BikeCommuters.com

“Cat 6” Commuter Racing?

Here’s a bizarre article rambling around the bicycle Interpipes:

Cyclists have a joke about “racing in cat 6″ which, despite the name, is not exactly a race nor does it refer to an official category of cyclists. Cat 6 refers to commuter cyclists, and racing each other to work is their sport. Also called “the great commuter race” and “hipster racing,” cat-6 racing is the unspoken urban tradition of trying to go faster than, and not get passed by, a stranger on your bike.

From GOOD, via Prolly (via Bike Snob NYC)

We featured a guest article way back in March 2008 that gave the skinny on competitive commuting — apparently our guest writer Jack Elder was onto something!

I had no idea such a thing went on! I admit that when I see a cyclist far ahead of me on my commuting route, I will race to catch up because a) our bike community is rather small here in Tampa and I might just know the person ahead of me…and it’s always nice to say hi to a bike friend and b) I rarely wear my corrective eyeglasses while riding, so I have no idea who someone is until I’m right up on them. I don’t try to blow past to show my mad cycling prowess, I just want to see who it is.

Any Cat 6 commuter racers out there? Anyone experienced this?

132 Comments

  1. Wayne Myer

    I see it all the time. I’ll roll up on some guy (always males that seem to do this) to share a greeting or check out their bike. More often than not, if the guy spots me, he’ll try to take off. Usually, I just let him go, but if I’m feeling antagonistic, I’ll hang a little off his wheel and let him run himself down.

    A most obvious example was at a brevet this past weekend. My stoker and I were in the last 500 meters of a populaire. We were coming up on a rider that was blatantly laboring and worn. As we started to roll past, he suddenly started wringing it, gasping and wheezing in some insecure effort not to be passed. There’s more context, but the short of it is: this guy was a DB all day long, scowling at anyone that passed him or offered help to other riders with problems.

    I don’t understand the mentality. Then again, I don’t race, either…

  2. Wayne Myer

    Oh, another behavior I often see: riders that attempt to sneak attack. They don’t announce that they’re passing, yet stay within a couple feet. I always snap my head in their direction and shout out a “Good morning!” heh heh…

  3. PsySal

    This happens a lot on a particular stretch of pathway here in Calgary, along the river coming into and out of downtown. I used to like to give chase (or be chased) when I first started riding a lot, but now feel it’s unsafe. Pathways are just too unpredictable, if you want to tear it up then hit the road!

    I think it’s quite OK to chase a bit on the road, pending conditions of course. There are a few well-used hills here and it’s a fun challenge to try and beat somebody at a climb.

    Of course, you never really sure whether the other guys is participating in the race or not, which is funny if you stop and think about it… =)

  4. J. Ryan

    Don’t forget about the Cat 6 Jersey from Twin Six!

    http://www.twinsix.com/gear/mens-tech/the-cat-6-2011-j

  5. Kristi

    Absolutely. I ride in NY along the west side bike path and have a few friends (all male) who are way more competitive than I am when it comes to racing to work. Sometimes I ride in with them but often I see them race past and it’s a quick hello and goodbye!

    I’ve been a bike commuter for over 10 years and have stopped getting into it with other cyclists even if it’s just for fun—unless I feel really dissed! Then I do my best to catch up and pass and let them know they just passed the wrong gal….

  6. Johnny K

    This is too funny… Since I cross the Acosta Bridge here in Jacksonville, FL I see this all the time. There are several bicycle clubs that use the bridge for umm training and it seems that they get a kick out of passing me a commuter with about 20 to 30 lbs. of baggage (aka laptop, clothes, brush, you know essentials) and they turn around and smile or they don’t say anything at all and just drift on my rear wheel for a few minutes and then pass. I usually move over and wave to let them pass. Little do they know that by the end of the day I have already ridden 20 miles since I go home for lunch. Anyhow on occasion I will let them pass me then catch them at the top of the span and overtake them back just to say “You with your fancy racing bike was overtaken by a humble commuter”.

  7. Mark Simpson

    I call it “Secret Bike Race”. And when i lose i declare that it was “Super Secret Opposite Bike Race” and thus by being slower i still win. 🙂

  8. Andy

    I love commuter races. I think I’m the sleeper though, because I’m often just going my usual speed up the hill, when a racer type will approach expecting to fly past me. I let them pass, then follow their wheel. I don’t do the big races myself, but do join in the local evening races, and commute year round up the big hills. So when the racers pass me on the commuter, I’m still able to keep up with no problem. I just wait for them to tire out and then ride next to them and have a laugh and a few words before the next turn.

    I rarely train for informal races, but the few times I try to get an extra 5 miles before racing, I just do a loop around the outskirts of the college campus and just try to catch all the commuters. It gives a good goal and makes me ride harder and faster than if I was just riding on my own.

  9. harry krishna

    guilty

  10. zyzzyva

    Happens all the time here in San Francisco. I’ll admit I’ve done it a few times myself, but only under certain conditions. If I get passed by a guy in jeans and T-shirt on a commuter bike, I couldn’t care less. If I’m on my cargo bike and some dude flies past in full kit on a 16lb carbon fiber rig, it’s on!

  11. Big Dan

    My daily uphill ride from work brings on an elevation gain of about 150 feet in one shot on the big hill. Going up, I’ve made it my challenge to pass any rider ahead of me, or to put a gap on anyone approaching from behind. I ride an old steel hybrid, with backpack, and so far, I “own” the hill. Cat 6 Racer? You bet!

  12. Ghost Rider

    @J. Ryan — leave it to Twin Six to have the perfect jersey for it!

    Man, I need to get out more…or at least move to a more vibrant cycling city. I had NO IDEA Cat 6 racing was so common! Keep the stories coming, everyone — this is good stuff!

  13. Dan Wuh

    Cat 6.5 – racing commuters in cars?

    I see so few people on my commute, I find myself racing cars off the line instead!

  14. Karen Coutts

    Checking in from Vancouver. Unwilling Cat 6 racer here. Generally I like to ride quickly, because I like speed. On my commutes to and from downtown I noticed a pattern. Very often I am riding at a steady, fast speed, and… I approach someone steadily from a distance, and then, when I pass them, they suddenly speed up and try to pass me back. Here’s a clue to what is going on: I am female and they are always male. After huffing and puffing in an intense effort to pass me, without warning or signal they veer off to make a right immediately after passing me. This has happened many times. I find it quite a coincidence that they always manage to pass me right before the point they have to turn off… Do you think they are so spent from the effort and they cannot bear the thought that I might pass them back as they fizzle out?

  15. Bomber

    I work on a college campus so as I approach or leave work, there is always some guy (yes almost always male) on a mountain bike who is going to catch and pass me. He is only going a mile, wants to “show up the roadie”, I’m going 18 each way. These people don’t bother me, I just chuckle. When I ride the mountain bike, this generally does not happen. I just get passed by a more diverse group of people when I ride the mtb. As Karen says above, they almost alway turn a short distance after passing me. I race myself, putting on between 150 and 180 miles per week, I can’t afford to ride anyone elses ride but my own. If you ride a bike to work, you are “beating” every car driver already, if your fragile ego needs to beat another biker to feel tough, well “go for it.” =Bomber

  16. minimumwage!

    I live in a pretty small towne in Northeast Tennessee. I do not see a lot of commuters out on a regular basis, but when I see other bikers I try my best to catch up to them, just to make eye contact and say hello. Just trying to make connections with the rest of the bike community around here.
    I occasionally run into a club and/or one or two racers out and they have rarely been friendly, sometimes it looks like they try very hard to deny my existence on the road. Usually they just sprint past me and leave me just shaking my head wondering if that move somehow makes them feel like they are more of a cyclist than me. I could give a rat’s ass what kind of bike you are riding, how long you’ve been riding, or how light-weight your bike is, we are all out there having fun…the least you can do is smile and/or give a head nod in my direction.

  17. "Classic" Ron

    I am a “Cat 6” racer. Yes, I am that arrogant prick on a single speed with rolled up work pants racing past the Mid-Life Cyclists. I ride around my town so much that any cyclist is fair game for a race. I do tend to target the guys in full roadie kits because they give me the best challenge (the good ones will let me pass them and ride my tail before blowing by me on a flat section of town). These “Cat 6” races usually aren’t held during my work commute, but rather on post work rides.

  18. Anatoly

    I love racing Cat6, especially against non-commuters. Unfortunately, here in Phoenix, especially during the summer, you never see any cyclists on the road. Most times I am the only racer out. Boo. In the fall/winter months, however, it’s open season.

  19. Scott

    I do this all the time, now knowing there was a name for it. If I see a guy ahead of me, I try like heck to at least catch him. And if I get passed, I really try to at least stay with them. I don’t know if it’s a male thing, or not. I think my internal dialog is something like “Am I that out of shape? I must be tired today. I need to kick it up to be better next time.”

    And, when I commuted on a comfort bike, I was embarrassed when I got passed by a woman on a mountain bike. Made me want to get a faster, more upright bike- like the kind I have now. :^)

  20. Iron_Man

    Yeah, I do it. I can’t help myself. It’s particularly fun to grind past someone while I’m on my full suspension mtn bike and they are on a road bike. I have no idea the level of fitness or effort that person is putting in, but in my head they are 20 years my junior and hammering like mad just to try and catch my wheel. I generally feel bad that I didn’t ride along with them for a chat though. I gotta stop.

  21. RANTWICK

    Does racing e-bikes count? Because I’ve done that.

  22. DK

    #812

  23. Jami

    #5635 I tend to race stoplights as opposed to other cyclists. I’ve often done my entire commute of 7 miles without havign to put my foot down.

  24. Andy

    thanks for helping host the alleycat! Andy, #6749

  25. Ghost Rider

    Jami, I do that too, sometimes. All the intersections have pedestrian countdown timers on the walk signals, and I take FULL advantage of them!

  26. Terry Bruce

    #1065 rounding the bend

  27. aaron 8363

    Wheeee!

  28. Ian Prust

    Sweet I too am a cat 6 racer, and I try to pass every person I see (safely of course).
    Ian Prust
    #9475

  29. DK

    The only time I race is when passed by someone “riding bent”… a matter of personal pride.

    #812 DK

  30. Badda Skat

    I race a lot of the roadies I see on my way to work every morning. They don’t like me too much. Hahahaha

    Badda Skat #6233

  31. JM

    4889-

  32. Jean

    Jean/5162

    Looking forward to checking out the rest of the site (when I’m not busy trying not to be dfl).

  33. Brent Strange

    Brent #2277

  34. mrben

    mrben #3089

    I’ve always heard it referred to as “Silly Commuter Racing”…

  35. Aaron

    No cat 6 racing for me. Unless it’s to get home before the beer gets warm. 5827

    P.S. this is a great site.

  36. Reuben

    #5920 I WIN!

  37. Claire

    Claire #1186 Never heard of this! doesn’t sound like my cup of tea…

  38. Claire

    Claire #1186 Never heard of this! doesn’t sound like my cup of tea…

  39. goathens

    7561 racing + commuting… this sounds like a bad combo- but then again, I ride a 3speed!

  40. NewGirl!

    Can’t say I’ve commuted yet, but I appreciate a leisurely pace much more than racing!
    #8706

  41. Den

    Den #7685

    I’m definately a cat 6 racer…

  42. Iwakura

    Never really thought about it, but racing others on the street can be quite adrenalinic…
    Specially when I do it against buses and motorcyclist stuck at traffic jams xD

    Iwakura
    #772

  43. Glenn Girtman

    Glenn Girtman , #6163 Still to old and slow to race.. but, I’m working on it.

  44. Widsith

    #1330 found another one, but isn’t interested in racing anybody (except on the Web).

  45. Spencer

    Spencer #9545
    cat 6 is fun

  46. Thomas Alexander

    I ride up and down a lot of hills and I am the only person on my route. I can’t really say that I personally have anyone to race to class/work, however if I did, I think it would make cycling even more fun. x.X

    #7804

  47. sinred

    #9125 sinred losing breath

  48. Alan@EcoVelo

    #5016

    Perhaps the Virtual Alleycat is Cat 7??

  49. Opus the Poet #899

    Where I ride there aren’t enough cyclists to race commuting, but I did do the Tour de Commute time trial once a week

  50. cycler

    cycler 4505

  51. John J Wilde

    I am a cat 6 racer (sort of) The best in my area. Oh, wait, I am the only one in my area. It is easy to be the best when you are the only one. LOL
    Xtrajack #1455

  52. DaveS

    Not me, not #9336. But my SO does it on her exercise runs. She’s 105 lbs. and exercises on a heavy old mountain bike (“for the resistance, ya know”) but she still keeps track of how many folks she passes and how rarely she gets passed…

  53. Debbie

    #4848

  54. Hunter

    Hunter #9782, way too slow for such things.

  55. Mark Balawender

    #2530 hates being passed on the bike trail, and also feels bad passing people sometimes.

  56. Kelt

    Trevelyan Bloomfield, #1806
    picking up speed …

  57. Tom

    GoodGnus #9501

  58. allium

    On my very, very short (2.5 miles) commute, I’m usually the winner in a field of one. Occasionally, I see someone headed the other direction. Once I pumped a flat tire for someone headed in the opposite direction. Only once did I see someone headed my way. He quickly passed me and disappeared in the distance.

    Allium 8247

  59. Mister A

    8310 I am not racer, I just push a lot.

  60. Dan Harrelson

    #2913

  61. Pauline

    Pauline was here! #2794

  62. samh

    Alleycat racer #1656, and yes I’ve definitely experienced Cat 6 “racing”.

  63. Jack Bulkley

    Jack Bulkley #6933

    I will try to catch other riders, but then I talk to them instead of passing them.

  64. All Ice

    Oh yup. Cat 6, always passing.

    #9806

  65. Christopher

    Let them pass, I’m still getting where I am going.

    #892

  66. Erik

    This is the best blog post I have come across in the Alleycat. Now I know what category I am in! Erik 8049

  67. Ryan

    Is there a Cat7? Love the Cat6 idea

    Ryan #1578

  68. Archergal

    I am arguably one of the least competitive people on earth. I’m old and I’m SLOOOW. But even an old, slow rider can get the urge to try to get just. a. little. closer to that rider in front of me.

    Archergal #1498

  69. Richard Wezensky

    Not a Cat 6 racer, but it sounds interesting.

    Richard #4540

  70. Bikergram

    #4811 – Commuter racing: used to do it, but the other commuters didn’t know they were in a race. So I usually (not always) won.

  71. erikJ

    I use commuters ahead of me as a little motivation, it’s fun to catch people on the bike path

    #2787

  72. jameslee

    850

    too slow

  73. Veloflanell

    #4023

    I´m the Laterne Rouge of commuting…

  74. caroline

    caroline #3074

  75. Alex Clark

    I like to race the cars. Although, once they realize I’m racing them, I lose quickly.

    Alex Clark
    #4358

  76. Jay

    #4776 tries not to do this on his commute

  77. Bryan Lewis

    #5035 leaving fortune cookies…

    Skiing and biking are both needs. Not wants, needs. Because active people are happy people. You need a terrific body to house this incredible mind we all have.
    Dave McCoy, 89-year-old founder of Mammoth Mountain
    Bicycling magazine, Mar’05

  78. Jeff

    Jeff #879

  79. Jason

    I commute pretty regularly and I’ve definitely ridden in some Cat 6s. I didn’t realize there was a name for this. Usually not intentionally, but we’ll each keep speeding up a little bit until we’re in an all out sprint. Trying to get to work faster?! What’s wrong with us? 🙂

    #3175

  80. Patrick Kitto

    #6968, hitting my rhythm now…

  81. cb

    Nice checkpoint! I’ve been guilty of silly commuter racing 🙁

    CB, #2082

  82. ScottPost

    Cat 6 – but dang, got passed twice on ride to work this morning, it hurt!
    ScottPost
    #9928

  83. Derrick

    Derrick S. #226

    I’ve done this numerous times with the same guy on the way to college in the mornings. My favorite part is that he is riding a high-end bianchi and I’m on some nameless touring-style bike hahaha when we see each other on campus, respectful nods are exchanged

  84. Blue Fish

    My Nihola is built for cargo capacity, not speed, so I never try and race anyone. But because my ride is so unusual, I’ve had bikers slow down to talk to me. So I guess I’m an the anti-commuter racer…

    #5080

  85. Kendall

    #9729 Hopefully I’m not the lanterne rouge in the cat 6 challenge!

  86. johnnyk

    #3215 just having fun racing

  87. HoppyOkapi

    I always try to catch up, usually only to get passed again! Not a very good Cat 6’er, I guess.

    HoppyOkapi #3431

  88. shanerh

    Yeah, no one is going to pass me just because I have a long and heavy bike. You gotta represent the cargo hauling capacity by not getting passed by the techno-weenies!

    shanerh #9708

  89. Jesse

    #8352 I like to count till I run out of fingers… then I have to start over

  90. EPIC! Stratton

    I definitely do this. Granted it’s nice to just sit and chat with other commuters too.

    EPIC! Stratton #1904

  91. Rudi

    Racing “Cat 6” in DC can be a bit of a death sentence. I tend to use the “cat 6” moments to work on trackstands and off-the-line sprints. While it confuses the hell out of other cyclists, motorists and neighborhood dogs, it’s a lot of fun.

    Rudi Riet, #2975

  92. Zev

    Zev 9287!!!!!!!!!!

  93. Sean

    I didn’t realize it, but yeah, I do get a little competitive when I get passed on the way to work. Sean #4911

  94. Mr. Wakiki

    To be honest with you, this is a race — and unfortunately it should be a stroll, to enjoy the web sites

    #6669

  95. Revolutionary Mama

    Revolutionary mama is racer #1873

  96. tc

    #4089 is sometimes a racer

  97. PerdidoNoEter

    #6647
    I’m more a dog person.

  98. kerry

    sometimes cat 6 -when bad cycling technique people have to pass me because i am on a ‘ladies’bike I will notice my speed go up .and when old fat geezers in lyrca have to go pass me I quietly smile to myself when I overtake them further up the road

  99. kerry

    again with the id #3686

  100. Bevco

    Aha! I just learned something! I’m a Cat 6 – always wanted to be in a Cat. Thanx! Bevco #7012

  101. Bevco

    Wait that sounded bad… meaning I always wanted to belong to a “category”… just sayin…

  102. George Rutherford

    5995
    Thanks

  103. Sweep, #6313

    Yay!! Cat 6. I’m more like Cat Nap!!

  104. keely

    keely #4440 wheeeeeee
    hmmm stuffing with lycra clad peoples stereotypes can be fun….

  105. Skip owens

    Alley cat 4947

  106. jollytin

    jollytin #5353

  107. Gary #5039

    I suffer from “trying to go fast enough to keep other commuters in sight”. Which is probably a null category.

  108. Fred Hintze

    I knew there was a reason the Globe wants me to catch the college kids I see on my way to work!
    Nice site. Thanks for hosting–I will be back.
    Slowvehicle 2730

  109. Bo

    Bo #8671 once saw a competitive bicycle commuter.

  110. Olev

    #6386. Following along behind…

  111. Microzen

    #8315

    I’m not a cat 6 racer, but I miss the days of passing everyone on my 20 mile commute back in my early 30s. In my late 30’s I felt like even the Grannies were passing me on 5 mile rides.

  112. Ludgero

    Ludgero#7678

  113. Mathieu Lapointe

    Mathieu ‘navetteur’ racers that always get overlapped. Guess it’s good for the other esteem! Alley cat #5121

  114. djjazzynick

    7920. Yup Djjazzynick.

  115. JWM

    Check out twin six clothing, they have cat 6 gear (jerseys, socks, etc). I have no affiliation, but love their clothes. I believe their take on cat 6 is slightly different.

    #9921 / JWM

  116. flaneur brian

    Heh…CAT6? No…I’d never catch ’em!
    But I’ve usually got a CAT5 in my bags for patching my laptop into the office ethernet so I can catch up on the REAL skinny…

    Flaneur Brian #2966

  117. BykMor

    I always let the Cat 6 Racers fly by me. It only annoys me when I catch up to them 5 minutes later.

    Cheers,
    BykMor, #5113

  118. Andrew

    I’m digging this alley cat. Turning me on to alot of good bicycling sites i have/would never come by.
    Andrew #3481

  119. Ben

    I totally do this. If I see someone ahead of me, I HAVE to catch them. Even if their jogging!

    Ben #9356

  120. Daniel M

    Another new site to me. Will check out more in the future.

    Daniel, #592

  121. Michael

    8774, Michael

  122. The Other GR

    Sorry to say I have done this a few times.

    The Other GR #5475

  123. Kowenn

    kowenn #3784

  124. Ruth Turner

    I need to change my job! I’m the only one on the road during my commute at 0630 and 2055. Or maybe I’m the winner by default?

    Good enough!

    Ruth Turner #6691

  125. Chris Nygaard

    7316
    Where is the beer at this checkpoint?

  126. mossless

    yep.. I hate to be passed when commuting. and like to catchup to someone ahead of me..

    mossless – 1581

  127. John

    Harder and harder still
    the trick is strength of will
    i won’t be distracted
    my search will be impacted
    and my prizes will end up nill

    John #7947

    http://www.hackin5hit.com

  128. greg

    greg 2755
    Heres my manifest

  129. conjob

    conjob, #5853

    i am currently in kathmandu. when i try to commute by bike here, the only one’s i’m really competing with are the goats and cows that wander into the street.

  130. Weasel_2

    Yup, on the 50+ mile RT up and down PCH in Southern CA the Cat 6 race is a given. We’re mixing it up with other commuters, recreational riders, even the occasional pro TriGeek at the end of a training ride. It is almost always good-natured, with lots of mutual admiration expressed between those inflicting the pain and their victims. When passing, there is usually a little pause, just long enough for the victim to grab a wheel, if he or she cares to participate. Extra credit is granted for riding a preposterous rig; like a rattle-can-black fixe with flat bars, fenders, and inboard-mounted bar ends, or a 2-speed foot-shift MTB with big knobbies and drop bars. Yeah!

  131. Turky lurkey

    I’m definitely a cat 6 racer. It is very hard for me to let somebody just blow by me, even if I’m trying to do an easy day. The ones that are most fun to drop are the ones that fly by without me having noticed them before and then slow down 30 yards in front of me. If they do that I know they sped up to pass and are probably tired, so it usually only takes a little extra effort to ride by them and out of site. Also if I pass somebody I make sure I’m riding a pace that I can maintain. I definitely get smoked from time to time though and that’s ok, it’s all in good fun!

  132. B

    I do it almost every ride.

    Sometimes other cyclists, sometimes the cars.

    Makes the riding much less boring.

    Only regretted it once, was consciously trying to take it easy, enjoy the beautiful day, when a roadie in full kit blew by, really unnecessarily close (it’s a MUP, but it’s a wide MUP).

    Picked it up a bit to catch and tsk tsk about the unnecessarily close, high speed pass. As I approached the roadie sped up significantly and I thought to myself, oh, well it’s really on now isn’t it!? I could still keep up on my cheapo single speed without wheel sucking (which I consider poor taste even in cat-6 racing), but oncoming traffic didn’t give me a safe pass/converse moment.

    After about half a mile of me peeking for passing opportunities sometimes coming up a bit but then having to duck behind again to not create a dangerous situation, I got a look that made me realize how my actions had been interpreted.

    The roadie in question was female. It’s not that this hadn’t registered, but the thing that didn’t register is that my actions had been interpreted as an extended ogle session. Which was probably stupid of me. But crap! Slowed it way down to give a less creepy distance and branched off at the earliest opportunity.

    I’m sure someone had a little story that day about how they had this creep trying to roll up and dusted him before he gassed out and skulked off. And that’s fine I guess, I just am so far from being a creep/jerk I really hate to have accidentally projected that, made someone feel yick. Oh well.

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