Wave Dynamics
by Patrick O'Grady

The next time I wave cheerily at a passing fathead and he gives me The Look, I'm gonna chase his arrogant ass down, knock him off his bike, drag him back to my house, and chain him to a wind trainer in front of the television, where a steady diet of anaerobic-threshhold intervals and 'Full House' reruns -- coupled with a chamois full of red ants and occasional encouragement from a Bull Buster cattle prod -- should drive home the argument that courtesy is the grease that keeps society's bottom bracket spinning freely.

What is WITH these guys? Are they refugees from the road, where etiquette long has dictated that no friendly gesture go unpunished? Unlike other trail users, I generally wave with all five fingers on a given hand, and there are no pentagrams tatooed on my palms. Has the Red Dye No. 666 that brightens their parrot-like 'dos soaked through their scalps to enmire the already-sluggish machinations of their brains? Are there Oakleys so dark that they simply can't see my friendly salutation? Have they heard the ugly rumors about me, their sisters, and the Sonoran donkey? Beats me. I have no answers. But, I do have a few theories.

Me Cool, You Lame
You, the non-waver, may think that your bike and/or cycling attire is way neater than mine and that to wave would be to compromise your coolness. But I'm a Media Dude, see, and that means my bike is so much cooler than anybody else's that I have to let it get all grunged up and filthy-looking just to keep wannabees like Claudia Schiffer and Tom Hanks from trying to steal it. Should anyone make off with this bike, of course, I can track them by the hideous shrieking of its four-year-old, unlubed chain. But I won't bother, because I've got three or four even cooler ones at home that I never, ever ride and I didn't pay a nickel for any of them. Hahahaha.

I Have a Goatee and You Do Not
This is a corollary to Me Cool, You Lame. It's also on a par with thinking a Murray preferable to a Manitou. I sport a full salt-and-pepper beard and a sizeable bald spot because of a nagging case of testosterone poisoning picked up in Vietnam when I was teaching Chuck Norris all about karate. You, on the other hand, wear a straggly soup-strainer named for a smelly barnyard animal fond of eating garbage and it doesn't even cover your zits all that well. As my daddy was fond of saying, if you can't grow more hair on your face than you can on your butt, you should shave.

I'm Too Scared to Take One Hand Off the Bars
This is a theory with potential, since most velo-snobs seem to spend all their free time rifling Mom's purse for the cash to buy purple chainrings and trying to trails-ride the tables at Espresso Yourself instead of practicing basic cycling skills, like waving to other cyclists and not skidding through erodable corners.

I'm Dumber Than a Food Stamp Office Full of Suntour Executives
Also a theory with potential, this assumes big lag time between the eyes registering an occurrence -- a friendly wave, a big smile, the development of trouble-free indexed shifting -- and the brain processing the information: "Duhhh... hand up, smile on face... duhhh... he was waving George! Yuh, yuh, that's right... he was waving, George! Can I pet the rabbits now, George?" (That's a Steinbeck reference, dude.) Jeez, four years in grammar school and four years of reform school, and you didn't learn nothing in either place.

Don't Bother Me, I Am a Racer
"Look, Marlin, it's a mountain-bike racer! Why, NORBA says there are only 31,000 of those in the wild... they're every bit as rare as PowerBars, CamelBaks, and saddle sores! We've got to move quickly -- I'll get the tranquilliser rifle and the ear tags, you call the Smithsonian and National Geographic!"

Exercise is Serious Business
Sure it is. So is getting chained to a wind trainer by an irate stranger in a soundproofed basement with an ant farm and a cattle prod. Think about it. Then wave. Using all five fingers, please.

© Patrick O'Grady
Bike, October 1995

other stories by P. O'Grady