Secret signals and naked bikes - Tackling the West Coast of Te Waipounamu - CycleBlaze

March 14, 2022

Secret signals and naked bikes

There's much to learn about roadie life, I can see.

We leave home on a gloomy Marlborough morning, having farewelled the puppy and greeted our lovely house/dog sitters. Nelson, just two hours away, welcomes us with blue skies and a group of keen cyclists.

My new Giant Liv Devote, ready to roll, along with Bruce's beloved Trek Domane
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Today's ride is a 25km shakedown tour of Nelson city on a lovely summer's afternoon. Using  a combination of cycle paths and painted road lanes, we forge a satisfyingly neat clockwise loop which takes us out on a rail trail to the Tasman Bay shoreline, through the beach suburb of Tahunanui then around the rocks and back into the city. 

Nelson is a city of commuter cyclists and we meet a number of them on the coastal path heading home to the suburbs. 

There are a couple of close calls as everyone gets to grips with riding in a bunch but as the kilometres unfold, we spread out sufficiently to allow me time to ruminate. 

And what do I come up with? Naked bikes. Real roadies apparently don't do appendages. Their bikes are lean, mean racing machines, with just a tiny bag tucked under the seatpost, used to store peanuts (I presume) and to hang their blinking rear light from. 

I like bags. I like a handlebar bag. I like frame bags and panniers. I like to put things into bags - and, more importantly - to take things out while riding. Things like masks, snacks and my camera. 

I may have accidentally brought a small handlebar bag from home,  one just big enough to carry my camera (and snacks). I may pop it onto the bike under cover of darkness. So tomorrow I may be able to take photos en route. Today was a photoless day. Fortunately, though, we were forced to stop to have a late afternoon drink at a pub. And then forced to have a group photo, so that I have some evidence of the day's ride, other than pedantic Strava.

Photographic evidence: drinks at 'The Honest Lawyer'
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After the interlude at the apparently oxymoronic pub, I begin to notice another roadie practice: secret hand signals. Given that everything I know about road riding has been gained from TV coverage of the Tour de France, which comes with very useful commentary,  I quite expect to see some argy bargy in the peleton, some elbow waving even, explained away by a commentator with the ability to read the rider's mind.

Instead, I notice the riders in front occasionally pointing to the left downward. Later, a hand goes behind a rider's back with two fingers raised. I wait for the commentator to interpret these signals but someone has hit the mute button. I'm left to wonder in silence.

Here's hoping tomorrow will bring enlightenment -along with 1400 metres of elevation.

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Today's ride: 25 km (16 miles)
Total: 25 km (16 miles)

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Keith AdamsIn rides where the group is in close formation a visual cue can be picked up and interpreted faster than an audible one, and may be more likely to be received.

A downward, pointing gesture usually means there's some hazard on the pavement- a pothole, branch, etc.- that the following riders need to be aware of but probably cannot see because their field of view is blocked by the rider(s) in front of them.

Hand behind the back with fingers extended may indicate you are approaching number of pedestrians, slower cyclists, etc.

Hand down, fingers out, palm facing backward means the rider ahead is or will soon be slowing down and it's time to cover your brake levers.

Communication and smooth, predictable riding are keys to successful pack riding. And constant awareness and vigilance: no daydreaming or looking at the scenery.
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1 year ago
Robyn RichardsTo Keith AdamsThanks, Keith. We were riding on a narrow shared path at the time, encountering other cyclists, families with prams and dogs etc. You've given me the confidence to use these signals myself for the riders behind me.
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1 year ago
Keith AdamsTo Robyn RichardsThat would be exactly the sort of conditions where hand signals come in extra... "handy".
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1 year ago