What is it with us roadies? Why aren’t we a bit more cheerful when we pass each other? What’s with the po-faced reluctance to acknowledge fellow cyclists who have the temerity to smile, nod, wave or otherwise express solidarity? 

Time and again I’ve nodded and smiled at oncoming cyclists only to be rudely blanked, leaving me bemused, mildly irritated and, yes, even a little hurt.

When I used to spend my Sundays picking my way carefully along the South Downs Way on my MTB (always carefully – I never was much of an off road hero) I’d always smile or wave at passing cyclists and I’d almost invariably get a friendly greeting in return.

Often there’d be a few words exchanged too, particularly if the encounter took place a long way away from anyone else – the more deserted the meeting point, the more effusive the greeting. And I suppose that makes sense – if you’re trekking across deserted wasteland you’re clearly more likely to chat to someone whose path you cross than if you meet on Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon.

Maybe that’s why road cyclists generally keep themselves to themselves – because roads are generally busier than rural trails. Maybe that means the sense of freedom experienced by a roadie is more meditative than a mountain biker’s. Maybe roadies look inside their own heads for contentment on a ride while the mountain biker’s joy is more rooted in their surroundings.

I quite like that theory actually. But even if that explains it, I still feel irritated when a smile and nod at a passing cyclist is greeted with yet another expressionless glance.

But that’s nothing compared to the way I feel when I grow tired of the surliness and decide not to acknowledge the next cyclist I see – only for them to smile and nod at the last possible second before disappearing from view! Not content with making me feel unloved, now you’re trying to make me feel guilty too! It’s enough to turn a chap paranoid. 

Or maybe we’re all doing the same thing. Perhaps the surly looks I get have all been prompted by unreturned earlier smiles. And every time I fail to smile I’m just perpetuating the problem for the cyclist behind me!

My head hurts.

None of this has anything to do with TRAT of course. On that subject, I’m looking forward to meeting up with my fellow racers against time for the first time on 13 February, when we’ll be riding together, and doubtless surreptitiously assessing each other’s fitness on a 70-mile training ride around Guildford.

Postscript: I went for a fantastic (if rather icy) 60-miler this morning and was warmly greeted by every single cyclist I passed. I honestly don't think this has ever happened before.

So much for that theory then…


Lifelong lover of most things cycling-related, from Moulton Mini adventures in the 70s to London bike messengering in the 80s, commuting in the 90s, mountain biking in the noughties and road cycling throughout. Editor of Simpson Magazine (www.simpsonmagazine.cc). 


ourmaninthenorth [81 posts] 8 years ago

Martin - interestingly, my experience is entirely the opposite: in these parts, the road cyclists seem to be the friendly ones, and the mountain bikers the more miserable.

I tend to find that any road ride elicits a nod, wave or smile (or sometimes all three from the more dextrous) from other road riders, whereas any encounter with mountain bikers (whether I'm on my road or mountain bikes) seems to be one of suspicion and, above all, an apprent judgement of my worthniess according to the make and model of bike I ride.

There was a bit of a myth propogated around 20 years ago by Mountain Biking UK that all "roadies" (as defined by them - not something I have heard any road cyclists use in self reference) are miserable, and it seems to have stuck in the minds of self-identified mountain bikers. Not sure why, but it is odd.

Perhaps it is the subtlety on an acknowledgement that is missed. In the UK, the nod is a downwards movement, but I found that in Italy - a place where a studiously arrogant appearance is a near art form - the nod is an upward jerk of the head.

Or maybe, just maybe, they all know about this crazy grinning man and are a little scared of you...!

DaSy [835 posts] 8 years ago

The road greeting is definitely more covert, and I think a lot of cyclist may miss it.

Round these parts it is just a lifted finger off the brake hood, or maybe a nod. If you are looking for a smile and a wave then you may miss the subtle finger lift.

therevokid [1023 posts] 8 years ago

pottering about the lanes of Clevedon saturday and the
Bath bike path Sunday saw / heard all manner of "hello",
"how's it goin'", "God you look knackered", "hi" and
various nods, raised fingers and full on waves ... from
all and sundry road riders and mtbers

very pleasant indeed  1

neilwheel [133 posts] 8 years ago

The other day I gave a cheery wave and said hello to a woman heading in the other direction. My greeting was met with a blank, unwelcoming stare.  2

Then again, I was in Tesco's at the time....

cactuscat [286 posts] 8 years ago

if i wave to any other riders i normally end up in a bush, control/multitasking not my strong suits. so it's a nod from me. and a hello if i'm not knackered  1

Tony Farrelly [2960 posts] 8 years ago

I'm a nodder me, but I definitely agree with the idea that road cycling is more meditative, one of the reasons I've never wanted to bother with an iPod when riding

andyspaceman [256 posts] 8 years ago

I ride both fat and skinny tyres, and find that MTBers rarely fail to return a greeting, whereas I would say that most, but not all road riders do.

However, given DaSy's point about the subtlety of road cyclist greetings, I shall look more closely to see if there's some I'm missing.

Another possible theory about the difference between the two is the physical distance. On an MTB you're typically on a trail much narrower than any road, and therefore pass so closely to other riders that it's virtually impossible for there to be any doubt about whether someone was issuing a greeting or just trying to rattle a fly out of their helmet. On the road you're usually much further apart, so for some it could be an element of self-confidence and doubt?

Simon [43 posts] 8 years ago

I too ride fat & skinny tyres. There was a myth that roadies are/were miserable/ignorant gits, I think in hindsight probably perpetuated by self righteous mtbers  19 -after all they are a lot cooler aren't they!!?? To see what a lot of mtbers are like have a look at the back biting snidey remarks on stw.  2 imho there's no need for it.

However.... round here, anyway the roadies are mostly friendly and usually offer some kind of greeting. I don't know if it's the shock of a "roadie" greeting a mtber, but I (we) usually get a look of utter shock in return for our efforts!! So who's rude?

Come-on lets all be nice & make the effort, the world will be a nicer place - there's too many cyclist-hating daily mail readers to deal with without us being nasty to each other.

Go on give it a go, say hello or even just raise a finger!!! (pref. not a middle one)

Martin Thomas [384 posts] 8 years ago

I might try to develop a subtle greeting that's all my own...perhaps an arched eyebrow, or an ear-twitch (I can only do them both at the same time, so perhaps that's not quite subtle enough). How about a Samantha-from-Bewitched-style nose wiggle? Or perhaps it would be better to go completely the other way and insist on a hug from each passing cyclist...