I saw you today. I’m pretty sure you saw me. At least, you looked my way as I was pedaling west on my bike, and you were spinning east. I smiled and waved. Your expression never changed. If I had to label your facial expression….I would define it as indifference. Of course, despite my persistent headwind, we passed pretty quickly, and I was across the street. So maybe I missed a head-nod, or maybe just an upturn of the corners of your mouth, indicative of an almost smile.
And by “you”, please understand I’m speaking to a very large group of cyclists on the roads of northern Colorado. I would never be so rude as to call out “you” specifically. Just, you know…”you”.
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For this short entry….please manage your expectations. Today’s blog is more of rant, and it will not be based on a peer-reviewed research study. Let’s call this one “wisdom from an opinionated midlife cyclist”. I’m invoking editor’s privilege.
I lived in Roswell, GA when I first self-identified as a cyclist. Not just a fitness enthusiast trying to get some cardio, but a spandex wearing, hopelessly addicted member of the Velominati. At the time, almost every cyclist I passed on the opposite shoulder, loosely defined as a bike lane – would offer an enthusiastic wave when they passed. I was on a bike, they were on a bike, that’s all that mattered. Instant camaraderie, instant community. It was us cyclists against…them. The cars. The red lights. The sedentary lifestyles contributing to chronic disease. Dogs not on a leash. We are the skin-tight, brightly colored rolling billboards, not understanding why everyone does not share our love with touring the city or countryside on two wheels. We recognize each other for our shared passion and values, and we saluted each other’s joy and dedication. We waved.
I now live in Colorado, maybe more in love with cycling than ever. My enthusiasm for all things related to bicycles has only grown. Which is maybe why I am so disheartened when so many cyclists roll by without recognizing that we are in the same fraternity. No wave, no smile, and sometimes – more disturbing – just an emotionless glare.
I lived in Georgia for a very long time. When I see someone flying a UGA flag from their car or house here in Colorado, I feel an instant affinity. But my birth state – that is an even more robust connection. I was born and raised in Arkansas. And every Arkansan knows that no matter how long ago you left that state, you will always be a Razorback. And Razorbacks, by birthright – know how to “call the hogs”. I have run into groups of Arkansans all over the country and have spontaneously broken into calling the hogs – from a restaurant in Indianapolis, to a conference center in San Diego. “You’re from Arkansas”? Instant community.
That is how I normally feel about other cyclists. Whether you are a speed demon in search of new PR’s, or a couple on a tandem (who are almost always smiling), or if you are using your bike for daily commuting – we are a community. I have no idea who you are, but we are now a “we”.
So….why don’t you wave?
I understand you don’t have to like chocolate because I like chocolate. I drink coffee black, maybe you prefer a latte. But I’m constantly confused and saddened by the number of cyclists who don’t share the same sense of community. Obviously, you don’t have to feel the same as I do, but….I’m still going to wave.
I’m going to wave at every cyclist who is not fighting horrible traffic, who is not descending at 30+ mph, who is not rotating through an aggressive paceline. We may not be riding for the same reasons, or the same goals – but that’s ok, we are both in love with cycling and that is enough for me.
If you are a cyclist, riding in Colorado and pass a guy on a red BMC with a big grin on his face – that will be me. And I am going to wave. You are a cyclist, and you are part of my community. If you have a flat, I’ll stop to help. If you are struggling on a climb, I will shout out encouragement. If you see me on the road and wave – I will wave back.
And if you just happen to be from Arkansas, know anyone from Arkansas, have ever driven through Arkansas….I’ll be happy to call the hogs with you. In public.