Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cue Sheet Club

M. Tot.LegInstructionsKm TotalLeg
0.00.0Start at Greg Cox's house (Control #1)0.00.0
0.00.0(N) 144th Ave SE0.00.0
0.30.3L(W) SE 240th0.50.5
5.75.4L(S) Russell Rd9.28.7
6.10.4R(W) Meeker9.80.6
6.70.6ST Thru light onto Reith Rd (Becomes 259th)10.81.0
9.12.4L(S) 16th Ave S.14.63.9
10.31.2BR(S) Pacific Hwy S.16.61.9
11.41.1R(W) Dash Point Rd.18.31.8

If the first rule of Fight Club is that no one talks about Fight Club, the first rule of Cue Sheet Club is that everyone talks about cue sheets. Actually, I think the rule is that everyone complains about cue sheets.

Many bike club rides and virtually all randonneur events use cue sheets, yet it seems that at every event there will be at least one person at the sign-in station who will stare at the cue sheet as if it is an artifact written in ancient Martian. They may have trained for months to ride this event, obsessed over gearing and tires and lights and food, but the idea that they might have to read and follow directions while riding simply never crossed their mind. So they stuff the paper into their jersey pocket and follow the person in front of them. While this Blanche DuBois approach of relying on the kindness of strangers often works surprisingly well, it strikes me as being at odds with the self-sufficient spirit of randonneuring. Nonetheless some fast friendships have formed from these navigational alliances and a fair number of great blind leading the blind stories have resulted from cue sheet mis-cues.

On other end of spectrum from the Cue Sheet Virgin (CSV), we have the Cue Sheet Obsessive (CSO). The CSO has measured tire roll out to the nearest millimeter. The CSO has the cue sheet loaded into a GPS unit. The CSO has studied Google maps of every meter of the route and has printed a copy of the cue sheet out in a font that is scientifically calculated to provide the best balance between compactness and legibility. If you are a CSV, you want to be following a CSO. Be aware, however that throughout the ride the CSO will update you on exactly where, when and how the cue sheet is in error.

In between the CSO and the CSV there are the mass of men and women who somehow cope with the cue sheets they are dealt. For many folks, a plastic bag and a binder clip keep the cue sheet dry and in view. Others manage to memorize a few lines of instructions and pause periodically to consult the cues and refresh their memories. Some folks have a map holder on their handlebar bag.

The thing about cue sheets is that they tell you where to turn based on how far you've gone. Thus, the key to using them is to have a sense of how far you have gone. For most of us, that means using a cycle computer of some sort. If you are one of those folks whose "not into that whole numbers scene, man!" that's cool but know this: you forfeited your right to complain about the cue sheet when you decided to show up on a cue sheet ride without a computer. If you can ramble your way through the course in a comfortably vague way, more power to you but if you complain, somebody is going smack you upside the head with a GPS. You have been warned.

I have to confess that at various times I've been each of the kinds of folks I've talked about here. I've been the clueless cue newbie, the obsessed mathematician, the crunchy granola dude. I'm riding a 200K this weekend. I think my computer is pretty closely calibrated and I've taken a look at the cue sheet. I'll probably even print it in a font I can read and put it in a plastic bag that I'll attach to my handlebars with a binder clip. I might not even make any wrong turns, but I can't promise that. I can tell you this, however, I know that I'll be involved in at least one conversation about cue sheets, and I'll be puzzled by at least one intersection.
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