Cyclists of the World Unite! Or at least be friendly

My husband and I recently took part in a local sportive.

How times have changed…

In the past (before children), we would have entered the longest route. The night before the ride we would have made sure we got enough sleep. We would have arrived early so we could start early. After the ride, we would have gone home to eat a big dinner and put our feet up on the sofa for a well earned rest.

Now, we enter the shortest route. We don’t often get out for longer than an hour so it’s hard to train for long distance. The night before the ride we were amazed to only get up once at silly o’ clock to fulfill an absurd request from a small person. We set off early to drop the children at their Granny and Grandad’s house for the day, then headed off in a rush to make sure we didn’t miss the last start time. After the ride, we picked up the children and went home to eat a big dinner, put the children to bed (repeatedly) and bake a three-tier birthday cake for the following day.

But we were cycling.

We were cycling together.

We used to cycle together every weekend. Sometimes during the week too. It was something we probably took for granted.

Since having children we do still find time to cycle, but very rarely together. We were chatting about this recently and both agreed that, when we can get babysitting, we would probably rather go for a cycle than go for dinner.

I’m not sure what this says about us apart from the fact that we are most definitely confirmed cyclists.

It was great to be part of a fairly big event with lots of cyclists on the road. It reminded me that we are part of a community of a kind. The sportive was run brilliantly and we had a fantastic day.

There was just one negative.

About five miles in I had a mechanical. Fortunately, I also had my mechanic (husband). It only took 10 minutes or so to fix so it wasn’t really a big deal.

In that 10 minutes, maybe 50 cyclists passed us. 2 slowed down and called to see if we needed any help.

Only 2.

We didn’t need any help so that was fine.

Except, it really wasn’t fine.

Not to my mind.

If I see another cyclist stopped by the side of the road, I always slow down to ask if they are alright. Always. Not just if they are on their own. Not just if they are on a road bike. Not just if their bike is clearly broken in some way. Always.

I do this because I would like to help. When I see another cyclist, I see somebody I have something in common with. It doesn’t matter how fast they are cycling, or how far they are cycling, or what bike they are cycling. They are cycling.

Most of the time, folk do what we did; smile and shout “we’re / I’m fine” and wave you on. This is fortunate because my good intentions are about where my helpfulness ends. I can fix a puncture, but so can most other people. Beyond that, I’m not really much help. As my husband will attest, I am better at breaking bikes than fixing them.

But it’s the thought that counts and I hang on to that.

It’s being part of a community that counts. And communities support their members to the best of their abilities.

Is it me, or are fewer cyclists offering support to each other these days?

Are fewer cyclists smiling and waving when they pass each other?

Or am I just getting old?

Cyclists, we are already a minority. Some days it feels like every other road user hates us. Let’s back each other up.

When you see another cyclist, see somebody you have a connection with. Connections are important. Connections with other people make life worth living. They are what make us human.

Smile and wave folks. Smile and wave.



8 Replies to “Cyclists of the World Unite! Or at least be friendly”

  1. Suspect your problem was you were riding a Sportive which tend to attract “newbies” not “proper” cyclists that acknowledge each other, ask “are you are ok?” if stopped at the side of the road etc. 🙂

    Having said that I always noticed riding around Edinburgh other cyclists were much less likely to be friendly compared to cycling in Fife

    1. I’m not sure I’d agree to be honest. I ride sportives and I always acknowledge others. It’s not just something I’ve noticed on the sportive, just the number of cyclists there highlighted it to me. To my mind, everyone on a bike is a proper cyclist.

  2. Have you thought about riding a bike with your kids? It wouldn’t be the sort of high-speed fun that you’re used to, but there are lots of bikes that can carry older children (cargo bikes and the like) some with electric assist to help with hills. A pair of bikes each with room for a kid on the back would let you ride as a family.

    It seems t0 me that people just aren’t as friendly as they used to be. Granted, I’ve moved from the USA midwest (known for it’s friendliness) to the San Francisco Bay Area (known for brilliant tech folks that are often socially awkward). People generally just seem too wrapped up in their own little world. On public transportation or walking, almost everyone is listening to their iphone, or staring at their phone, or talking on their phone. Driving in a car, they’re doing the same thing.
    People are so concerned with themselves and their own little world that they don’t think that they should help other people. Often it seems they don’t even notice that there’s other people out there.

    I’d like to think that if I passed you when you were on the side of the road, I’d have at least said “you ok? Need help?” but if you’d said yes, I’d have to admit I don’t really know much about fixing bikes and probably wouldn’t be much help. Perhaps people saw that you already had someone helping you, and figured you didn’t need any extra help?

  3. Nice post. The description early on about fitting in cycling around children rang true – it’s hard work. I have to admit I’ve always found people friendly and helpful on the sportives I’ve done. Sad to hear that wasn’t the case with the event you did.

    My boys, 7 and 5, are both confident on their bikes and we’ve done quite a bit of riding recently. We love exploring the countryside together. I’m sure when your little ones are a bit bigger you will find the same. Before you know it you’ll all be doing the local sportive as a family 🙂

  4. I’ve never had any others of help when I’ve had mechanical problems, so can’t comment on whether people are more or less likely to stop to help, as my number has always been ‘0’.

    On the other side, when I’ve seen somebody by the side of the road I’ve generally assumed that they’d know more about what to do than I would, with the addition that if the person with a fault is female then any offers would not be welcome.

    1. I don’t think that an offer of help should be unwelcome, male or female. If anyone else offered me help when I had a mechanical, I would politely accept or decline, but I would never take offence.

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