Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The mongrel

Cyclists wave to each other. That’s what we do. Doesn’t matter if we know each other or not. It’s usually not. But if you see another cyclist coming towards you on the road, you take your left hand off the bar and open it in a friendly gesture. Perhaps this little civility is why when we race, we call each other “brother.”

When this rhythm is disrupted, it’s sort of like when a Westy driver doesn’t give his compatriot the peace sign, or a Yotavan driver doesn’t give his fellow the bird. Certainly not high treason, but it reflects poorly on whomever failed to participate.

Sometimes, though, you see it coming. Like on Saturday, when I was casually pedaling through Alpine on my way back home. Two cyclists were riding towards me with the look, if not the pace, of riders on a Very Important training ride.

As I approached, I opened my left hand to bid them hello and happy riding. But instead of waving back or outright ignoring me, the lead cyclist looked at me long enough to see if I was friend or foe, evidently determined foe, then turned his gaze back to the white line and kept riding.

Now there are situations when it’s OK not to wave back, such as 50 mph descents, negotiating tight switchbacks, or alley-catting through traffic. But rolling at 19 mph on the quietest road in the most bike-friendly town in the state is not one of them.

And yet, the failure to wave was exactly what I expected. Looking at me first inquisitively and then disdainfully was somewhat surprising, but I knew the guy wasn’t going to wave. The sleeveless jersey was the giveaway. Obviously one of that mongrel breed of loners who call themselves “triathaletes.”


  1. Sleeveless jerseys...meh. Good for nothing but sunburn.

    I run a little bit in the 'hood, and this morning I said "mornin'" to some fellow joggers. They said nothing. There's always the language question here, but I could hear them speaking English. A mile or so later, I passed another guy, and he said "hello buenos dias" just as I said "mornin'". He had both languages covered. Now THAT'S how you do it!

  2. On the MTB, where verbal greetings are appropriate, I always say "howdy." Anything else seems to come out wrong if I'm breathing hard.

    Brad Keyes wears sleeveless jerseys from time to time. But when you're as fast as Brad, you can wear whatever you want.

  3. i say the proper greeting, at all times, everywhere, is "Hey." said more like "Heh."

    i'm not so much a waver as a nodder. i always nod. waving is a lot of work.

    you know what i hate? i hate the motocycle "low five." even though i have a motorcycle, i don't do it. "Hey! I'm not in your club. Stop with that stupid secret handshake crap."

  4. Don't want to hijack the SBJ comments...but I will.

    Dug -- I like the nod, only I do a reverse nod. Sit up in the saddle, and raise your chin in acknowledgement. Weird? And I also hate the "low five". My dad-in-law always ask me if cyclists have a similar wave, and I always say no. Why does he keep asking???

  5. If they were in fact "triathaletes" you need to cut them some slack for not waving. Everybody knows that "triathaletes" have terrible bike handling skills and the act of taking a hand off the bars would likely result in a crash.

  6. I try to make some friendly gesture, even if I suspect it won't be returned. Whatever, that's they're problem.

    I get the sense that some cyclist believe if they wave it's an admission they're just a recreational cyclist. Well I've got news, unless you're a Cat 1 (or heading there fast) you ARE a recreational cyclist. Get over your ego.

    I usually say "howdy", and I'm generally OK with it - sounds casual and friendly, but a bit too cowboy and I'm just an urban kid. I like "hey" and will work it in.

  7. I used to always say, "Hi, how's it going?" whenever I passed anyone. Then Elden did that post on how he hated people saying "Hi, how's it going?" when they pass him, and now I don't know what to say anymore.

    I used to be into motorcycles, and the waving/acknowledgment rules were way complicated, and depended on brand of bike, whether you wore a helmet, etc. But when I rode a sportbike, other sportbike-riders used to give a little clenched-fist power-salute, left fist raised to helmet-level, elbow @90 degrees. I had no idea what it meant, but I loved it. Made me feel like I was part of some paramilitary revolutionary movement. Which was perfect for me, since I always wanted to be a "rebel", but was never particularly wound up about anything.

  8. I have been cycling for about 8 years and I have noticed it has gotten a lot less friendly- whether it is simply waving or asking stopped riders if they need anything (two things I always do). Is it related to the Lance and Trek and "cycling is the new golf" boom? Anyway, the one consistency I have noticed is that anyone with a Fat Cyclist or Masher jersey will ALWAYS offer a greeting - they seem to be a majority of the few who still practice cycling etiquette. Think of this as less of a rant and more of an expression of gratitude for a great community of riders.

  9. I rarely wave to other cyclists. I take the same approach as I would if I was driving my car. When driving a car, I do not wave to other drivers just because they are driving a car as well. I do not even wave to other drivers who are driving the same make, model and colour as I am. So I see no reason to wave to cyclist just because they are riding a bike.

    On the other hand, I do wave to cyclist who I know well. I do this whether I am riding a bike, driving a car or even walking. Similarly, I wave to car drivers or pedestrians that I know well whether I am on my bike, in my car or walking about.

    I don't mind if another cyclists wave at me. I may or may not wave back.
    However, this expectation that I must wave to other cyclists when and only when I am on my bike seems tribalist to me.

  10. I say you can never trust a man who goes sleeveless. (Sorry, Brad K.)

    The first time I went hiking, I was so surprised at the friendliness of all the other hikers. I kept asking Aaron "Do you know them?" He explained that's just how hikers are...I loved it.

    Nice to know bikers are mostly the same.

  11. Anonymous - You make some good points, and I'll continue by noting you don't greet or wave to everyone in the grocery store, and you walk right past them.

    I think you hit the nail on the head, we ARE a tribe. A tribes is a group of people with something(s) in common (for us bikes, boldly colored lycra, etc.). It seems very natural / human to me for people with things in common to want to make some sort of social contact.

  12. After reading this post yesterday I had no choice but to wear a sleeveless jersey on our ride to work together this morning. Hope you enjoyed it.

  13. UTRider,

    You made me reconsider sleeveless. You looked hot. And cool. And your tan line was awesome.

  14. Wow, who knew? I ride recreationally, I pretend to be a triathlete and I have a motorcycle. Sometimes I even go sleeveless. I always wave. But I have noticed, Roadies don't wave to Hairy Legs, Choppers don't wave to scooters, Streets don't wave to cruisers. It's all about "the club" Can't we all just get along? I write this even though I once kicked a scooter over with the rider on it. Oh well.