Friday’s foaming rant: Wave dynamics revisited

You cannot have a proud and chivalrous spirit if your conduct is mean and paltry; for whatever a man’s actions are, such must be his spirit.DemosthenesThird Olynthiac A colleague recently described one of those cheery encounters that help make American cycling what it is today: an obscure, cliquish activity whose elaborate and inexplicable pecking order would be the envy of any chicken run. My colleague was out for a ride on his ’cross bike, saw another cyclist on a road bike, and had the audacity to give him a friendly greeting — which, naturally, was haughtily ignored. Three times this

By Patrick O’Grady

What looks like an asterisk? (Hint: It's riding a bike, and won't return your friendly greeting.)

What looks like an asterisk? (Hint: It’s riding a bike, and won’t return your friendly greeting.)

Photo: Kurt Vonnegut

You cannot have a proud and chivalrous spirit if your conduct is mean and paltry; for whatever a man’s actions are, such must be his spirit.
Demosthenes
Third Olynthiac

A colleague recently described one of those cheery encounters that help make American cycling what it is today: an obscure, cliquish activity whose elaborate and inexplicable pecking order would be the envy of any chicken run.

My colleague was out for a ride on his ’cross bike, saw another cyclist on a road bike, and had the audacity to give him a friendly greeting — which, naturally, was haughtily ignored. Three times this ritual was repeated, and to my colleague’s credit, instead of twisting the little turd’s head off and stuffing the carcass down the nearest storm sewer, he rode home and then told me about it via AOL Instant Messenger, suggesting that VeloNews.com re-run a screed on this very topic that I wrote for Bicycle Retailer & Industry News back in 1995.

It was not a Christian tract. Basically, I proposed that offenders be sentenced to wind trainer without parole, forced to endure anaerobic-threshold intervals with a chamois full of red ants and occasional encouragement from a cattle prod. Courtesy is the grease that keeps our societal gears spinning smoothly, I reasoned; those who refuse to be enlightened can at least be electrified.

Nine years later, I haven’t changed my mind. Indeed, I’ve considered buying a police-issue M-26 Taser to pack on my rides so that I can administer a little Edison medicine to the afflicted. But it’s woefully clear that there’s not enough juice on the entire grid to get the job properly started, much less finished.

We could have a nuclear power plant on every street corner and still suffer the occasional brownout just trying to work through the felony cases; the misdemeanors would get off with something like five-to-10 wearing a stainless-steel beanie on a mountaintop during the summer storm season. Plus with that many nukes in operation we’d wind up with herds of Day-Glo mutant misanthropes flipping you the old pseudopod whenever you waved a six-fingered hand at them.

I see this pedaling poseur’s soul brethren wherever and whenever I ride, and it beats the hell out of me what gives them the idea that they’re, like, all cool and stuff. They shave their legs, but not their chins, consume more sugar than a squadron of fruit flies, and wear form-fitting billboards made of stuff that normal people pour into their gas tanks. This hardly constitutes a lofty perch from which to judge one’s fellows.

Perhaps the contaminants in their supplements have further disrupted the already-sporadic firing of their cranial synapses? Permanent tunnel vision from one too many helmetless falls while imitating the Euro-pros? Mom didn’t hug ’em enough before toddling off to the 19th hole for a bottle of lunch?

Beats me. Still, we might examine a few theories.

They are insecure. This is how my wife often rationalizes churlish behavior from someone who I, in my ignorance, think is simply acting like a dick for no good reason. Thus we may postulate that the non-waver fears his bike is far inferior to the waver’s bike and wishes to avoid drawing any further attention to it, and by extension, himself. Extreme cases may actually jam both hands into their shorts and frantically fondle themselves, mumbling, “Cool bike, oooh, that dude has a cool, cool bike, and I am such a wanker…”

They are foreigners and do not understand our customs or language. True, most real cyclists are Belgian. But this other crowd demonstrates a rudimentary familiarity with Basic American when it’s shouted loudly at them from right up close with a little spittle for texture and a white-knuckled fist providing punctuation. You don’t want to try that with a Belgian, by the way.

They are Division 3 pros. And they are too weary from working their real jobs, the ones that pay the bills, to lift a hand from the bars in friendly greeting.

They are NORBA pros. See They are Division 3 pros.

They are what an asterisk kind of looks like if you set it in really big type. We may be on to something here, in which case critical columns, shock therapy, and mindless yet somehow satisfying violence are probably not the solution. Like drug addiction, alcoholism or voting Republican, this condition cannot be cured by external means — the patients must heal themselves by first desiring to change.

And my colleague and I, along with most of the rest of the cycling community, wish they’d get started. Frankly, if we wanted to spend our days dealing with a parade of … well, you know … we would’ve become proctologists.


Got a little gesture of your own? Does it use all five fingers, or only the one? Give us a wave at webletters@7dogs.com. Please include your full name, city and state (or country, if you happen to be Belgian). Feel free to abuse the author in person, too. The cranky old baldheaded asterisk hangs out here.