Indian Cyclists Network

Biking Ettiquete - Easy to forget but important to bear at mind.

There are very few sports where enthusiasts are a really close knit community. Diving and Sky Diving come to mind. Cycling is another one, of course I mean recreational or adventure biking! I think it has something to do with the fact that even though there is some degree of competitiveness, that's not the main driver. I would prefer to call them "inclusive" sports.

Let's talk about Cycling. Cycling is a sport that helps you stay fit, focus, build endurance, helps save the planet, blah, blah, blah..... we know, we know, so I will not go on about the merits of Cycling.

Instead I'd like to start a discussion about how do we ride in such a manner so as to suit our individual riding styles, physical needs and at the same time use Cycling as a means to create social awareness, build bonds with like minded folks.

I personally am an aggressive rider, I love speed, I love the adrenalin rush, and because of that most times I prefer to ride alone. I also like to be alone with my thoughts when biking and when I'm in a thinking mood, I decide to ride alone, so as not to insult people when I'm riding in a pack.

I don't keep my cellular to the ear, quite he opposite. When I'm cycling I stash my phone away in my pouch, don't take calls, but check periodically and if not urgent give the damn phone a wide berth! As I tell most friends, acquaintances, et all, the "damn" phone is for my convenience, not yours. I do reply, but at my convenience, and at a time of my choosing, unless of course you say its urgent, on which occasions I will make myself available round the clock. So that's one form of etiquette. Not constantly checking or talking on the phone when you're riding with mates. Of course, riding and talking on the phone simultaneously, is distracting, dangerous, but we all know that don't we? Well then, the question that goes a begging is, if we all are aware then why the heck don't we follow that? Why do we act that we will all die from withdrawal symptoms if we don't have our "cellular fix". Beats me.... You've probably figured it out by now, I don't particular like cellular phones, and I believe that the world will not end if we're away from our phones from time to time.

So let's move on to other kinds of behavior that I believe are, anti-social or at the very least disrespectful to mates who we ride with. How often have we ridden in packs only to race ahead and completely forget that we are with a pack? What if there is an emergency? An accident? And it all depends on you to come to the aid of a fellow or fellie biker? Now reverse the tables.... you are riding in a pack, and people zoom off ahead, and you are on a lonely stretch, your bike breaks down, you get mugged, etc..... and guess what the people who were with you, are far ahead, out of sight and nobody will come to your assistance? Not a happy moment, is it? What are we trying to prove to our mates, that we're better than them? And even if we are, so what? I always say, there's always someone better than you.

Mind you in terms of speed, aggression, etc, I can hold my own with most, but when I'm riding in a pack, I keep in mind that there will be people better than me and others who may have a different style, capability, or even philosophy of riding. How often have we ridden with company, that races off ahead and either deliberately or inadvertently, only to turn around from time to time, and wave at you, and frantically gesticulate that you are lagging behind. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt shall we? They are only trying to pace you, it's for your own good. Yeah right!!! I don't know about you but I found it quite irksome on the few occasions that it's happened. So even if I race ahead from time to time to get my speed fix, I fall back in line with the pack. I am of course riding in a group am I not?

You're riding in a pack and I don't know about the people you ride with, but the people that I ride with, tend to talk, chit chat, etc. So would you put on your ear phones, head phones, or whatever, and ride in company, but ride alone?

Riders come from all backgrounds, have personal preferences in clothes, bikes, accessories, etc. So would you discriminate based on the kind of bike the person is riding, or the type of clothes he or she is wearing? I ride with a bike technician most Sundays, and he's my pal, my buddy. He'd probably be quite embarrassed by this blog. But I'm trying to make a point. Now some people think I ride with him so I always have help on hand if something goes wrong with my gear, my bike, etc. Now that could not be further from the truth. Now I'm really one of the fortunate ones to own and enjoy the ride of a really good bike. My pal, just this past Sunday was telling me stuff to he following effect....that I'm a big man, and he comes from a very humble background, and that he considers himself fortunate that I always invite him to ride with me and other "big" people. F&^%$# poppycock!!! I invite him because he's a very good rider, he is humble, friendly, and like any other friend I have. HE rides a humble bike, very few gears, yet he rides hard. He can take most people hands down, but guess what? He's not out to prove anything, because he doesn't need to.

And something fundamentally important, it can be a matter of life and death!!! When we ride, PLEASE announce your intention to turn, or stop by giving hand signals, it may just save your life! Just imagine that you are in a car driving, or walking down the road, and a biker just cuts across your bows. You are traveling at great speed, and it's hard to come to a stop in time... you hit the biker and either he's hurt, or worse still he's killed. Now flip that around and imaging you are the biker who didn't signal intent to turn or stop or cut across someone's right of way, you will be the worse for it, you can be injured, your beloved bike can be damaged, or worse still..... When riding at night, make sure you have at the very least a reflector that can get picked up in a beam of light, and other roadsters can see you. OF course a set of lights, Red for the back and white in front is ideal. I'm guilty of not doing his, but I would advise that you must use protective head-gear. Apart from etiquette, its the safe way of doing your thing.

I've done very few community rides, or special events, and my observation has been, that people from all over turn up, they come from varied backgrounds, have varying financial means, dress differently, talk differently, etc, etc..... And surprise, surprise! Let's just say that that the general population that turned up, soon enough breaks up into clicks, groups, based on these "differences". I think it's a shame, and defeats the purpose of these events. The events also in some way, shape of form, tend to turn into sales events. While I accept that some degree of salesmanship will always be there and it's not always a bad thing, but let's be a bit more subtle shall we?

On the subject of so many bike groups that exist, sometimes on the same street or locality. Why so many? Correct me if I'm wrong, but do you think it has something to do with being in a "leadership" position? About popularity? About being able to show how many people are following me? Hey gimme a group of 5-10 like minded folks and I'm a happy man. I really don't want to be answering the phone every two minutes when I'm on a ride, from so called fans, or followers. Whatever.

Now I don't know about you, but I like to be seen. I like to be seen wearing good clothes, I live to be seen with a good looking girl, I live to be seen at a fancy restaurant, and OMG the list goes on. Hey I even like to be seen riding my bike. I get stopped by strangers all the time, I get paid compliments all the time. I don't think it's because I'm good looking, I don't even think it's because I'm popular, I don't think it's because I'm a celebrity. I think it's because I ride a bike which is pleasing to the eye, it looks expensive. Whatever the reason, I get attention! But I did mention when and where I don't mind the attention, but when I'm riding alone, I want to be left alone, I'm probably enjoying my music, or I'm deep in thought, or maybe I'm just not in the mood for social chit chat and small talk. An maybe, just maybe, I've developed a good rhythm in my ride, I'm in the middle of my exercise routine, and stopping me will completely screw up my work out plan. It's plausible isn't it? The only time that I don't mind getting stopped, breaking my rhythm, breaking my exercise routine, etc.... is when I'm stopped by someone who was inspired seeing me, inspired enough to take up riding, and if we can add another like minded (READ SERIOUS) rider, then I'm quite happy to chuck my "TOUCH ME NOT MOOD", and offer all encouragement to a potential rider, or to someone who was rider, and will take it up again. When that has happened, it has given me immense satisfaction, it makes me feel that I have been able to make a positive difference to someone. I guess I' so glad that my three kids, took up to riding regularly, so much so that I bought a new bike today for them, as I was not getting my own bike to ride, due to their interest.

So by now, I've been branded "anti-social", and that's fine by me. Or perhaps people who know me (I didn't say like) think that someone pissed me off, or that I got up on the wrong side of the bed. Or then maybe Trust me it's none of these. This blog is the culmination of observations after riding in India for the last 8 months. I just need to say what needed to be said, so I'm quite prepared to get the fan (read FLAME) comments, mails, coming my way. Trust me, I make any topic or event "colorful"! He! He! He!

I really wonder what the response (IF ANY) will be to this blog, and it's for that very reason I'e made it as publicly visible and not visible just to my friends.

Hope you liked it> Cheers!

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Comment by Mohith on November 4, 2010 at 2:02am
Though No traffic rules apply to bicycles , it is better for all cyclists to follow them so that cyclists don't become a 'stray' creatures on roads, doing whatever they want. It also helps the fellow commuters feel comfortable at our presence.
Comment by Sumir Nagar on October 28, 2010 at 12:30pm
When we are traveling on business, either for ourselves or on behalf of a company there are certain expectations from the people who sponsor our travel, meetings, etc. In essence we are brand ambassadors when we travel, as we're representing ourselves, our sponsors or employers, our country, our community and so on. Its no different with cycling. When we are on our bikes, we are brand ambassadors for the sport, and we represent the biking community at large. Therefore, when we shout, and yell and hurl abuse (as I've seen some bikers who ride with me do), we are doing our beloved sport and our biking community in general a huge disservice!!! Of course this does not mean, that we meekly tolerate abuse from other road users, and in exceptional circumstances we can and indeed must retaliate, but within reason.....
Comment by Mohith on October 28, 2010 at 12:00pm
I hope the same too, Mr. Madden.
Comment by Timothy Madden on October 24, 2010 at 6:30pm
M - I do like to joke around a bit here and there! I should say though one thing that I have noticed in riding in mumbai is just how friendly the others are on the road - I have never gotten so many thumbs up signs and smiles of encouragement in any other place I have riden. In the US you need to take care cause there are drivers on the road taht truely dislike cyclists. I hope Mumbai stays friendly - Bike Etiquette will help!
Comment by Mohith on October 23, 2010 at 10:03pm
Ha Ha Mr. Madden you nailed me there. I thought that stretch was a deserted one. So we need to find some other place suitable for earphone riders. Any suggestions ? :)
Comment by Sumir Nagar on October 21, 2010 at 12:02am
Do your best buddy. Ride with us a few times and you will build up your endurance.
Comment by Chris paul on October 20, 2010 at 11:42pm
very very gud article,also am a little aprehensive about the pace of the sunday;s ride,will try my best to follow the guidelines mentioned int he article where ever I can.
C u on Sunday
Comment by Timothy Madden on October 17, 2010 at 8:27pm
Comment for "M" - I was just out on that Alien road in Nevada - near Red Rock Cannon - I have never seen so many bikers on one stretch of road - all in packs - I did not notice any earphones. Maybe a better idea is have the guy with headphones ride with Alien Bikers in Nevada? Just joking - I get your point but had to laugh at the reference.
Comment by Vijyant bhardwaj on October 16, 2010 at 8:13pm
very interesting. good write Mr Nagar
Comment by Rajesh Karia on October 10, 2010 at 5:50pm
Hi Sumir,

This is a nice constructive blog touching many issues concerning cycling enthusiasts, I will add my few cents to this:-

1) Cycling is a great outdoor sport & as u rightly pointed out, “inclusive” in nature when done in groups it adds a sense of bonding & brotherhood.

2) I am a recreational rider myself & when riding in a group I know my limits, I will be wise enough not to rub off any serious rider the wrong way while he is into his endurance zone. But yes while riding in a pack it is prudent & wise to move ahead in cohesive manner covering the weak riders. It’s ok for others to race ahead but within striking distance & staying alert to any accidental eventuality. But in the end the onus is on the "RIDER" himself, knowing his limit while taking part in any type of serious event.

3) The point about ppl discriminating on the basis of expensive bikes & cheaper ones is nothing short of "RACIST". My good & humble friend “ Kiran Patre” rides his simple Hero MTB for years now & has covered lot of state tours on it , he is a great rider & it’s his passion that drives the cycle & not the other way around.

4) The point about different groups, I am fine with it & find it very helpful but must be moderated beyond a point. The different group does cater to the various needs of the members in various ways. Buying, selling, cycle stores, cycle brands, help queries, different area groups etc, all this definitely helps a newbie & a regular member in nurturing his passion about cycling & keeping abreast abt latest developments.

5) i am in total agreement with Amitabh's point no. 1 & 2.


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