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The Ticket to Ride
The word etiquette in English derives from the French étiquette - a "list of ceremonial observances of a court" - which in turn descends from the 16th century noun estiquette, a licence or permit, a ticket. Whilst these French words are now obsolete, the English term etiquette lives on and so, I hope you’ll agree, should the practice of good road riding manners.
The importance of cycling etiquette should not be overlooked and sets our noble sport apart from other less gentlemanly (and gentle-womanly) activities: The gruff fat men in wee shorts, who spend 90-odd minutes thumping a leather case around a muddy field is one example (and I don't mean cyclocross). They of course have their own etiquette, but spitting and headbutts don't stick on the Sunday club run (some sprinters may disagree).
We had an email from Mr. Ian Winfield, Rapha evangelist and reputable print-maker:
Popped out this morning, waved at a Rapha Dutch jersey, to be greeted by a big fat nothing. Livid! All Rapha jerseys should come with cycling etiquette instructions on how to give a huge chapeau to oncoming cyclists.
And so, we felt compelled to make a small song and dance about this malaise. In fact, out on a ride myself the other day, in Ian's beloved Essex, I took a left up Tawney lane, spotted two riders decorated with monochrome kit and shiny carbon and gave them a big "ayup", raised a hand from the bars, blew them a kiss … F**k all back.
Many riders, in the latest eye-shades and astride the quickest machines, do respond but it can be a disparaging "look", rather than acknowledgement that "it's a lovely day, we're out on our bikes, road cycling is amazing, well done for being part of the fraternity!" Nope, not this time … Perhaps it's me.
It's usually the older riders who are quicker to raise a hand from the bars, give a nod, a smile, even a wink. The old buzzards who've been in the saddle all their life, they are men and women we should respect.
Aside from the abusive car and van drivers one encounters from time to time, I like to think that no one really dislikes cyclists, but I've noticed more and more that vilification of the roadie has extended beyond mountain bikers and has evolved into rivalry, inverted snobbery, a new kind of road-rider. Whilst Lance Armstrong said "no gifts", he was riding the Tour of France, and even the steel-eyed Texan had time to shake hands with his rivals and let them through, once or twice …
We should all take the time (OK if you have your eyes down in a headwind perhaps you're excused) to say hello and celebrate with our fellow comrades the joy of cycling. It's not flummery, cycling is an egalitarian pursuit: even in the pangs of battle road racers have the sporting goodwill many other athletes seem to overlook … (I've heard).
When I smile at another human rolling in the opposite direction, regardless of age, sex or components/geometry, it's not insincere. It's not flattery (I also say hello to horse-riders), it's just a convention that sets cycling apart from the usual behaviour of life behind city walls, amongst motorists and other lesser beings.
This chivalry also extends to those riding in the same direction: Your training acquaintances and strangers who happen to be wheelsucking. Hands should not only be used to wave at passing brothers and sisters, they should also be used to signal turns, point out road-furniture, pot-holes and dead badgers.
Even if you’re not carrying tools or a spare tube at least pretend to offer to stop for a troubled or punctured rider. It's about manners really, and whilst your 11 speed groupset cost most of X amount of wages, the camaraderie and respect you get from showing your ticket costs less than 80psi. Perpetuating cycling etiquette is, fundamentally, cool.
Most will know the famous line uttered by H.G Wells, British fore-father of science-fiction:
When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.
- H.G. Wells
But I do sometimes, not for humanity but for the harmony of this wonderful way to kill time. Perhaps we should consider the bicycle as a blessing rather than a right? Machines that empower the physical and mental in such a way should be celebrated and anyone who is part of these festivities should be acknowledged, perhaps even people on recumbents.
- Last week was a great one for Rapha Condor JLT, all the action and images now up on the team site: http://t.co/ftBejPnnCJ
- RT @alainrumpf: Well done @mike_cuming and @raphacondorjlt winner of #TdK2013 under the scrutiny of latest drone… http://t.co/gv81uP9mHP
- In their attempt to cross the US in 24 days, @michaeltabtabai & Andrew Hudon will ‘Leave It On The Road’. → http://t.co/Per6QsCAtt
- We are delighted to announce the opening of a one-month, pop-up @RaphaCycleClub in Tokyo this summer from 22/6–21/7 → http://t.co/Jrc0EKZ9ky
- Huge congratulations to @raphacondorjlt’s @mike_cuming for winning the @TourdeKorea2013 and to @tomsoutham for best DS. #TdK2013
- @danfromnam in Corsica — outtake from our 2013 Spring/Summer shoot #corsica #beningstagram http://t.co/03A7pT9mtj
- Winner Winner Chicken Dinner ! The most important jersey of #TdK2013 hot off the press. http://t.co/Pflx0eUfdv”
- What a day... The boys keep Mike Cuming in yellow, after having to chase all day. Great performance by all.
- Just rehearsing the whole of Pacino's speech from Any Given Sunday to recite to the boys...
- UK: Thanks to all who came to to tonight’s Rapha Étape Evening in London with @CyclefitUK — one of our biggest turnouts yet.