Note: This post was originally written for PhillyPedals.com and can be found here.
While you’re touring, you’ll likely meet people. Maybe they’re on tour too, maybe they’re just weekend warriors riding their workday worries away on their weight weenie Pinarellos, or maybe they’re just some kid who has a flat tire and is in desperate need of help. You’ll likely get the urge to stop, talk to them, and possibly even befriend them. Don’t.
Did you forget why you’re on tour? You didn’t strap everything you need to your bike so you could ride through busy city intersections screaming, “Hey everyone, who wants to talk about some stupid BS?” You strapped all that stuff on your bike so when people try to talk to you, you can say, “Sorry, I have to get to camp before dark. You know how it is.”
In most situations, conversation with strangers is 90-95% garbage small talk. Use your time and tires to free yourself from these social shackles! You already have enough gear tied down to your racks, there’s no need to further burden yourself.
You’re going to meet all sorts of people on the road, and here’s why you should avoid them all:
Touring is a boring narrative. It’s like fishing or collecting stamps. If you’re the one doing it, it’s great, but if you try to verbalize why it’s so great, hearing the words out loud really makes you wonder why you’re having such a great time. “Today I rode my bike for 10 hours. There wasn’t much headwind, so as you can imagine, it was pretty rock ’n’ roll.” Now imagine a conversation between two people that are both touring. That’s right; it’s twice as boring.
If you should find yourself at a campground full of people on tour, just explain that you’re tired and need to sleep. Otherwise, you’re going to end up at a campfire listening to talk of how great it is to have a West Coast microbrew after a long day of riding, the virtues of dynamo hubs over solar panels (or vice versa), and uninterestingly personal explanations of why people are on the road. Just because you’re on tour doesn’t mean all you have to talk about is touring, but as it’s your only known common ground, it’s all you will talk about. And then guess what? In the morning, you’ll wake up and start doing what you spent all night talking about. Do yourself a favor and just go to bed.
|A perfect day (because there’s no one here to ruin it).|
Touring Cyclists of Yore
Do not allow these people to regale you with tales of tours gone by. Their memories have all been rose-tinted by the passage of time and the death of aged brain cells. Do not allow these people to live vicariously through you. You’re only stirring up memories of better days gone by that they’ll never experience again. People who have toured will assume that you share a kindred spirit. Don’t indulge this naiveté. Just keep pedaling.
This one really shouldn’t be a problem. About 99% of road cyclists will not acknowledge your existence. You’re not wearing a kit, your bike isn’t made of carbon, and you clearly have no idea how important spinning is during the off season. Most likely, they’ll be able to sense your inferiority from about a quarter of a mile away and won’t even look up at you as they pass by.
There are two types of locals: the good ones and the bad ones. You’re just as likely to be offered a bottle of beer as you are to get one chucked at your head. Why risk it? Ignore them all.
Motorcyclists & Hitchhikers
These two groups are alright. They will exchange pleasantries and then dig no deeper into your life. Be respectful and extend the same courtesy.
Remember: If you’re touring to make friends, you’re doing it for the wrong reason.