I’m not waving because I know you…



I’m waving because we share common ground. Or so I thought.

I’ve ridden my bike all over this place. I mean the marble we call Earth.  More specifically, I have raced and trained in about 38 states and 7 countries, lived in 6 different areas of the U.S., and logged more miles and big professional races than I can count.  Yet I don’t rate a wave from a majority of other cyclists in my new home.

Jeannie Longo wasn't too good to have a chat with me. (Photo, Doug Mills)

Jeannie Longo wasn’t too good to have a chat with me. (Core States USPro Championships, Photo by Doug Mills)

When two motorcyclists pass each other on the road they give each other a low wave – a semi-secret hand signal that says, “We don’t know each other, but we both like riding moto’s and we deal with the same challenges .”

Since I began riding road bikes in the 80’s the same situation had applied to other cyclists.  A cyclist wave is your left hand (for those of us who ride on the right side of the road) up off the bars and a look, maybe a smile.  That’s it.  It’s simple.  It’s polite and it is what we do. Or did.

I have lived a few places; some good, some not so good.  When I was based in Western Massachusetts the riding was amazing. The quality of riders was high; some training rides were five of us, all professional riders, all doing really tough workouts.  All taking a second to wave at others on two wheels.

When I lived in Columbia, MD it was all I could do to make myself go for a spin. The climate for cyclists was one of the worst I have ever seen in terms of safety and road-sharing; the cops road-raged us there. But still, other cyclists took that second to acknowledge us.  Misery loves company.

One of the places I first noticed “the wave” was absent was one of the greatest places for a cyclist in the U.S. Good old sunny California.  They don’t wave there.  Excluding a few good apples of course. I guess they don’t want you to move there.

Now I live in Salt Lake City.  It is the most bike-friendly place I have ever lived. Cars give up their right-of-way for cyclists (I wish they would not – it’s unpredictable).  But as friendly as it is, the majority of road cyclists here are, well, complete douchebags.  Yup, I will go blue to describe them.

At least the views in Salt Lake are nice!

At least the views in Salt Lake are nice!

Perhaps they are everywhere.  Eight-thousand dollar bikes, carbon clinchers, power-meters, STRAVA-driven…you can read more about them here (unless you already know what I’m talking about).  I am continually appalled when I am out rolling along and do “the wave”, that not only do I not get a wave back, often the other rider will look down and away.  Appalled.

Either these riders think they are too good to wave at the likes of me, or they are too wrapped up in their workout or STRAVA PR to take a second.  Maybe they haven’t been schooled on the etiquette of cycling (again, read this).

To those who think they are “too good”, here’s my advice.  Take your 45+ Master’s racing butt to a big race and enter the OPEN Pro 1-2. Oh, OUTSIDE OF UTAH.  If you stay in the race for longer than five minutes, make a friend. Go for a ride with that friend in his neighborhood and observe, because the closer to P.R.O. he is, the more likely you will see him wave.

Or maybe, as I love to give folks the benefit of the doubt, maybe they think, “who is that? Am I supposed to know her?  I’m so embarrassed I forgot who she is. Maybe I’ll just look this way and pretend not to see her.” Like you do at a party when you know you’ve met someone too many times to ask them again for their name.

Somehow I doubt that explanation.

Why I might have been slow last summer.

Why I might have been slow last summer.

But just in case, let me introduce myself.  I’m a former P.R.O. rider who now races Nordic skis.  I have done races you can’t ever imagine.  I have ridden more miles in my little ring (again click here) than you have in your lifetime.  Maybe I’m riding this slowly because I’m doing a recovery ride, or a Zone 2 long ride, or maybe I’m out enjoying the nice day.  Or perhaps I’m eight months pregnant (like last summer).  Or maybe I’m doing intervals and going hard.  No matter what, though, I can muster the strength and time to raise my left hand off the bars to you to acknowledge that we share common ground.

Now you know me. Wave back.

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