I know I’ve ranted about unfriendly bike riders before, but the situation seems to be getting decidedly worse and needs addressing before we simply ignore each other as a matter of course.

There’s no need to go over the top, but just a nod or a slight lift of the hand is enough to let the other rider know you’ve seen them. It’s called being polite.

There’s too much anger directed at us by other road users, so when we see another bike rider it’s good to acknowledge a kindred spirit.

On Sunday I encountered seven riders and got five complete blanks. It would be easier to take if it was personal – if it was a slight against me or the magazine I would accept it – but I reckon I’m far too anonymous in Lycra for this to be the case.

There was a time when everybody on skinny tyres would have belonged to a club. Now ordinary people are bike riders; there’s virtually no distinction between the newbies and ‘proper’ cyclists.

It was OK to acknowledge someone who was ‘one of us’, but now our ranks have been infiltrated by outsiders, and rather than make the mistake of nodding to a newbie it seems it’s better to put your head down and just keep riding.

Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly


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  • Mel Cassell

    I always wave or say Hi when passing other cyclists (especially those who are obviously new to cycling) but, have found that very often the lack of reply is due to “snobbery” ie when using the MTB (winter / bad weather) sometimes (not always) the road men (and Women) completely ignor me.
    Sometimes this happens even when I’m on the road bike – maybe it’s due to the fact that I don’t wear team kit – so I’m obviously not a “real” cyclist.

  • sean

    Hmmm, is the value of giving only there if you receive? If you’re feeling friendly, wave, smile, even sing goodmorning and be glad if you meet someone who is negotiating life’s obstacle course with as much too spare as you. I’ve been riding nearly every day since I was five, never been a member of a club, manage to feel quite complete as a cyclist without the expressed approval of any organisation. Us and Them… no wonder there is conflict.
    Just Get on Yer bike and RIDE

  • Colin Adams

    I remember the same topic coming up in the Motorcyling press many years ago,the same angst to wave or not to wave!.Me it depends on the situation at time of riding mainly concentration on the road ahead,i take my 5 year old daughter out on her Tag along bike,we often get waves from cycling folk,she asked me how i knew so many people,i tell her im famous.Many moons ago i stopped and helped a guy who had a puncture and had used his last inner tube,i gave him mine as i didnt have far to go.he offered to replace it not having pen or paper i told him my address,but no matter if you forget,a couple of weeks later i came home to find a new inner tube and thank you note,good memory,obviously cycling helps.

  • allan calver

    I have been riding and racing in Malta recently, trecherous roads. But always get a nod or a wave, even when they dont speak the laguage too well. when passed the nearside hand comes up too! Ive been off the bike for many years, some may remember me too. But at 72 I just cant give it up.

  • gregory francis

    I work with the genral public and ride a bike. I can say, with some authority, that not everyone will return a hello. Many people don’t see it as necessary. however I don’t let it bother me and I keep sayhing hello, regardless of what the last person said. Maybe they were reading Cycling weekly, or they used to read it and that;s why!. Dont’ take it personally!

  • simon

    do you wave at people in the same brand car as you?
    its hardly the end of the world as bob dylan said a times they are changing ,
    get over it

  • Rich

    Mick Cummings, I share your feelings! It’s not always about who you are but what you ride!

    Last summer I rode a Cannondale Bad Boy hybrid around South Derbyshire on Sunday morning rides from 20 to 70 miles in length. If I got a nod or a hello from more than 1 in 20 other cyclists I’d been very lucky.

    A couple of weeks ago I treated myself to a Cannondale CAAD8 road bike and guess what…. those happy chaps on the road bikes I saw last summer can now see me! Almost every other roadie was happy to return a nod, hand raise or say hello on the first ride I did on the new bike.

    Nothing as strange as people! :-)

  • Chris Bascombe (newbie)

    Thank you Robert Garbutt (editor of Cycling Weekly) for clarifying my non ‘proper’ cycling status. I hope others like me don’t find that too elitist!

    I think you may have answered your own question however as it appears in most comments that ‘newbies/non-proper’ cyclists are more inclined to wave as they are generally enjoying their sunday ride, whereas ‘proper’ cyclists are more inclined to ignore you as they are in serious training and therefore focused on the task in hand.

    I have no problem being classified as a non-proper cyclist if becoming one means being rude and ignoring other people, but I would like to clarify that not all club cyclists are ‘proper’ cyclists, maybe cyclists with a lot of time on their hands rather than a father of two, time constrained cyclist who likes to get a 40 or so mile ride in before his children notice he’s gone all day! Think of it as a club ride without the coffee break!

    I would like to comment though that I regularly pass groups of ‘club’ cyclists that do wave and acknowledge me and I of course do acknowledge back, but I think you (Robert) may have stumbled upon a more controversial subject of club versus non-club cyclists. In my opinion I do like the idea of joining a club as it has both informative and social positives but with a busy life it doesn’t always work. It would however have never crossed my mind to call myself a ‘proper’ cyclist if I did join a club as I would reserve that description for the pros.

  • moongluer

    try the friendly gestures of nods, waves et al in italy and you get nothing in return, except the quick realisation that you’ve wasted your time and should save it for the 90% plus of riders in your homeland that may sometimes even manage a smile fo you. oddly though my italian teammates were the friendliest bunch and utterly unlike any UK club i’ve ever been in.

  • mick cummings

    I ride road and MTB bikes. More often than not, I am waved at on the road bike, but completely ignored on the MTB. I just fine it funny that the same people wave one day and not the next depending on the frame type I am using…

  • Phil Ward

    As mentioned already, some will wave & some won’t – that merely reflects a cross section of society and something we should be glad that cycling attracts. Further, I’ve become aware of “gritty northern waves” being somewhat less demonstrative than the “softy southern hallllooooo”, at times limited to a single finger raised an inch off the brake hood, a barely perceptible nod or even the single eyebrow raise – a classic!

    More seriously, I’m concerned that there is a definite creep towards ignoring folks stopped at the roadside – they might not require/welcome assistance, but 2 minutes borrowing a pump, a tyre lever or a ‘phone could get them out of a lot of trouble & leave you with a great feeling for the rest of the day. Its obvious, it could be anyone of us tomorrow that becomes the grateful recipient of help. Next time, just call out as you pass, doesn’t cost you does it ?

  • Johnny H

    Reletive newbie (2yrs) for serious riding, cycled endtoend last May and encounted lots of waves and acknowledgment from riders and pedsetrians… i do find when i am out of a weekend that it is the club riders who ignore the sole rider on his not to good bike… also experienced the same as previous post from Tony Geesing.

    But hey i say hello, a reply is good, no reply then so what… i just ride on and enjoy my day.

  • Steve

    Yep, Sydney Australia is going the same way, only a couple of years ago every cyclists would give the nod of the head. Now nothing. Sad.
    We’ve built a site to help conect riders with bunch/group rides, hopefully this will get riders to interact a bit more. let’s face it, not many like us on the road. We need all the mates we can get.
    Check out http://www.bunchridefinder.com

  • Harry

    It’s no different in western Canada. I’m an ex-pat Brit, been living over here for the past ten years. I ride with a club who are for the most part very friendly, and we make a point of acknowledging other riders on the road – you don’t always get a response, but that’s just the way it goes.

  • Manni

    As a self-confessed ‘newbie’ I find myself waving to all and sundry. I have recently moved from Surrey to Lancashire and have noticed a few trends in the response I get. Firstly, Northerners are definitely more friendly, although there are fewer cyclists out on the West Pennine Moors than on the Surrey Hills, so maybe that makes a difference. Secondly, older riders are definitely more polite (and are prone to wearing casquettes rather than helmets). Thirdly, there’s a big difference in attitude between those club riders out on a Sunday cake shop run and those club riders training seriously. I’ll continue to wave regardless. One day, when I can keep up AND go the distance, I’ll join my local club. You were all ‘newbies’ once remember.

  • Ivor

    The age of chivalry and politeness has been replaced by the iPod and *FOCUS*!!!

    People are too wrapped up in their own little world and Mercx forbid if they were to notice anything else apart from their heart rate, power output, cadence metered, push it to the limit lives.

    I have always made a point of at the very least being polite, it costs little or nothing and can sometimes lead to enduring friendships. The sport of cycling is too small to avoid those whom we oft ignore.

  • IAN

    I have to agree with Dave, cycling in France riders do not appear to acknowledge each other. However this does not make it okay and surely it is just good manners to greet other bike riders with a wave?

  • Richard Long

    I don’t think it is a case of ‘club cyclists’ or ‘newbies’ who are ignorant or rude. I think those ignorant cyclists who don’t acknowledge you are probably the same ignorant people who don’t say thanks when you hold a door open for them. You will find them everywhere I’m afraid folks !

  • Paul G.

    Ah, inverted cycling snobbery. Are you that bothered if someone doesn’t acknowledge you? Who cares… get on with it.

  • Tony Geesing

    I live in York and ride alone most of the time, reason being that when i went with the local cycling club i was virtually ignored. I often see members of this particular club who seem to make a point of not acknowledging other riders. On one ride i joined on the back and was about to make some enquiries about club membership from the chap in front when i was treated to a number of sarcastic comments about being able to keep up or not being able to last the distance so i didn’t bother, who needs to be involved with people like that!

  • Stephen Cotterill

    I have noticed than even club riders ignore you, which I think is sad because they need to be setting an example.

  • dave

    Try cycling in Holland or France or in fact most mainland European countriesthen, you can be an obvious serious cyclist and get no response, so you don’t bother either.
    I have lived in these countries for getting on for 14 years so I have had plenty of non acknowledgements.

  • MTFC

    Outsiders and Newbie’s ???????
    Do you think that it is only the hard core club bike riding element that wave to each other?

    I think you need to find something to do.

  • Paul

    I always give a friendly wave and most of the time people wave back. It seems more the “Johnny- come- latelys” who dont wave. Those who see it as a fashion statement rather than being part of the cycling fraternity. Im all for people taking up the sport but there are a new breed who are ignorant of the sport and its traditions….and red lights.

  • Baz

    Out riding on Saturday, every cyclist waved back except two: the cycle cops. I think they knew I was taking the rip.