In this week’s Broken Spoke Duncan ponders if the newly converted aren’t a little too serious? Have they bought into the cycling idyll, without investing a little love?
I’ve been riding a long time and in the early days there was a definitely a sense of solidarity among riders. My first cycling adventures were aboard mountain bikes in the late ‘80s, a time when they were still a bit of a novelty. If you ever saw another mountain bike riding in those halcyon days you’d stop and have a chat, maybe even ride some bits of trail together.
When I began riding on the road there was no stopping to chat but each and every other rider would acknowledge fellow cyclists. It might be a nod of the head, a cheery hello shouted across the road or simply a hand lifted off the handlebars in the barest of waves.
Even when I was commuting by bicycle during the ‘90s others riders I would see regularly commuting by bike would nod or wave, especially those riding nice bikes. There was a real sense of comradery back then.
So now I’m wondering what went wrong and when did everyone get so miserable while out and about riding bikes? The last time I went out for a Sunday morning ride, earlier this month, there were more fully kitted out riders around than I can ever remember seeing, but not one of them returned any of my casual greetings from across the tarmac. I’m beginning to think the acronym MAMIL should be changed from middle aged men in lycra to miserable angry men in lycra.
Maybe it was my fault because I was smiling. Going out on a bike makes me happy, but for some of those I‘ve seen recently you’d think that is was a chore the way they scowl and snarl. Maybe despite having bought the latest electronically shifted, carbon framed, team replica and matching team kit, they don’t like it when an old guy on a steel framed touring bike hands them their arse on a plate on a climb? When the same thing happens to me, it makes me smile and I think to myself, “I hope I’m still riding when I get to pensionable age…”
Then again, could it simply be that due to the number of new riders taking to the road and bypassing the traditional club scene, where you would learn road craft alongside courtesy, that accounts for the lack of friendliness that is so common now.
That lack of traditional entry into the lore of cycling could have far-reaching effects beyond just not bothering to acknowledge other riders on the road. Will this new generation of riders stop to help someone at the side of the road with a mechanical? Then again, do new riders understand the importance of carrying a spare tube, a pump, and a multi-tool? Again, this is could be a symptom of the decline of old school cycling culture. The lack of greeting could be the thin end of the wedge…
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