Nod Snob

I love every kind of bike, from the tricked-out fixies all over Seattle (hello – hilly-ass town!  Unless your fixie is a 39-27, you are not making a sensible choice!), to the awesome Dutch Bikes, to the phenomenal racers around town, I love them all.

I am, however, a bitch when it comes to bike noise.  Some noises can be forgiven, while others can not. My good friends at Speedy Reedy in Seattle know this all too well, I think, based on a recent comment the head mechanic made, “I don’t doubt it makes noise, I just don’t know if it’s the spoke tension…”  The point is, if it’s making a sound, that’s kinetic energy not focused in making me go forward even though it’s caused by energy I’m putting into the bicycle.  And that’s bad.  There’s also a certain mechanical challenge in making a bike run silently, one that I enjoy when it’s not pissing me off: working through the possible sources of the noise in a process of elimination and the thrill of having silenced it.

There is only one noise that I accept on a bike, and that is drive train noise.  That is, if you’re running Shimano or SRAM.  Campy, I have found, runs almost silently.  My bike – aside from the dull pop I’m currently hearing in my saddle when my fat-ass runs over a big enough bump – is virtually silent these days.  All I hear is the hum of my wheels, and that is a sound worth buying wheels for.  That said, Shimano and SRAM are simply noisy.  The chain or the pulleys in the derailleur or something but they simply make noise.  And, while it’s still a loss in kinetic energy, that’s OK.

But a squeaky chain?  Unforgivable.  I don’t care who you are, but if you own a bicycle, you can buy a can of WD-40 and make it stop-the-fuck squeaking.   Or Tri-Flow.   Or, better yet, something your local bike shop mechanic recommends.  Topic closed.

My point is, I am not a bike snob.  I am, however, a nod snob.  Some cyclist will nod at anyone riding another bike.  Others will nod at anyone who nods at them.  Paradoxically, many of them will not nod at a female cyclist, unless they didn’t realize she was a female.

I, on the other hand, am very judicious when it comes to nodding at a cyclist.  The cyclist’s nod is an acknowledgment of a kindred spirit, of souls suffering towards a similar goal.  It implies a similar level of devotion to the sport, a willingness to betray accepted social norms for the life of a cyclist.  This is a vaguely-defined set of criteria more accurately measured by stating those qualities which will result in me not nodding at a fellow cyclist.

Those qualities are as follows, in no particular order:

  • Your chain is squeaking.
  • Your helmet is missing or is on backwards.  Obvious exceptions to this rule are if you’re wearing a hair-net or a cycling cap (backwards) and are riding an Italian or Belgian steel road bike, preferably with your brake cables springing up from your brake hoods directly to your frame, or if your name is Charley Mottet.
  • You are wearing tights on a day that knickers will do, or shorts on a day when you should wear knickers or tights.
  • You are riding a recumbent.
  • You come blowing  by me on a climb and your legs are not shaved.  There are exceptions to this rule, but I have to know you personally in order to issue exceptions.
  • You are hammering needlessly.
  • You don’t look cool.  This makes me sound like a jerk, but lets face it, this is an important part of cycling: once you reach a certain level of familiarity with your bicycle, you almost automatically will look cool.
  • You annoy me in some other way that is not outlined here.  This could be anything from falling into my gaze when I’m tired or otherwise cranky, to motoring by me on the Lighthouse on your fixie.

I think that covers it.

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55 Replies to “Nod Snob”

  1. I’d go with that list, although your clothing requirements re: tights/knickers/shorts ratio to weather needs clarification.

    Do we need a Nod Rules section as well?

  2. @Jarvis
    Great to see you reading some of these old posts. Here you can see The Rules in perhaps their prenatal form.

    Certainly the tights/knickers needs more clarification here; it depends on your climate, but no tights when it is above freezing and no knickers if it is above 50F.

    I have long felt I stood alone in my Nod Snobbishness. Part of our culture dictates that we acknowledge all riders, but I feel this dilutes our ilk. Nod Rules is a terrific idea.

  3. Certainly the tights/knickers needs more clarification here; it depends on your climate, but no tights when it is above freezing and no knickers if it is above 50F.

    I have long felt I stood alone in my Nod Snobbishness. Part of our culture dictates that we acknowledge all riders, but I feel this dilutes our ilk. Nod Rules is a terrific idea.

    Damn it, frank. This is the sort of stuff that got me hot and bothered when I first discovered your fabulous site. “No tights if not above freezing?” But, let me make sure I understand you. Do you mean, no tights if not above freezing, if you are actually racing? Or, no tights if not above freezing, ever. If the latter, I say, Jesus Christ. What you are about? In the Central Valley of CA, when the temp is below 50 degrees F, I wear *two* pairs of tights. Current pros, some of whom you’ve heard of, and ex-pros, some of whom you’ve heard of, wear tights up to 55 or 60 degrees. Knee and arm warmers are seen all over maybe even up to 65 to 70 degrees F. And don’t say, “See Rule #5”. There’s nothing hard about freezing on a bike in the Winter while out for 3,4,5 hours getting in some good base training. It’s just stupid. By that logic, the one who can wear nothing but lycra shorts and jersey in the coldest of temps is the hardest. No, that’s just stupid, and it undermines the legitimate goals a racer should have. There’s a real danger to cycling in a casuistic promulgation of rules that are divorced from sensible, legitimate cycling goals. Who is the one who hardens the fuck up? The one who mangages to do whatever is necessary to achieve legitimate cycling aims, or the one who chooses to standout by enduring whatever pain and suffering he can find, however detrimental to true cycling aims?

  4. You are not alone in your Nod Snobbishness. But, now, no Nod Rules. The customs differ from region to region. I have no desire to identify with any and everyone on a bike. If you are loathsome Critical Mass rider, the only gesture I wish to offer is the middle-finger.

  5. @david

    You are not alone in your Nod Snobbishness. But, now, no Nod Rules. The customs differ from region to region. I have no desire to identify with any and everyone on a bike. If you are loathsome Critical Mass rider, the only gesture I wish to offer is the middle-finger.

    Fuck. This is why we love you so much. You are indeed the beacon of the Cogniscenti.

    Shit, there is a real reason to wear knickers when the temperature is below a certain level: sparing your knees. Wearing shoe covers serves another purpose: saving your toes. Both of these bits of your body do not warm up through working harder. Knees, if you don’t protect them, can be damaged and require months of work to come back to life. Protect them, for they are the cyclist’s achilles heel.

    The temperatures that this happens at depends on the humidity in the air, but even in Seattle, if it’s more than 50-55 – and certainly 60 degrees, there is no need for knee warmers.

    No damage will occur to your muscles between your calves (which your knickers should cover) and your shoes (which your shoe covers will warm). Tights are for pussies and only required in very cold weather.

    But, as a Californian, I’ll concede that your climate is different from mine and maybe your joint’s tolerances are different.

    But please don’t talk about wearing “two pairs of tights” ever again. Ever.

  6. @frank
    your wrong about tights. If you’re not wearing tights/leg warmers below 12C(I have no idea what this is in the other temperature) then you look a twat. Leg/Knee warmers are then required up to 20C. Above that we can let the legs out.

    This does not apply to racing of course.

    @david
    see, you do need Nod Rules.

  7. I nod at all bikes. I have heard more than once from plodders that racer “types” are such snobs. It does not mean that I like/respect them. They can be complete Neanderthals in their attachment to bad habits.

    This conversation has a parallel: In the motorcycling world where one is on ones beautiful and brilliant old BMW you still give the salute to (gag) pig fucker Harleys. The thought is we all face the same monster, so you too deserve my respect, no matter what horrible machine you choose to ride.

    As to tights and Nod Rules I go with David it is too much. If it is a rule that works in The Rules fine but we do not need to start policing the unpolicible.

  8. @Rob I nod at all bikes.

    I’m fortunate enough to have a bike trail 32 miles . . . err, 51.49 km long. On a busy day up and down the trail I may pass 50 people going my direction and who knows how many going the other direction. I’m certainly not nodding all day long. Nor do I even say, “On your left”, “G’day, mate”, blah, blah. I just ride.

    On the other hand, Rob is onto something that has caught my interest. “Plodders”, as he says, think of racer-types as such snobs. And, frankly, many am. racers are just real pricks. It would probably do cycling good if racers were friendly on the bike even to plodders, Freds, etc. Others who might not take an interest in bicycle racing might do so at the local level, and then, also at the international level, or vice versa. And, some of the people out there are just real happy they found cycling, an enthusiasm which should be encouraged in any way.

    So, I pretty much just let my mood dictate how I interact with others. If I’m hurting myself, I’m in my own little world. Sorry that I don’t wave. If I’m out on a rest ride with the plodders, trail tourists, fat middle-aged women, pixies . . . err, I mean fixies, I might try to be as friendly as I can.

    At any rate, I don’t think the area is worthy of a Rule in the Canon. Surely, not all behavior on a bike must be rule-governed.

  9. brett :Two pairs of tights, fuck me!

    Hehe. Just keep in mind that the weather that derailed the ToC last year is the weather I have to ride in during the Winter. That’s the weather Tom Boonen said prepared him for riding in the classics–in Belgium. And, Thor Hushovd on the Northern CA winter: “For me coming from Norway it is so different, to come to this cold place!”

    And we’re listening to Aussies on the matter? For Christ’s sake, it’s winter in July down under. How cold could it get in July, anywhere?! Australian cold weather gear: wool socks, if both of the only pair owned can be found, and full-fingered cricket gloves.

    Seriously, though, I’ve talked with some cyclists who ride in the Winter in Wisconsin. Ouch. At regular intervals they get off their bikes and stomp their feet just to keep the blood flowing.

  10. @david
    People in Wisconsin are soft. Ask Marko about training in Northern Minnesota. He gets coffee at Santa’s Workshop. I used to train in Minneapolis, but I have to admit, I’d ride the trainer if it was below 5F.

    And let me also say I don’t even understand how you put on two pairs of tights.

  11. frank :
    And let me also say I don’t even understand how you put on two pairs of tights.

    First you roll up one leg, then you put your toes into the rolled up – oh balls, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself I just got back from a hot 161.5k ride and its time for the (as Brett puts it) barbie and a few tall ones (ok more than a few…). Happy Mem day to all over here.

  12. Jarvis :@frank
    your wrong about tights. If you’re not wearing tights/leg warmers below 12C(I have no idea what this is in the other temperature) then you look a twat. Leg/Knee warmers are then required up to 20C. Above that we can let the legs out.

    20c?? HTFU! If you can see the sun, tights and leg warmers look bananas. Will sport knickers in the morning up to 10c, but later in the day will likely just wear shorts.

    Will nod most of the time (I can’t see for shit, so can’t tell who I’m nodding to until it’s almost too late). Also live on a trail and conservation area, so lots of plodders; won’t nod always on there…

  13. @steampunk
    I am riding for a reason, I am training. That is why I wear legs up to 20c

  14. And we’re listening to Aussies on the matter? For Christ’s sake, it’s winter in July down under. How cold could it get in July, anywhere?! Australian cold weather gear: wool socks, if both of the only pair owned can be found, and full-fingered cricket gloves.

    haha, cricket gloves, love it. But, while I am indeed an Aussie, I reside in the decidedly colder climes of Wellington, NZ. Even here, I resist the wearing of tights, I don’t even own any, and leg warmers are rarely employed. And Kiwis are shit at cricket, so they don’t really know how to use the gloves…

  15. A small part of me dies inside whenever i see a recumbent. I will make an exception for recumbents is the rider is 70+ years of age and must use a walker when not on the bike.

  16. @Shannon I hear you, man. I was riding last weekend with a Velomihottie, and we came across two young dudes sporting US Postal kits riding recumbents with these ridiculous yellow “flags” …did they have no shame? It was painful to witness, so we passed them and like Lot’s wife and the pillar of salt, we didn’t look back…I explained to the Velomihottie what an egregious violation of good taste it was, and, thankfully, she understood intuitively.

  17. How much of you dies when you see this?

    I met this guy, actually; he had another bike in their as well; dude had everything set up with power taps and everything else. Not a supporter of the recumbent bike, but this guy was very much passionate about it, and I have to at least respect that.

  18. Oh wow, I just threw up in my mouth a little. I guess I can respect the passion at the same time lamenting the ill-advised focus.

  19. @Brett
    It was at SpeedyReedy in Seattle. The other recumbent was built by Calfee! By the way, that’s SRAM Red on there, and check out the length of that chain!

  20. @frank

    Is a violation of Rule #71 allowed if the only alternative is being passed by such an abomination as this……”thing”?

    That said, I did a 320km ride last year and when things turn up, ‘bents go back, but when things turn down, they are fuckin’ fast. Much like people too fat too climb, but with 10^100000 times more shame.

  21. How can anyone truly passionate about the sport NOT be a nod snob? There are people on bikes and then there are people who bleed bikes, ride them, love them, care about them, and really have a passion for the sport.

    The best, and simplest, rule might be not nodding at people who don’t look cool. Anyone with a bit of Velominati in them can spot someone not looking cool quickly. It’s like another talented, besides being able to HTFU at a moments notice.

    As for noise – I had a noise coming from my newest bike for a few weeks, got it worked on because I could not figure out what the hell was wrong with it, and it went away for awhile. Then it came back. I nearly went insane. Thankfully I finally figured out what the hell it was (freehub body issue) and the company warranted the wheel, though it was 2 months past the limit. Nice!

    I now have a proper bad weather bike. My other three road bikes are only ridden on clear, dry days. All of them shift beautifully and don’t make a sound. Silence. It is pure sweetness.

    I can function much better on a daily basis when all of my bikes are in fine working order. When one is out of commission or creaking or something, I am just relentless dogged by it, not feeling quite settled in any way. Anyone else have this?

    We might need to work on an apt word for this condition. I’ll check out The Lexicon thought to make sure this -itis isn’t already listed.

  22. That is a fine offering, G’phant, but that seems more like someone who is overly concerned about one part of their bicycle, say, their…bars…

    I’m talking more about a condition where you always have a nagging feeling, no matter what you are doing, when one of your bikes is making a creak, has a slow leak you can’t cure, needs some attention…

    I like that word, but I’m not sure if it aptly describes the condition I’m talking about.

    Then again, we should let the VeloRulers decide…

  23. @Ron, @G’phant
    Interesting concept, and there might be a good word for it, but I think we’re struggling to come up with one easily because what you describe is just part and parcel of being a Velominatus. It’s all part of La Vie Velominatus.

  24. Reading an old article here; Then decided to pile on recumbent’s a bit: Get your barf bag boys!

    Happy Tuesday!

  25. @scaler911

    Reading an old article here; Then decided to pile on recumbent’s a bit: Get your barf bag boys!


    Happy Tuesday!

    Wow! Top pic? So many violations. Let’s just go with the beard, the polka dot jersey and that it’s a tricycle recumbent. Triple fail.

    Lower pic. Is that a wee window in front? Is there a wee kid in their acting as pilot or something? At least he has the decency to hide what would undoubtedly amount to a barrel load of violations with the huge fairing/bodywork. We should consider ourselves lucky we can’t see more.

  26. One worthy exception to abhorrence of all things recumbent is an annual local ride that benefits disabled veterans. The vets ride whatever their disabilities allow and money is raised to purchase whatever works for them, be it recumbent, hand trike, or tandem (a blinded vet last year).

  27. @itburns

    Indeed that goes without saying. Frank’s own dad had to ride a recumbent for awhile after an injury (I think he was injured falling backwards after seeing one of Frank’s bar-wrapping jobs critiqued on the interwebs)

  28. Might have to get this for the daily winner of the Tourists Anti V Moment:

    I’m only going for the first weekend so I’d only have to wear it for one day at most.

  29. @itburns, @mcsqueak

    My brother took part in this Veteran event in UK and France last Fall. Unfortunately he did not take his personal hand trike (he only has about 4″ of his left femur as a result of an IED) as he was told they would supply them. A bit inferior equipment and he had a hub go out and a brake stuck closed for a bit one day.

  30. @itburns

    One worthy exception to abhorrence of all things recumbent is an annual local ride that benefits disabled veterans. The vets ride whatever their disabilities allow and money is raised to purchase whatever works for them, be it recumbent, hand trike, or tandem (a blinded vet last year).

    Of course sir. Just like the guys that do Ironman that are Paraplegic. Nothing but mad respect for those guys and gals!
    However, I don’t think the guy in the top photo is any of those things.

  31. @scaler911

    Reading an old article here; Then decided to pile on recumbent’s a bit: Get your barf bag boys!

    Is that a dismembered birkenstock-wearing foot in the background?

  32. @scaler911

    @xyxax

    @scaler911

    @frank
    Rock Shox?

    I was just thinking the same thing: Why? How? Where? So many questions, but I probably don’t want the answer.

    You’re as right as rain (does one hear that in the PNW?).
    Do say: “What the fuck?”
    Don’t say: “If only farings could talk.”

  33. @frank
    Knee warmers below 20 degrees – I’d never be out of the damn things here in Scotland. For Scotland all temperature related Rules, Customs and Advisories should be 5 degrees lower that anywhere else..

  34. Rapha are having a bit of fun in their customer survey. Example question:

    If you were travelling along your favourite country lane, passing a fellow cyclist coming in the opposite direction and offered a friendly wave/ nod upon which they didn’t return the salutation, would you:

    • Slow down, turn around a give chase to berate them
    • Continue on your way cursing their rudeness
    • Stop and break down in tears
  35. @Chris

    Rapha are having a bit of fun in their customer survey. Example question:

    If you were travelling along your favourite country lane, passing a fellow cyclist coming in the opposite direction and offered a friendly wave/ nod upon which they didn’t return the salutation, would you:

    • Slow down, turn around a give chase to berate them
    • Continue on your way cursing their rudeness
    • Stop and break down in tears

    This mentions nothing about the Anti Bear pepper spray some of our Merican cousins were talking about some months ago!

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