What's Cool In Road Cycling

Greeting Habits of Cyclists

“It baffles me how in some places bikers are friendly and some just don’t acknowledge any existence of any other biker on the road.” Our international ambassador of the roads Dunc Steele, offers some interesting insights into the greeting habits of cyclists around the world. We may all love riding bikes, but some of us speak different languages, and some of us are just jerks…

I’m not classic looking biker, in fact I’ve been told I’m not a classic looking anything. I know how to bike, maybe I’m not a swift little thing going up mountains and I’m sure any pro biker CAN NOT ride Alpe D’huez at my speed… without falling off their bike due to a lack of forward momentum, but I get to the top and enjoy it.

You can be fast, you can be good, but the main thing is to enjoy it.

A few years ago I rode the US west coast from Seattle to Mexico and everybody said hello to me, going in one direction or the other, mountain bikers, roadies, touring, young, old, male, female, shaven legged or not, I always got a verbal sound and a little wave, I was even acknowledged by touring motor-bikers.

Now here in Europe, it’s all a different tune. Even from region to region in Italy acknowledgment changes. Last year I rode from Santiago di Compostela in Spain back to Milan, the route was all across the hilly northern Spain, down the Pyrenees to South coast of France, into Italy and then the Milano-San Remo route backwards back home. On my way, 2700km of road and track, which I rode with my dear ex-girlfriend Francesca, I came across many many cyclists. This is what I noticed…

In Spain every cyclist acknowledges the other, with a nod or a little wave. If they passed me going in the same direction, which they frequently did, there was a verbal word or grunt exchanged. Once I started to get towards Bilbao the tune was evidently different. Going in one direction or the other, everybody waved or shouted to each other then once I got the other side of Bilbao into Basque country the welcome from EVERY cyclist was fantastic. A wave and a shout and from what I could make out, words of encouragement.

There are 1000’s of bikers on the roads I Spain and they enjoy it. We were slowly, and I mean slowly, slugging up a long drawn out hill, and with the panniers on a bike even a 3% hill has to be confronted like a 10% hill, 3 members of the Euskaltel-Euskadi Team that went past us at a speed I would have problems reaching on a flat road, wind behind me and without panniers. They all said a brief ” Ole” and off they went. They came back down again, as they were doing hill sprints, and on the way down we received another ” OLE”. When they passed Francesca on their way back up again, they offered to push her so she could catch me. Being a tough cookie, she refused the help, they said their goodbyes and wished us a good holiday. Every cyclist we met gave us a healthy hello.

We crossed the border from San Sebastian to Biarritz in France and BANG… nobody said hello!! In a space of 10km from the warmth of the Spanish Basque country cyclists we met up with other bikers… said our hello’s and we were IGNORED!! WHY, PLEASE TELL ME WHY?

Anyway, trundling down the Pyrenees the hello’s depended on if they were going up or down the mountain. There are a lot of tourists in the Pyrenees so the hello’s came from some and not others, but still nothing that compared with The Spanish Basque boys.

Down on the French Southern coast, here I met up with a lot of German bike touring couples and groups and they were all very chatty. Local racing boys, even when I raised my hand and said ” Bonjour” never gave a response! As I got closer to Nice, I was basically giving up on even trying to get an acknowledging nod. But I carried on, always with no reply.

It’s so funny. I was looked at and studied but never got a hello! I always say hello to the biker that I’m drafting and if I can’t help, I always say thank you for the ride. I found road bikers that drafted me, I’m on my old faithful 15year old Cannondale mountian bike with slicks, 20kg of luggage on a 3 week biking holiday, these road boys drafted me… I turn, to be polite, say hello and with no answer they one by one sprinted off my wheel!! I chased them and by this time I was in great shape, 2000 km in 2 weeks of hills and mountains, I caught them and sprinted off their wheel…..WITHOUT SAYING HELLO!!! I felt great!

To finish my story and to add salt to the wound. When I was 10km outside of Monte Carlo I was making my way down a little hill when 2 blond pros from T-Mobile and Quick Step stopped behind me. Not wanting to go back up the hill to find out who they were I carried on, to be met by no other than Vinokourov! He was traveling up the hill at the same speed I was traveling down….I recognized him from a way off, his unmistakable style…..so I prepared myself for the moment of truth… would Vinokourov acknowledge me? I look… he looks…. I nod, raise four fingers in a wave whilst holding my handlebars and give the international hello from a distance ” heilla”!


I was deluded. I wanted to go back to Nice to go up and down the Col de la Madone to see if I bumped in to Lance, to see if he would say hello or even a nod of the head, the max from Lance would be a “Howdy”. Instead I carried on through Monte Carlo into Italy where in some parts I was acknowledged and others not… and as I did from San Remo to Milano I kept on thinking about how pro cyclists acknowledge other bikers on the road or if they even do?
But I’m sure Lance would say hello to me with my overloaded Cannondale …. he would wouldn’t you Lance?…Lance? So a huge thank you to all the Basque cyclist’s for making my trip through your region even nicer, especially the Euskaltel-Euskadi boys.

Ciao for Now and a hello to everybody!!


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