The Etiquette of Overtaking, Not So Black and White?

by Chikashi

Apparently, there is a certain convention on what to do, and not to do, when overtaking another cyclist. It is similar to that of overtaking another motorist on the motorway. If you are going to overtake someone, then you should not overtake only to leapfrog in front of the person you’re overtaking. Rather, you should continue to maintain a faster pace such that you lose that person. Otherwise, you are just being a bell-end. I agree with this view in principle. However, I might be a little more flexible in practice depending on circumstance.

I pootled to and from Yerseke in the Netherlands the other day and was overtaken twice, in contrasting manners. The first was when I was still in Belgium, at the northern bit of the Port of Antwerp. He leapfrogged me and settled 2 bike lengths ahead of me. There was considerable headwind that morning, so I just tucked in behind him. And, voilà, no more headwind for me, at least for perhaps 5 km until he turned off at a junction. Therefore, I was quite pleased that he just leapfrogged me. On the other hand, his riding form was such that his joints seem to be moving in all directions and made me wonder if I pedal like that too. Not a particularly attractive sight.

Shortly after I entered the Netherlands, 3 pensioners on aluminium rigs overtook me. They said hello as they went past — it seems all roadies in the Netherlands greet each other, whilst the mountainbikers all seemed to be having a crummy Saturday or maybe they were just visiting from abroad, like me. The grandpas were going at a furious pace. They had beautiful, smooth pedalling form and soon disappeared from sight. It was obvious that they had about a zillion miles in their legs. I still don’t understand how they disappeared so quickly because we were in the midst of flat, empty fields that stretched for miles, with nowhere to hide, not even hedges. So, the 3 old men overtook me the proper way, and it was impressive. They ticked all the boxes: decorum, speed and form.

The first guy was useful given the headwind, but I have to admit that the 3 grandpas set the standard.