I’m sure you’re familiar with the fable about Chicken Little, the hysterical little living piece of poultry that turns a fallen acorn into worldwide disaster risking the lives of his friends to be eaten by a predator (or narrowly averts the real disaster depending on the ending). The upshot of the story is to avoid jumping to wild conclusions and whipping the masses into hysteria so that the true dangers are missed in the panic.
Not surprisingly, this lesson applies in group riding as well. There are many hazards for us cyclists out on the roads, even when we run in herds. Traffic, potholes, debris, and sometimes each other. In fact, when we’re in a pack, we rely on the eyes and ears of others to warn us of trouble ahead that we might not be able to see or hear.
However, not all hazards are equally hazardous. Not all warnings need to be “red alert” because not all hazards require 100% focus to avert them. A lane-swallowing pothole ahead of a big group with oncoming traffic– that’s a red alert. A fallen water bottle bouncing to and fro seeking the most unstable wheel to slip beneath– that’s a red alert. Someone in the process of crashing– that’s a red alert. Or to be current with Tour de France trends, a dog running in front of the pack– that’s definitely a red alert. Please use your most urgent and alarming tone to announce the need for immediate attention to the pack when these types of things occur.
Now. There are other levels of hazard. Say, orange or yellow alerts, for the sake of a consistent naming convention. The shallow potholes less than a foot across that are very easy to dodge and do little more than provide a temporary bump of discomfort. The slightly rougher road surface or bump that you might wish to lift your more sensitive parts away from the hard saddle for. These sorts of things don’t require nearly as clamorous exclamations. In fact, a clear and direct point to avoid is often enough, but an explicit and firm description can be a helpful addition.
If “red alert” vocalizations are given for orange and yellow level issues, a couple things can happen. First, it can be anxiety-producing and somewhat annoying to be put into high alert continually over minor things. It’s extra stress that can make a ride less fun. Secondly, how will the riders know when it’s truly a “red alert” problem if all the warnings sounds equally urgent? It’s just nicer to have the message match the situation than it is to ride with Chicken Little, Henny Penny and the others.
Just a suggestion. No naming names. It wasn’t a major issue on today’s ride, but enough to make me think about it. That’s all.