A couple days ago, I was riding up the South side of Suncrest. I was near the top of this four-mile, 1200-foot climb, and it was getting cold and windy. This is not relevant to this story, but I like to point things like this out anyway. Because I like to paint pictures in your mind, and because I like to imagine that when you hear that I’m riding my bike up a mountain in the dead of Winter, you can’t help but admire me.
Anyway, as I neared the top (for I had nearly completed this incredible climb), I saw a cyclist ahead of me. Normally this would tell me that the race is on, but this cyclist was walking. “You good?” I shouted ahead, as I neared him, intelligently using the absolute minimum number of syllables required to ask the cyclist whether he needed help.
“My rear wheel won’t turn,” he replied.
“Want me to take a look?” I asked, knowing that if he knew exactly how mechanically inept I am, he’d answer, “No thanks.”
“Yeah, that would be great,” he replied, sounding a little embarrassed.
So I — gratefully, I must admit, because it meant I got to take a break — climbed off my bike. “Hold my bike,” I said, then tried to spin his back wheel.
Sure enough, it wouldn’t spin. And — very luckily for me — the reason why was obvious: the axle wasn’t properly seated in the dropout. Probably, he had taken a fall and it had got knocked loose then.
“So, did you take a fall?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he replied, even more embarrassed.
“This will take just a second,” I said.
Then, as I popped open the quick release and re-seated the wheel, I said, “This is a really nice bike. You must love riding it.”
“Thanks,” he said. And suddenly he was no longer embarrassed. Suddenly, in fact, he was proud. “This is the first time I’ve ever tried riding up Suncrest.”
“Nice work,” I said. “You’re about there.” I closed the quick release, said goodbye, and finished the climb.
Then, the whole way down, I thought about how smart I am. Because — for probably the thousandth time in my cycling career — the “Hey, that’s a great bike” gambit had worked for me.
Allow me to explain.
How to Make Friends Fast
We love our bikes. As cyclists, we can’t help it. They represent a choice, an expression of what matters to us. And — more often than not — of personal style.
So it’s kind of nice to hear from someone else that they like our bikes. It’s a lot like hearing, in fact, that they like us…but less creepy, by a lot, than hearing, “I like you” from a complete stranger.
But how you say it matters. Don’t just say, “Hey, nice bike” to someone. That can be misinterpreted as sarcasm, which may not be the best way to introduce yourself.
Instead, use these words: “That is a really nice bike.” “What a great bike” is acceptable as well. Or, if you’re younger than 35, you can substitute “sweet” for “nice” or “great.”
And don’t say that to people who have super high-end bikes. They hear it often enough. Say it to anyone you come across on a bike. Say it to people who pass you. Say it instead of (or at least before) “on your left” when you’re passing people.
Then see what happens.