What is a "Road Dog"?

A Compilation by Tom Sheffield

bicycle chain

Road Dog (Via Canis Familiaris)
The Road Dog defies classification (as well as class), but is a member of the more well-behaved (but less active) North Carolina Bicycle Club (NCBC) family.

Road Dogs are most frequently sighted in Wake, Granville, and Franklin Counties in central North Carolina. However, large numbers of them have been known to migrate into Western NC to participate in cycling events with intimidating names such as "The Assault on Mount Mitchell" (AoMM) and "The Blue Ridge Brutal 100" (BRB).

Road Dogs never hibernate nor even become inactive. Road Dog packs have been observed during a variety of weather conditions including wind, rain, sleet, snow, and temperatures ranging from 25F to over 100F. On January 2nd, a pack of Road Dogs was seen riding in the freezing rain between Cary and RTP. In March, a large group of Road Dogs rode 35 miles downwind to Bailey, just so they could enjoy the struggle of finding their way home against a strong headwind. The 1999 Farmer's Almanac guarantees rain on any day when a ride starts from the Durant Road Food Lion. In late April, Rangers on the Blue Ridge Parkway reported seeing a pack of Road Dogs riding "above the snow line" on three consecutive days. On July 4th and 5th, a particularly hearty (and not too intelligent) group of Road Dogs participated in Metric Centuries while the heat index was well above 100F.

The source of this unbridled enthusiasm is found in the Road Dogs motto: "WE ONLY DROP OUR FRIENDS". This is, without a doubt, a Road Dog's reason to ride.

Some Road Dogs are known to perform best in cold weather. They show up for the New Year's Day Metric with a smile on their face, knowing that they're going to drop their more warm-blooded friends before the rest stop in Rolesville. Once there, they are certain to occupy the sunny spots during the break, just to make sure the rest of us are cold and stiff so they can drop us again during the second half of the ride. Those who remember our friends' preference for sun return the favor by keeping them out of the shade during rides in the summer heat.

Other Road Dogs are climbers who look forward to events like the "AoMM Training Weekend". During the ride they cheerfully smile and wave to their friends who are still grinding toward the summit (at Craggy Gardens, Mt Pisgah, or Mt Mitchell) as they blast downhill at warp speed on their way back to the Hospitality Suite at the Tunnel Road Motel 6. It's worth mentioning that preparation for the next year's AoMM often starts immediately after completion of the current year's ride. Often this planning takes place while discretely loading your bike (sans rider number) onto your bike-rack while (hopefully) out of view of the AoMM ride organizers (gestapo).

Another type of Road Dog enjoys distance rides. By October, many Road Dogs are already using their toes to keep count of the Centuries they've ridden during the calendar year. In the early spring, Centuries are advertised as "Long Slow Distance" (LSD) rides. When deciding whether to participate in an LSD ride, be aware that "Slow" is a relative term.

All Road Dogs are cunning strategists. Beware when riding with one who proclaims in a pre-ride dissertation to be old, tired, sore, over-trained, under-trained, slow, or otherwise handicapped. It's very likely that this whiner will contest all of the sprints and be among the first back to the parking lot at the end of the ride. His post-ride "war stories" will often include the disclaimer "I felt much better after I got warmed-up". It seems that the act of "dropping our friends" will cure whatever ails the Road Dog.

Every dog has his day, but what does one do in the meantime? A common strategy is to use false advertising when announcing a ride. Surely if you understate the pace or distance by 10-15%, someone will show up that even a wounded Road Dog can drop. If a ride is announced as "No Drop", it means that you'd better not get dropped because a route map will not be provided. You should carefully consider other options before choosing to participate in a "controlled pace" ride. The pre-ride lecture will often include the warning "climb with the tandems". This means that you need to be able to keep pace with tandems that have finished BRB in less than 5 hours and AoMM in less than 6h40m. Our tandems often prove to be "twice as friendly" as half-bikes. "Controlled pace" rides provide an opportunity to be cussed at by the ride leader - a reward that is highly coveted by all Road Dogs.

Occasionally a Road Dog will have a bad ride and will use questionable tactics to keep "friendships" intact. It's not uncommon to be dropped while "marking" territory, repairing a mechanical failure, or putting on booties after a break. One particularly desperate pack dropped a "friend" as he was writhing in agony after an unsuccessful clip-in left him in a painful embrace with his top-tube. Another favorite strategy is to slip away from a break stop, while others are still waiting to pay for their favorite Sports Drink.

Road Dogs eat, sleep, and live for our adventures on the road. We are seldom home on weekend mornings and often log more than 40 miles before most people finish their first cup of coffee. However, we are domesticated, and understand that our spouses and significant others play a deeply important role in our simple lives. After all, who is there to call the Vet when we suffer from a broken collarbone, shoulder separation, or major road-rash? We are known to spend "quality time" with our families while familiarizing them with the more popular ride routes, just in case we're stranded by a mechanical or meteorological event. Such drives are educational "opportunities", where they can learn the common names for landmarks (eg various trees and businesses) that have been named for our "friends" who were last seen at that location after they bonked during a ride.

Contrary to popular belief, Road Dogs do not chase (draft), bite (damage) or bark at (through the use of profanity or sign-language) those vehicles with which we share the road. We do not condone violence, even toward those who express their desire for us to become Road Kill. So, if you think you might have seen a Road Dog attempting to stone an 18-wheeler into retirement, you're mistaken. Please consult your optometrist.

Most importantly, the Road Dogs are a reliable and trustworthy group of cyclists who (one way or the other) I'm proud to call my friends.

Thanks to John Buckley, Robbie Powell, Jon Supler, and Bob Wolfram for their contributions to this article.

Page maintained by Tom Sheffield and last revised on Monday, November 8, 1999.
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