The Most Heated Cycling Etiquette Arguments & The Data to Back Them Up

Bike Etiquette Debates Are Everywhere

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Cyclist etiquette chart

Last Saturday, I seized the 80-degree, sunny, and wind-free California day. Because that’s how January rolls here. Cyclists were out in force, and I rode down the highway, kitted to the nines and giving the “hey we’re so cool, right?” wave at each of my fellow riders.

But plenty of them didn’t think it was so cool to return my wave. So I changed tactics: it became all about the quick “hey, man, ‘sup?” nod.

But still not much reciprocation. So I started fuming thinking about cycling etiquette. And I decided to do some research. I surfed around the top opinion sites that cyclists frequent, and I came up with the most common arguments in the road bike world. I also did some math *gasp*. So in the greatest spirit of scientific research, I came up with the top arguments about cycling etiquette and how many of us fall into which camps. Be assured that this is all, in actuality, extremely unscientific. What groups do you take sides with?

1. The Wave, The Nod, The Diss

Ah the camaraderie! Giving and receiving of kind salutations because, heck, you’re both out on the open road. There are three basic types when it comes to acknowledging another’s presence. There’s the short wave close to the handlebars–sometimes shortened to a few fingers lifted in acknowledgment. Some take it to a head nod, or a head nod plus a curt salute. Of course, the third cyclist is so “focused” on riding that they may not even notice others on the road.

Read the colorful and bike-wheel reminiscent chart that I’ve put together below to see exactly which action is most popular:

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Cyclist etiquette chart
We diss because we care . . . about watts.


2. The Lame, The Cool, The Saddle Bag Debate

I once was met with an uproar of chuckling when I asked a few riders on my cycling team what kind of saddlebags are cool. Apparently the words “cool” and “saddlebag” don’t fit together. Instead, to look “cool,” I started stuffing my jersey pockets with everything I could ever need on a ride, which I’m pretty sure is merely reminiscent of another type of saddlebag.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this is one of the most hotly contested trends in cycling culture. Because clearly riders who carry their flat fixing in a pocket simply can’t be seen with riders who carry it on their seatpost. But no matter what, no one wants to give spare tubes to the large number of riders who don’t carry any flat fixing stuff at all.

Cyclist etiquette chart
Better a tight jersey than a cluttered bike.


3. Shouting “On Your Left!” When Passing

No matter what type of bike you’re riding or where you’re riding it, there’s nothing quite so creepy as cyclists whizzing past you without you knowing they’re there. You get that sudden, jump-out-of-your-skin feeling followed by a jump-out-of-the-saddle and try to catch their wheels so they know you’re not really as slow as they think you are.

The numbers here are kind of surprising . . . mostly because I think everyone is lying when they say they’re calling out while passing. Around here, it’s the rare day when someone tells me they’re gonna pass me. I like to think they’re hammering so hard to catch me that they simply don’t have the ability to speak. Yep. That’s it.

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Cyclist etiquette chart
Insert Mission Impossible theme song here


4. Rolling Through Stoplights & Stop Signs

A friend of mine once told me that the cops won’t ticket you if you put your foot down at a stop sign. Even if you’re still doing 25mph, just throw your foot down. Of course, his cleats and shoes were so scraped as to be almost unusable. And he also had a few road rash scars from the times he wiped out going 25 and trying to get his foot to the pavement . . . oh and from dodging cars.

Now, it’s important to note that in some states it’s totally legal to roll through stoplights and stop signs. Some argue it’s safer for cyclists to do so. Where do you fall on this debate? You might be surprised at how many high rollers there are out on the road.

Cyclist etiquette chart
Let the good times roll until you taco your rim hitting a car.

5. Cheap Chinese Carbon Frames versus Name Brand Only Riders

Maybe this one will surprise you. People have some strong opinions about brands, and they have some even stronger opinions about stickerless bikes. Quite full of ire was the fellow who told me I should sand down my Cervelo and remove all the labels, so that I would at last be cool. Some people swear by Chinese carbon frames, and others say they’re just not awesome. There’s not much, it seems, so anger-inducing as brand attachment–or detachment. But the split is pretty large here. What say you?

Cyclist etiquette chart
It’s all about the stickers, and they better be awesome.


So what do you think? Are you in the majority or the minority? Let’s all be kind out there . . . no matter what my unscientific data says . . . .



About Bek 301 Articles
SLO Cyclist's former chief editor and recovering road snob, Bek made sure everything ran smoothly around here. She was also the one who reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously--unless it involves black socks. Black socks are always serious.

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