MailBag: Everybody Wave!

Several weeks ago, Duncan expounded on his experiences waving at cyclists in different parts of Europe as he rode from Spain to Italy. (Read the story: Greeting Habits of Cyclists) He asked Cadel Evans about this in their recent “cawfee-tawlk” (

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Dunc’s Interview With Cadel Evans
I live in Atlanta and I hate the fact riders only waive about 1/2 the time. This behavior is the source of the thought that road riders are arrogant. Back in ‘95 I was standing next to the Olympic course. It was the trial race a year before the real thing. I see a skinny kid wearing a black jersey, shorts and a black leather back pack. I remember it like it was yesterday. The kid waived at me and like an ! @#$% – I looked away. It was Cadel he took second to Henrik Derjin.

I am a huge fan of his. Have been since then and what a nice guy to just acknowledge a fan.
– James Bailey

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We’re All Geeks
Dear Mr. Steele–
I so appreciated your piece on cyclists’ greetings. This matter has amazed and baffled me for some time. And yes, though I consider these all true in my experience, they must by nature be viewed as generalizations.

France, Pays Basque, Pyrenees Atlantique, and Haute Pyrenees (Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden and thereabouts): Everybody said “Bonjour.” Everybody. On the climbs, (they said) other things too. “Dure.” “Six!” (The Regina 6 on the back of my ’83 Atala.) Old guy: “Ahh, jeune…” Honestly, at least in those areas everybody was great.

Italy, Lombardia (Ghisallo), Alps/Western Dolomiti (Passo Stelvio): Always, everybody again, a “Ciao.”

Los Angeles, PCH and canyons: Always at least a wave. Very cool, very much a feeling of brother/sisterhood.

New York City, Central Park, Route 9W up into Jersey and New York State: Nothing. I mean nothing. Like you’re a centimeter from a guy’s shoulder going the opposite direction on the George Washington Bridge and nothing. You wave, say hi, you get iced.

I’ve thought a lot about this because this is the area where I live and my take on it is that it’s very basic. All bike people are geeks. Some admit, some don’t. In the States it’s a culture born out of web browsing, magazine reading and a great deal of dreaming, if not fetishizing. So when you see a guy out on the road many times, what you’re seeing is the end result of a “superhero-I’m-the-real-deal-fever” dream.

I’ll never forget hopping onto the wheel of locally based pro Todd Herriott and eventually apologizing for geeking out and tagging along for a bit as we were headed in the same direction. We talked about this very thing and he said, “We’re all pretending a little bit.”
So that’s what I think. We’re all geeks. Some admit it, some don’t.
–Neal Huff
New York, New York

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Hi Dunc,
I’ve had the privilege of riding and living in a couple of different areas in the U.S., here’s the breakdown:

Lancaster, Pennsylvania (My Hometown): They do in fact wave, nod etc.
Even the Amish or Mennonites wave unless they are flying past you up a hill
on a fixed gear from 1920 while you’re in a granny gear on your sleek racing
machine. Then they just like to hear you whimper.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (College): Here cyclists don’t have very safe
places to ride, at least around the city, where I lived. There were a
couple of trails that would be flooded and on these trails they would wave
to one another. Even on some of the streets big climbs you would at least
get a nod. With Pittsburgh it was a kind of waving to say hey I’m still
alive and haven’t gotten hit by a car today yet. Pittsburgh has been the
easiest place also to randomly join a group of riders as long as you pull
your own weight.

Sacramento, California (Work): I came out to sunny California with great
expectations of riding constantly with none of the snow/slush and brutal
cold winters on the East coast. One thing I noticed immediately the cyclists weren’t friendly at all! I’ve ridden on both the American River Trail (a nice paved mini-road that extends from downtown Sac to Folsom Lake, 60 miles away) and in the streets. The only people who I’ve experienced even giving a small gesture of camaraderie are the 40 yr old trying to get in shape while riding a too small schwinn from Toys R Us. The road cyclists here are out for blood and
God forbid they increase air resistance while training by lifting their hand to wave or nodding their head. My personal theory for this is that the area is saturated with cyclists so the competition level is very high. Although this theory was dissolved when I began riding in the next town after the American River Trail was flooded for weeks due to a bad storm.

Davis, California: This is indeed the bicycle capitol of the US, and it’s great! The first day I saw both a traffic jam of bikes and a parking lot full of bikes from every color and type racked on UC-Davis’ campus. You only think places like this exist in your dreams. With only being a hop, skip and a jump from neighboring Sacramento, this area is ideal if your sick of traveling on Sacramento roads and trails. Bikes rule here and are regarded higher than automobiles, plus there are about 4 bike shops in a 3 block radius in downtown. I have ridden a few times on a route I was given by a friendly local bike shop employee, quick 30 mile out and back through farmlands outside of Davis towards Winters, CA. I was
surprised how many road cyclists I saw. The ratio of cyclists to cars was probably about 5 to 1. And I would say about 80 % of them gave me anything from a quick nod to a giant hand in the air wave.

So there is my piece of this puzzle.
-Ryan Walter

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Hey Dunc,
About guys waving to each other on the road… I think if you ride in an area where you come upon 40 other guys per hour you really don’t give a rat’s ass about acknowledging each other. It’s like having a Honda Civic in L.A. and waving to every other guy you see driving one. It’s pretty common for me to be training alone at the beach in Orange County, Ca. and find I have 6 guys suckin’ my wheel and I had no idea where they came from. We could spend the next 2 hours sharing a pace line and never speak a word to one another. On a final note, I have to add that nothing feels worse than having a guy wave and you notice his gesture too late and don’t return the love in time and he thinks you’re a dick.
– Paul Wrightwood, Ca (mountains of SO. Cal)


There you have it – perhaps nothing more than some hot-air on a Friday, maybe nothing less than a bit more perspective… you’ll have to decide for yourself…

Till next time-
Get out there and ride!
– The PEZ

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