On waving

Posted by SuperClydesdale on September 8, 2010 under Commentary | 8 Comments to Read

There’s a quick gauge to measure one’s geniality, and that is the wave.   If you are an observer of human behavior, you see it all the time.  People in a common struggle motivating one another, or people with common interests acknowledging one another — “you are just as cool as I am.” Cyclists are wavers.

Me waving during a ride last year

Cycling is generally a pretty sociable sport.  There’s a sense of camaraderie, a bonding with those sharing  the common struggle of man vs. car — an appreciation of fellow appreciators of the beauty of pedal-powered transportation (other than the recumbent, which everyone scoffs at – including other people riding recumbents – nobody should wave at anyone riding a recumbent).

I’m a waver.   I wave to other cyclists all the time.  I don’t know why, but I’m certainly not alone.  I think I do it as an ongoing social experiment – to see who waves back.  Hey, if you’re out there on a multi-hour ride, you have to do something to amuse yourself (unlike with my newfound favorite sport of mountain biking, where if you took the time to wave, you’ll smash into a tree.  Or worse).

I’ve noticed quirks — some unwritten rules — about cycling and waving, some of which are insightful and revealing,  and others are just puzzling. One of the first things I’ve noticed is that waving is apparently not acceptable between the cycling castes.  That is to say, people are far less likely to wave to someone who does not appear to be at their same level.

I’ve taken a quick stab at defining, at a high level, the caste system of the cycling community (admittedly, there are some missing entries that would capture aspects of urban cycling, so this is strictly preliminary):

The hard-core roadie: You spend more money on your bike than many people do on their cars.  You are probably divorced.   Everybody (but you) knows that you are taking this way too seriously.  You entertain thoughts of riding on The Tour.    You dress as though you have sponsors (which you don’t).  The hard-core roadie doesn’t wave to anyone.   Nobody is worthy of your acknowledgement, let alone a wave.  Acknowledging another rider might somehow convey that they are worthy of your attention.  You would crush them given the chance, so why waste a wave?

The serious amateur racer: Similar to the hard-core roadie in many ways, yet still in touch with reality.  The serious amateur knows that his V02 max is not world class, and that even if his father hadn’t forced him to play football rather than cycle, he would not have been a Tour rider.  He races because he likes the thrill, the competitiveness of it, and the danger.  The serious amateur racer will only wave to other serious amateur racers.  They know.  The serious amateur will seldom wave to any of the Clydesdale classes.

The avid amateur: This is a big group.  I’m in this group.  Cycling is your primary activity, and you do it whenever you can carve out a little time on your schedule, but you have a job, kids, a wife, and other interests (aka “a life” in some circles, or “baggage” to the hard-core roadie).  The avid amateur is perhaps the friendliest of all of the castes.  Many are self-appointed ambassadors of cycling to the community.  They work on bike trails, volunteer to help staff charity rides, and pretty much make the cycling world go round.  They write blogs.  The avid amateur waves to other castes above, but are snubbed by higher classes, who Viagra 100mg can see from a distance that the rider is carrying a few extra pounds, or doesn’t have nice enough shoes.

The casual rider:  You are a happy-go-lucky weekend rider just happy to be able to carve out a bit of time to get out on the bike, you will wave to… anybody.   Other riders.  Kids on tricycles.  Mothers pushing jogging strollers.  Motorists.  Life is good – I’m on a bike!   Because the casual rider is wearing tennis shoes, a wife-beater t-shirt, and is riding a 50-pound mountain-bike-looking thing, nobody else waves to him.  Not even his wife.

The recumbent rider, unicyclists, and bmx-ers who are older than 18:  You are not really cyclists.  Nobody will wave to you or otherwise acknowledge your existence, nor should they.  Your mother is embarrassed to admit that you are her son.

In addition to the caste system which dictates who can wave to whom, there are proximity rules – I know this is complicated.  But, trust me, this is how it works – check it out for yourself.  Proximity appears to govern the circumstances under which people will wave.  Too close – no wave.  Too far – no wave.  If there’s a barrier between you and another rider – no wave. If you are on a bike trail, unless you are a woman, nobody is going to wave to you, and you are not to wave to anyone else (unless they are hot).  It’s too close.  It’s like waving in an elevator.

If you are on a divided road, with some sort of barrier between the opposite directions of traffic, it is apparently too far for people to feel that waving is appropriate.  To do so appears to be “reaching” – trying too hard.  It’s just awkward and demeaning, and best just not to attempt it.  You just don’t see much waving on a divided highway, although  I have often seen a one-fingered wave from passing motorists, these don’t count.

If you are on a two-lane road – one lane in each direction – it appears to be acceptable to wave (to correct castes only, unless they are hot), in fact this is the primary waving territory.  The two-lane road is the comfortable distance, not too close, not too far.  Lots of waving on the two lane roads between people of appropriate caste levels.

Lastly, time of day appears to allow some sort of easing of the waving rules.  Very early rides at the crack of dawn, particularly in winter when it’s butt-puckering cold, you’ll see waving.  Or, if you make the mistake of going out in withering heat, people wave (perhaps they are calling out for help, I don’t know for certain).  Either way, people in misery will often wave, as if to say “you’re as dumb as I am.”  These are “shared experience” waves.

Many times, the wave is just too much.  It’s too friendly, or too aggressive,  or you’re just too damn tired.  In these cases, where acknowledgement of kinship feels appropriate, people nod.  The nod is another topic altogether, however, but is worth mentioning in this article because while it’s technically not a wave, but is a wave substitute – people who would have waved but for extenuating circumstances.

In the interest of brevity (although I’ve been accused of many things, brevity isn’t usually one of them), I have not discussed the many different types of waves.  This will be discussed at length in my upcoming definitive article on the topic, which I am thinking of calling “different types of waves” or some other clever title.

Stay tuned, my contribution to civilization continues…

  • Marcin M. said,

    Just catching up on the articles. Always know I will get a laugh :) For research purposes: I’m typically a nodder, although I do wave once in a while (my favorite type is the “hand gun salute into thin air”), but never in an elevator.

    Looking forward to further contributions.

    -Marcin.

  • Marcin M. said,

    Just catching up on the articles. Always know I will get a laugh :) For research purposes: I’m typically a nodder, although I do wave once in a while (my favorite type is the “hand gun salute into thin air”), but never in an elevator.

    Looking forward to further contributions.

    -Marcin.

  • Affman said,

    That is hilarious. I have thought similar things on rides. I nod or give the hand 4 finger flash off the drops if i am busy hitting it. And wave when practical. I get tired of the prima donnas that don’t wave. I notice that when i have my aero bars(i do tris too) i get even less waves….must be something against triathletes too…but don’t dare put me in with recumbents!

  • Affman said,

    That is hilarious. I have thought similar things on rides. I nod or give the hand 4 finger flash off the drops if i am busy hitting it. And wave when practical. I get tired of the prima donnas that don’t wave. I notice that when i have my aero bars(i do tris too) i get even less waves….must be something against triathletes too…but don’t dare put me in with recumbents!

  • Dennis8269 said,

    As a big rider nothing cracks me up more than when riders look at me as if I do not belong on a bike much less even have the balls to wave at them. What cracks me up even more is when I propel my 240 lb body past these 140lbs guys up most hills. That really pisses them off ;)

  • Dennis8269 said,

    As a big rider nothing cracks me up more than when riders look at me as if I do not belong on a bike much less even have the balls to wave at them. What cracks me up even more is when I propel my 240 lb body past these 140lbs guys up most hills. That really pisses them off ;)

  • Stumpy said,

    Waiting for the follow-up article. Great way to lay out the humor. Clydes should probably show by example whenever possible. Like the time I came up on two gazelle type “roadies”….on my mountain bike(yes it was a long uphill grinder, and I sucked out the last of the useable air on the trail) . Should I have waved or do you think that the sound of a street cleaner vacuum was sufficient acknowledgement?

  • Stumpy said,

    Waiting for the follow-up article. Great way to lay out the humor. Clydes should probably show by example whenever possible. Like the time I came up on two gazelle type “roadies”….on my mountain bike(yes it was a long uphill grinder, and I sucked out the last of the useable air on the trail) . Should I have waved or do you think that the sound of a street cleaner vacuum was sufficient acknowledgement?

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