We few, we happy few, we band of brothers

When I started riding, cycling was a very small fraternity.

Especially there in the deep South, bikers were very few and far between. Those of us who could ride with any kind of speed, or had the skill and endurance to venture much beyond the city limits were fewer still.

And God help anyone brave enough to don spandex in those days.

As a result, we all got to know each other, by sight, if not by name. If you happened to pass another rider, you said hi, and maybe fell in together for a few miles if you were going the same way. Or at the very least, gave a nod or a wave as you passed by.

If there was another rider waiting next to you at a red light, it was the start of a conversation, and often, a friendship. And if a rider crashed or broke down on the side of the road, you stopped to help. There was a real sense that we were members of a very small and exclusive club, and there were no strangers rolling on two wheels.

Like most fraternities in those days, though, it was virtually all white, and all male.

In fact, I clearly remember where I was the first time I encountered a woman riding in real cycling spandex. I fell instantly in love. And judging by her annoyed reaction when I said hi, I don’t think I was the first one.

But those days are long gone.

In some ways, it’s changed for the better. Now there are many more riders, of every sort, sex, color and ethnicity. And instead of encountering just one or two other riders in a single day, now you can find more than that gathered at a single stoplight.

Unless they decide to run it, of course.

At the same time, though, something valuable has been lost. That sense of brotherhood, of sharing a bond with a rider I’ve never met before, for no other reason than because we ride, is long gone. These days, most cyclists share a red light without ever saying a word, and ride off their separate ways.

Still, I’ll nod when I see another rider who looks like he — or she — knows what they’re doing. Or acknowledge them with that little finger wave that you give without moving your hands off the handlebars. But getting one back?

That’s as rare as woman in riding spandex used to be.


Gary Rides Bikes, and offers a must read about peaceful coexistence on the road. Seriously, send the link to every cyclist and driver you know. On the same subject, Bike Girl attempts to educate a driver on the rights of turning left. Will Campbell declares victory over a vanquished bottom bracket. Science Daily and the L.A. Times both report on a study that suggests cutting of your nose to save your penis. And yes, you did read that right. A local advocacy group is offering free bikes to anyone attending Obama’s Democratic coronation in Denver. As if cell phone cyclists weren’t bad enough, now we have to worry about two-wheeled texters. And north of the border, they’re encouraging riders to follow the rules, and wear their helmets.

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