cute and fluffy bunny. They put stress on those who wake up mean as rabid wolverines. Exhortations such as "Rise and shine, sugar!" and "Greet the dawn, pumpkin!" have been known to provoke pungent expletives from rabid wolverine types. These curses, in turn, may offend the fluffy bunny types. Indeed, they are issued with the sincere intent to offend. Thus, the day begins with flying fur and hurt feelings. The best early morning behavior is simple: Be quiet and on time, ready to go.
RULE #4 Do not complain.
About anything, ever! If it's cold and raining, the day's route has an elevation increase of 10,000-km, visibility is four inches and each way you turn you are greeted by head winds. Must you mention it? Do you think your friends haven't noticed the situation? Share an interesting story. Tell a joke. Lead a prayer. Say nothing, but under no circumstances should you lodge a complaint! Your bicycle may weigh 87 pounds and your ill-secured pack is - surprise, surprise - falling off the rack. Whose fault and problem should that be? No one promised you a personal Sherpa? Nobody said there was a support vehicle? If you can't carry the weight, and ride your bicycle, get a train ticket.
RULE #5 No panhandling for your next meal.
One adventure trick is so old that it is no longer amusing: lighten your overall load by not carrying enough food or water and bumming from the others. The beggar claims that their lunch fell off their bicycle or a marmot ate it and that they are hungry. This is childish behavior and has no place in a group adventure. Tricks are not part of a team spirit. If . you honestly brought too little to eat for lunch, say so because this is a safety issue that needs to be resolved. The group can pool its resources and get you fed. However, the next day, surprise everyone in the group with some special treat to show your appreciation and gratitude. Learn from your mistakes.
RULE #6 Do not ask if anybody's seen your stuff.
Experienced adventure cyclists have systems for organizing their gear. They very rarely leave it behind, strewn around or have it fall off their bicycle. One of the most damning things you can do is ask your teammate if they've seen your SLR camera after you've ridden 20-km. Although this is not a life-threatening crisis, you may not be invited on the next trip. Should you leave your SLR camera at the last hotel that is now 20-km away, do not ask if anybody's seen it. Simply announce, with a good-natured chuckle, that you are about to set off on a 40-km ride to retrieve it, and that you are sorry. It's unprofessional to lose your spoon or your toothbrush. If something like that happens, don't mention it to anyone.
RULE #7 Never ask where you are or how much farther.
If you want to know where you are or how much farther the destination is, look at the map. Don't verbalize your question. Everyone is encouraged and welcome to participate in the evening or morning route planning sessions, or you may want the challenge to try to figure it out yourself, go for it. But if at some point you: A) suspect that a mistake has been made; and B) have experience in interpreting Michelin I :200,000 road maps in French, and C) are certain that your group leader is confused or on drugs, speak up, otherwise, follow the group like sheep and don't ask questions.
RULE #8 Do not get sunburned.
Sunburn is not only painful and unattractive; it's also an obvious sign of irresponsibility. Most people wait too long before applying sunscreen. Once you've burned your flesh on an adventure, you will not have a chance to get out of the sun. Then the bum gets burned, skin peels away and blisters sprout on your already swollen lips. Anyway, you get the idea. Wear zinc oxide. You can see exactly where and how thickly it's applied and it gives you just about 100% protection. It does get on your sunglasses, all over your clothes and in your mouth. But that's OK. Unlike sunshine, zinc oxide is non-toxic.
RULE #9 Treat your bicycle with respect.
If you are struggling to ride uphill because your derailleur does not shift correctly, and your pack keeps shifting from side to side, it's not your bicycle's fault, it's yours. You can prevent most mechanical problems with a pre-ride inspection and remember that a little TLC goes a long way. Your bicycle can only respond to the care and performance you provide it. If you think your bicycle will perform better after you ruff it up a bit and knock it around, think again. It is unacceptable to take your frustrations out on your bicycle. Keep this in mind when you are walking with your pack strapped to your back and pushing your bicycle into town at midnight, your bicycle is having the last laugh.
RULE #10 Do not get killed.
Suppose you ride past everyone and make it to the summit first, in low gear, with empty water bottles, clothes from all of the major designers in Paris loaded in your pack, while eating a chocolate croissant. Pretty special, huh? Now suppose, as you turn to see how far back everyone else is, you cross the centerline of the road and are struck by a semi hauling pigs to market and never make it back home. Would you still qualify as the winner? Would it matter? No, because it's not a race it's an adventure.
All adventure behavior really flows from this one principle: Think of your team, the beautiful machine, first. You are merely a cog in that machine. If you have something to prove, forget about joining this adventure. Your team will never have more than one member.
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