On good cyclists versus bad cyclists

I suppose I should be grateful to the author of the “mummysgonnacycle” blog for her latest blog post, because it has got me cross enough to dust off this blog and post something. The post is entitled “Cyclists of the world unite! (or at least be friendly)” and is a grumble about 1) people on a sportive not stopping and offering to help her husband who was fixing a mechanical and 2) not all cyclists smiling and waving at all other cyclists.

Now on a sportive, there’s mechanical backup (that’s one of the points of doing a sportive) and she obviously had someone there who knew what he was doing. I can totally understand people not asking she was OK – especially as if everyone who had passed had asked she’d have been saying “Yes, fine, think you” umpteen times. So I’d cut people some slack there. It would have been different if she’d been standing on her own obviously not knowing what to do.

With the greeting every cyclist you see – it depends on context. I don’t say hello to everyone I walk past in Edinburgh, and I don’t greet every cyclist I see in Edinburgh – there are too many. If I’m out hillwalking, I will greet other walkers because there are few of them and we are acknowledging our shared hobby. So when I’m out in the country on a training ride I’ll usually greet other cyclists. I might not if my hands are full of bike though – if I’m going steeply uphill or fast downhill I want both hands on the handlebars, thank you!

This thing about “we’re all cyclists united in our mode of transport”, I really don’t get it. You don’t greet every car driver you pass, do you? But if you drove an unusual vehicle you might greet drivers of the same kind of vehicle. We want cycling to be so usual that greeting a cyclist would be as odd as greeting a car driver, and the only cyclists who greet one another are riders of recumbents… (I was going to say, and Bromptons. But Bromptons are getting very common around here these days.)

It seems to me that when I’m out on my Brompton in my street clothes, transport cycling nice and slowly, then I am a Good Cyclist, a good advert for cyclists, behaving myself and not scaring children and old ladies; but when I put on my lycra and get out my fast bike I become a Bad Cyclist, a lyrca lout, wearing silly clothes and putting some effort in and getting out of breath and sweaty. The horror. But I obey the rules of the road whatever bike I’m on, I treat other road and shared path users with respect whatever speed I’m riding, I’m the same person whatever I’m wearing.
Yes, it is actually OK to train, to want to be a faster, stronger, fitter cyclist, to race and to enjoy racing and competing and trying to be the best you can be whatever that means for you; yes, I totally accept that not everyone enjoys sport, not all cyclists are sports cyclists, not everyone wants to challenge themselves in that way. Just don’t criticize those of us who do.

I did a triathlon last Sunday. As we were coming down the valley, there was a short stretch of road where there were mountain bikers coming up the valley, connecting two off-road sections of a long (175km, I think) mountain bike ride. I was on my TT bike, I had a tail wind, I was down on my aero bars going as fast as I could. I did try and say hello. I think I may have confused some of them. Triathletes are notoriously grumpy, of course…

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