Monday, July 13, 2009

The Curious Case of Cyclists

I’m back from my two week blog sabbatical and today I want to try to formulate my opinion on those spandex-loving, pedal pushers that we call cyclists. You know what they say about opinions; they’re like A-holes, everyone has one but mine’s the only one that doesn’t stink. Coincidentally cyclists are sometimes like A-holes too. Sometimes. When I started running I was one of those annoying people who waved at everyone else on the path; runners, cyclists, rollerbladers, dog walkers, squirrels and speed-walkers. If you were out there exercising then we were kindred spirits and I figured the decent human thing to do was to acknowledge each other. Can you guess which of the aforementioned groups proved to be least likely to return my smiling head nod? If you answered ‘squirrels’ you’re absolutely right, but cyclists were only slightly behind them, scientifically proving that cyclists are only slightly smarter than squirrels.

Now I’m pretty sure that I have some cyclists that read Half-Fast (at least I did until I wrote that first paragraph) and I know I have some triathletes who visit, my wife for one, so please hear me out before you go getting all offended or leaving me nasty comments or putting my pillow and some blankets on the couch. This past week I had the misfortune of being accused by a cyclist of being a ‘douchebag’ and showing signs of ‘douchetardation’ in my very own comments section, which is annoying because I thought ‘douchetardation’ was pretty funny. Anyway, I’m probably projecting my displeasure at that one cyclist onto all cyclists which is a lot of fun for me, but completely unfair to cyclists in general. I hear that painting people with a broad brush and creating stereotypes is not a nice thing to do and can apparently be quite insulting, not to mention that it could lead to me being wrong about something which would be a travesty. Just as there are a few runners who are idiots (I can think of at least three), I’m sure that there are only a few cyclists who are idiots and the rest are probably nice people. For example, I bet all of you reading this are of the nice variety (read: please don’t be mean in the comments, I’m a crier).

Still, there’s a part of me (the part of me that sucks at cycling) that wonders if there really are nice cyclists out there. Take the Fat Cyclist for instance, on the one hand he is a cyclist and a law-breaker. On the other hand he has a blog that’s well worth reading, a writing style that I find quite similar to my own (i.e. plenty of baseless braggadocio and sarcasm except immeasurably better all-around) and he has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity which would indicate that he’s a nice person. It’s so confusing. Could it be that cyclists are people too? Can it be that they deserve equal rights, even equal access to the roads? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that they do because I’m a forward thinker like that. Cyclists, you’re OK in my book. I can imagine what a sense of relief you’re feeling knowing that you have my approval, but there’s no need to thank me.

So go ahead fellow runners, add a cyclist to your reader. You’ll feel good about having some diversity in your reader and you’ll realize that there’s more to life than running.


  1. Wow that guy in the comments is unbelievable. His douchtardation is so extreme its insulting to every other person who's ever been called a douche.

    I have to assume all cyclists are like this. At least until I can afford a bike.

  2. As I running with a cyclist who helped pace my long run, I gave the hello nod to an oncoming cyclist who actually said, "G'morning."

    I told my companion, "Wow, a nice cyclist." To which I received, "Not all cyclists are assholes."

    Who knew?

    I now assume that cyclists don't wave or otherwise acknowledge us because they are too busy balancing so as to avoid testing the limits of their helmets.

  3. I had a similar view of cyclist, until I got bit by the triathlon bug after an injury. Then when I started riding more often, I vowed to be that nice cyclist that says, “Hi” to everyone. Then I realized that the “rude biker” is more about timing then personality. I tried waving to people, but worried that I might lose control (after all, I’m a runner more than a cyclist). Then I tried to nod to my running friends but, I usually was about a quarter mile past them by the time I got the nod out. I still try to nod when I make eye contact, but I think I’m still probably too late.

  4. I think the more likely you are to die when you are involved in a collision, the more polite you tend to be:

    Runners - nicest
    Cyclers - next
    Motorcyclists - next
    Automobiles - last

    I'm quite a bit more likely to die when I impact a Cadallac Escalade, so I tend to be pretty polite around them...

  5. Ah, yes; a conundrum indeed. Perhaps you can get a Federal Grant to study this.

    I would put forth the suspicion that cyclists only greet other cyclists or runners they suspect are also cyclists. But having been condemned to cycling for a period of time, I can say this is just not true.

  6. I'm just happy someone called you a douche last week even when you weren't posting.

  7. I couldn't agree more and one of my earliest posts (last year) was titled, "what's the deal with Bikers"....this morning one said, "have a nice day!" and all of us were shocked! Mountain bikers are the nicest, followed by triathletes, and finally just the sole cyclers! At least that is my personal opinion--not worth anything!

  8. that cyclists' comment sounds like a real piece of ass-hattery if i've ever seen one. pedestrians are supposed to go against traffic so they have time to dodge vehicles. i'm disappointed to have that clown give cyclists a bad name because i'm a runner who rides and i'd like it if that didn't mean both sides hated me.

  9. Personally, I think that all of this forced positivity about cyclists is an attempt to seduce your triathlete wife. High five!

  10. after seeing a biker ride into a moving car last week (the second time in my life I've seen such a thing), I'm apt to agree with you on bikers in general. I mean, she rode into a moving car!!!

  11. Before I got into cycling and training for my first triathlon, I had the same impression of cyclists; mostly put together from comments of other non-cyclists.

    It was this past weekend that I truly came to the realization how wonderful some cyclists/triathletes are. There were more triathletes on this sprint course motivating and congratulating everyone that passed or they passed, then I have seen in all my 5K races put together.... and there were only about 50 participants in this event. Just another reminder that not all are bad because of one dirtbag!

  12. i am a cyclist and cyclists piss me off.

    virtually every group of cyclists i've ridden with opt NOT to shout out the customary, "on your left" when passing a runner, walker, etc. i find this ridiculous. saying nothing opens up the possibility of someone getting hurt. and the someone that is going to get hurt MORE is the someone moving at the faster rate of speed and with further to go to hit the ground.

    being a runner too, i make a habit of shouting out to folks well before i pass and then saying a, "good morning" or something as i ride past. even if i'm at the back of the pack.

    now, the wave thing? i think that's mostly just a timing thing, too. i usually flip my hand off the bar to wave or nod, but even when i'm cycling i'll rarely get a response. then again, i rarely get responses from runners when i wave. that's just california for you.

    but, there are those cyclists who get and get it right. they ride defensively and don't try to assert their rights upon motorists, they wave, they call out their presence...from my experience, though, they're in the minority.

  13. I just assume every cyclist on the road hates me. It can only go up from there.

  14. As long as they aren't in yellow and I can run faster than they bike, then I like them. But these days, those folks are rare, since every cyclist seems to be a Livestrong disciple.

  15. I concur with Jeff. I can deal with the non-wave part. I mean, it's probably pretty difficult to pull of the wave while watching the road thing. No biggie. But when you don't even have the decency to warn me you're on my left, then I don't have the chance to veer into you and sue. I figure all cyclists are rich cuz they gots cool, shiny bikes.

    Is "douchbag" pronounced like "couch-bag"?


  16. There are plenty of times in traffic on my road bike when I've not had extra brain space to wave, so non-waving cyclists don't bother me when I'm running.

    The blatant sneers from the spandex clad when I'm riding my bike in street clothes with groceries in the panniers... that bothers me.

  17. Interesting post. I've just starting cycling more, and I hope to get a road bike this week. Thankfully no one in NE works out, (including Razz- 3 days a week? Pfft) so I don't ever cross paths with anyone.

  18. We have some cyclists in our running group and they are good peeps. I figure the whole rudeness is just because they are moving so much faster and feel a little bit of ego in that sense. If they don't say hi back I just (naively) assume they didn't hear me.

    Please don't cry.

  19. As a triathlete who likes cycling a lot more than running (I'm just better at it. If I were better at running maybe I'd like that better), I'm sometimes a total jerk. But I always feel bad about it afterwards!

    While I'm on the bike I'm in my own bikey world. If someone yells something at me it takes me a while to process what they said and by the time I'm ready to respond I'm way too far past them to say anything. But I do smile at everyone I see!

  20. I'll briefly explain the whole "waving" thing and "saying hi" thing from a cyclist's perspective.

    And then later I'll do the same thing on my own blog, but with many more adverbs.

    WAVING: I sometimes wave to all cyclists and runners I can make eye contact with. Lots of runners and cyclists wave back. I imagine that the wave means, "Hey, we're both outside doing what we love to do. Aren't we cool?"

    Sometimes, though, I don't wave. The reason is because I sometimes have hit cycling nirvana, where I'm only peripherally aware of anything but the motion of my cranks and wheels. It's a blissful state and one of the reasons I get out on my bike in the first place: in the hope that I'll get into that zone.

    Of course, many things can snap me out of that happy place, but a wave (especially across the street) isn't always one of them.

    I'm guessing runners have a similar zone, where you've successfully shut out all non-essential external stimuli, and you're just running.

    So, when I wave and the other person -- runner or cyclist -- doesn't wave back, I like to just assume that person is currently in their happy place, and am glad for them.

    SAYING HI: Saying "hi" or "on your left" is a real problem, because I've literally made a runner fall down by doing so. A well-tuned bike is darn close to silent. As I've approached runners from behind and called out "on your left," I've startled many, and startled one enough that she actually turfed it.

    This is not a runner-exclusive thing, either. I've startled other cyclists as I've said "hi" or "on your left" as I approach, to the point where they've swerved and about ditched their bikes.

    And it's not like I have some extraordinary booming voice, either. My voice is very ordinary. Maybe a bit more nasal than I'd like. Maybe that's what's startling the people I pass: "HOLY CRAP THAT GUY'S VOICE IS NASAL!"

    I've tried throat-clearing, gear shifting, and other hopefully-non-startling sounds to pre-introduce me, but those don't seem to work.

    Maybe I need to stop lubing my chain, or get a brake pad to rub or something.

  21. Fatty: As for making some noise, I'm thinking a playing card in the spokes would do the trick, not to mention making you the envy of the neighbor kids.

  22. Or what about one of those big, squeaky horns?

    Yes, we get startled, but I'd rather flinch-hop to the right instead of wander to the left when a bike is passing.

  23. I'm sure there are decent cyclists, but if they emulate an
    @$$#01& like Lance Armstrong, they have a strike against already...

  24. I really think the majority of cyclists are rude. In Atlanta, they follow no street laws, and I have almost hit some more than once when they don't stop at a light, or a stop sign. They act like they own the road.

    That's why when I ride, I stay on paths. I don't want to be one of those.

    I will smile at you if I'm riding. Can't lift my hand long enough to wave.

  25. As a runner - and a cross-training cyclist -- i will say that it's a bit difficult to wave at somebody while riding my road bike at 20MPH ... the last thing I want to do is remove a hand from the one thing keeping me from running into you, squirrels, or cars ..

    Other than that, you are completely correct ... :)


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