Thursday, May 16, 2013

Say Hey

Supposedly, the season of change is upon us, and a friend told me I should just embrace it.
That’s being made difficult to do considering this is “The Winter of Lindsay Lohan:” every time you think you’ve heard the last of it, it’s back for another bout of sh!t show.
I like it.
Despite winter’s hanging in the limelight much later than usual this year, I’m pretty good about switching the gears come early April and getting back on the bike.
Motivation to do so was stronger this year too since I had been without a steady after-work activity since late February when I backed of skate skiing due to a strained MCL.
This past week, my riding really felt like it kicked into high gear. I don’t know what happened, but my normal 2-hour, 31-mile, 4,000-foot elevation ride on Monday was one of my all-time best, and the best I’ve ever put in this early in the season. On Tuesday, even with the legs feeling a bit stiff from the solid effort the night before, I did the Arctic Bike Club’s Campbell Airstrip Road Hill Climb, and had an absolute blast climbing the 4.1-mile and 800-foot course in 15:25 for 4th place in the Sport division. The ride reminded me how much I love being in the competitive mix.
But riding hard and pushing myself is something I’ve always strived for. There’s something else I’ve decided I need to embrace this year: saying “Hey.”
OK, well, actually it’s quite rare that I will verbally say “Hey,” but as long as I’ve lived here, I’ve been first, perpetually nagged by how small the riding community is, and secondly, how disconnected they are.
Living in the Kenai, obviously, the riding community was small; that’s what you get for living someplace with such a small population to begin with. Everyone knew everyone else who rode, there were only a few roads to actually ride on, and even when unintended, we all regularly crossed paths. Waves were more likely to be gaining a riding partner or stopping for a quick chat.
Then I moved to Anchorage.
The area actually has a healthy population of riders, of all breeds and from all tribes.
A hopeful sign this spring too, is that I feel like I’ve seen a lot more people out on the roads than in the past few years, despite the cool spring. I have no way to quantify this, but it sure feels that way.
Anyhow, I noticed pretty quick when I moved to ANC that when I would wave to a passing rider, I rarely got a response.
Let me back up for a second.
When I say wave, I’m talking about either a drop of four fingers from the hoods or drops, to maybe a full release of the hand, dropped a few inches off the bars for a second.
This:

Is not so much required.
I’ve lived in other parts of the world and the country with far more robust populations of riders, and the wave has always been standard.
In fact, the whole wave thing was so prevalent, particularly in New Zealand, I had to come up with some hard rules about who I waved at: No commuters, cruisers, safety vests, no one on a sidewalk, no waving while on a bike path, and of course no TT/tri-dorks; only fellow roadies… and stoked kids too I guess.
Here in the frigid north, in a typical ride, I might see anywhere from 3 to 6 riders, of all sorts, riding both on the travel lane and the sidewalk (where they exist).
I maintained my rules for the first few seasons, even though I saw so few people out riding it hardly mattered, but the few roadies I did see rarely waved back, and some even gave me bewildered looks.
I decided that as of this season, I don’t care. I’m making it a point to wave at everyone I see on a bike while I’m out riding, pretty much regardless. Roadies, grandma and grandpa taking a cruise around the hood, the weary commuter sporting a neon vest and multiple flashing lights, and yes, even the TT/tri dorks. The one caveat, still no bike paths. That could get ridiculous (look mom, no hands!)
So far, my experiment has yielded interesting results. About 1/3 of the people I wave to probably don’t even see it. Maybe they’re not looking, maybe they’re too busy trying not to fall into a pavement crevasse.
I guess I should say too, I’m not going to wave while cooking 40+ down a descent, nor when hammering into a corner, or any other situation where I’d rather have two hands on the flight deck.
Another 1/3 of riders waved to catch the wave and return it. Most rewarding, about half of this 1/3 (What’s that, a 1/6? Math was not a forte.) return the wave with a smile.
And then, there’s this other 1/3, that catches it, but doesn’t return it, with no obvious excuse.
Now, I desperately want to say they are all TT/tri-dorks who are hanging onto their bars desperately, less they have a mishap that leaves them like overturned potato bugs (LINK), but sadly, that’s not the case.
Of particular annoyance, I keep intersecting a small group ride of 3-4 guys that never returns the wave. Not a single rider. I’m pretty sure it’s the same crew. And, they all appear to be roadies.
So, the last time this happened, I decided it would be just that, the last. I seem to see them at about the same spot on one of my usual loops, so clearly they are riding a pattern too, and I doubt it’ll be all that long before we cross paths again. Next time I roll by though, if at least one of them can’t figure out how to drop a wave, I’m hitting the brakes, whipping it around, and riding up abreast to the front of their pack (they’re not going that fast) and falling back through, saying hello to each and every one of them individually, asking how their ride’s are going.
If these guys can’t figure out how to have a basic form of communication with fellow riders, then god damned it if I won’t squeeze it awkwardly down their gullets from a soft plastic water bottle full of platicy-tasting “kind gesture GU” (fortified, with 30g caffeine).
This town, hell, this state, is too small for anyone to have an Arione up their a$$.
We on two wheels are all just prey species; forage fish swimming in an ocean full of V8-equipped sharks.
The greater the sense of community that exists between us, the more we school up, the better we are in the long ride.
So, say hey.

1 comment:

cancundudley said...

I'll almost always give a smile and head nod. Sometimes a four finger from the hood wave with it. I have no idea why the roadies are so aloof here. They need to realize just how vulnerable they are to the rest of the population, that they aren't invincible and they aren't the hottest s#%! just because they can ride the road. I'd like to take any of these guys and have them ride in real hostile places like Miami or L.A., they'd be humbled very quickly. Some of the friendliest, warm smiling-est, hug-you-when-they stop at the same coffee stand as you folks you'll ever meet were in Miami. We knew that on any given day you could be batted, back of the head slapped, kicked, spit on, car doored, truck horned, soda thrown on..., and once I got a blow dart in my back. There was safety in numbers, but most importantly it was nice to know I was never really alone. I hope it changes and it doesn't take overcrowding and an awareness of one's vulnerable mortality for this to happen.