Unwanted Advice

When I first started biking I didn’t know what I was doing. But I knew I was having fun. Yes, loads of fun, until…

Unwanted Advice

Yes, the unsolicited advice from strangers started coming. Of course some of it was useful advice. But no matter what it was also condescending. I wished they would be quiet and let me enjoy my ride. If I wanted bike help I could turn to my bike shop or the internet. I decided then to never give advice on the road.

Now with years of experience I have tons of tips I want to share too. When I bike in spring my inner monologue goes something like this:

Embarrassing Advice for Newbies

And when I see the newbie swerve I have to wonder:

The Newbie Swerve

But I just keep quiet and let everyone enjoy their ride and hope they keep riding… and maybe someday giving advice to others.

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  • Opus the Poet May 16, 2014   Reply →

    Yes the cyclist swerving in and out of the parking lane is one of my pet peeves. And I try not to notice the low tires, squeaking chains, and badly adjusted brakes I see on the road as I ride. The big problem is most of those I see on the Invisibles and my spanish went to pot after my wreck, so I can’t come up with the words to help them even if they would accept help.

  • Barton May 16, 2014   Reply →

    I don’t keep quiet – not with the person in the last frame. He’s making it unsafe for me as well. But I do often mutter under my breath, “why are you even bothering to wear a helmet if you can’t wear it properly?”

  • Charlie May 16, 2014   Reply →

    Ah so true. I have never been W.M.D. but I have had all those thoughts as I’ve observed newbies with very poorly adjusted bicycles and improperly worn helmets. I generally only say something if asked though. I figure they’ll eventually figure it out. The more surprising situation is when I see someone decked out in spandex in a really expensive bike with similar issues as you’ve outlined: squeaky chain and gears, weaving in and out of parked cars, etc. That to me is really much more embarrassing because they’re giving them impression from what they’ve spent that they’re an expert whereas their behavior shows they have a lot to learn.

  • Ts May 16, 2014   Reply →

    Great article! My husband gets more unsolicited advice, I get a lot if people asking if I’m okay financially or do I need a ride (because I bike with an Xtracycle with 2 kids on it). An I get told a lot of stories about people killed (because I don’t wear a helmet).

    • Jon Webb May 16, 2014  

      “Oh you poor cyclist! Do you need a ride?”
      “What, and miss all this?”
      (reference Yehuda Moon comic.)

    • Sarah Berkner May 7, 2015  

      You can tell them you’re just doing your part to prevent global warming :)
      The helmet thing is different, even if it’s annoying and unsolicited they just want you to be safe.

  • Roger Levy May 16, 2014   Reply →

    Driver pulls over to offer help since I am leaning on my bike and quite red-faced; I notice she is very old. “I always look like this, I am OK”, I reply. “You don’t have to help people any more, you know. They might be kooks and you have earned your retirement”, I say. She replies, “You must be from the city.” We are forty miles from town and a country woman is smiling at me as if to say, relax, city boy.

  • DanH May 16, 2014   Reply →

    “Find your zen” – good advice, that!

  • Claire May 16, 2014   Reply →

    When I first started cycling again, as a woman in my 30s, I seemed to get lots of unsolicited advice from men ages 45 – 60, most of condescending. It was a real struggle between picking out the useful bits from what they had to say, and wanting to leave 50 million tire tracks on their backs.

    • AngieH May 16, 2014  

      Claire – I’m in the same boat as you. I do triathlons, but I’m also a mom of a 2yr old who works full time, so I do lots of riding, but mostly by myself when I can find the time. Last summer I met up with a local group in town for a ride but was so annoyed by all of the unsolicited advice from all of the slightly older than me guys in the group that I’ve never ridden with them again. I know they meant well, but I was like “Dudes! I’ve done two IM triathlons – I think I know how to ride my bike!”

  • Sam J May 16, 2014   Reply →

    How do I let Bikeyface know that because of the illustration and Internet distribution processes, she has no inner monologue? I hope I didn’t just type that in a public forum just now.

  • Lucas May 16, 2014   Reply →

    the weaving/not keeping a straight line is a major peeve with me as well… otherwise I keep the “some oil will get rid of that squeaking” comments to myself.

  • morlamweb May 16, 2014   Reply →

    Since I’m usually the lone bicyclist out on the roads in my town, I have no one to which I can give advice. I did have a roommate years ago back when I started to ride who was more experienced that I, and he gave me a lot of good advice. He also wasn’t a complete stranger. I think it’s the whole idea “unsolicited advice from strangers” idea that turns people off.

  • Steve May 16, 2014   Reply →

    Unsolicited advice almost never works. Beyond modeling good behavior, the most effective approach toward active education is to provide an attractive invitation to learn more. I enjoy teaching cycling skills classes to novice cyclists who have self-selected to sign up for the classes, but there are many smaller ways to reach those with less determination. If you can start a conversation, ask people how they feel, what they like, what they don’t like when cycling. Ask if they think they would like some help. One piece of useful advice per day is probably the limit on what a person will be willing and able to process in a casual encounter – and only if they have decided that they want help.

  • Jill Quindiagan May 16, 2014   Reply →

    Unsolicited advice gets me pretty agitated. on FB a more “experienced cyclist” said i should have pocketed my wind vest because having it flap in the wind is inefficient. I had to explain that 1) i’m a tiny person so my jersey pockets are also pretty small they won’t even fit in them. 2) i don’t care about efficiency and I’m enjoying my ride anyway. 3) I don’t care that it bothers you. you are NOT me (so go away).

  • mouth breather May 16, 2014   Reply →

    two things I often want to tell people but don’t: “your chain needs lube,” and “your tires need air.”

    things I do tell people: “one of your wheels is wobbling,” “your pannier is about to fall off,” and “nice bike” (to the bakfiets people – probably will stop saying it the more I see them, though).

    I like the commiserating at stop lights when we see someone do something stupid.

    • scott May 16, 2014  

      I agree with mouth breather. I’m not shy about complimenting a bike or starting a conversation at a stop light, and I rarely talk to people at all. I’ve also appreciate when others see something wrong, like my strapped on load looking like it’s about to fall off. Well meaning is better than rude. Advice comes in many forms, even through comics.

  • Cuter Commuter May 16, 2014   Reply →

    You inner dialogue is great advice and I am sure it will be appreciated by others who seek advice.

    The delivery of well-meaning advice can make the difference between whether it is taken as helpful or offensive. Naturally I want to be helpful and say something, especially if speaking up could make the difference between the other rider’s comfort and safety. Most of the time I bite my tongue because the person is probably aware their bike is squeaking, tires need air or saddle is too low (perhaps they are comfortable riding that way). If I feel that I really should say something, it would be more like this for example, “I thought you’d want to know that it looks like your wind vest could be falling out of your back pocket.”

    Likewise if someone were to say something to me, I would just give them a head nod and let them know I appreciate it and just ride on. To each their own.

  • Heather May 16, 2014   Reply →

    I’ve often wondered about giving advice and almost always decide against it. There’s a big difference between telling a fellow cyclist about a poential problem they can’t see and imposing wisdom on the unsuspecting. I always start with saying, “You may not realize, but … “.
    I ask, though – when someone is riding in old or sheer shorts/leggings, should I say something? I would want to know those pants should be retired.

  • Jon Webb May 16, 2014   Reply →

    This is timely. Now is the time for the new bikers to come out, grab their bike from the basement or garage where it’s been sitting for twenty years, or maybe a yard sale, and start their helmet-less salmoning.
    The most I say to folks, usually, is “Dude…” If they happen to be stopped at a light or something so I can converse it’s not hard to point something out kindly.

  • KG May 16, 2014   Reply →

    Ha! Yes. Hilarious.

    I’m sure there’s a lot of advice out there I could benefit from, but when I’m in my “biking zone” I’m relaxing and thinking happy thoughts. I’m not in the mood for a stranger to tell me how I can be doing that better. Chill out, W.M.D., and bike on.

    • scott May 16, 2014  

      Honestly, one of the things I enjoy most about bicycling through the city is engaging with other cyclists and what’s around me in terms of sights and sounds. I like that it opens me up as opposed to being in my own zone. I like paying attention and acknowledging something new each day, even if with just a nod.

  • Pip May 16, 2014   Reply →

    Agree Heather! Yes, tell them. I’d like it if someone told me in a ( gently humorous) kinda way, “hey,” as you said, “you may not realise this but…..” Which is the best way for so many things on and off the bike: your cycling shorts leave nothing to the imagination / your flies are undone / your skirt is caught up in your underwear / you’ve got spinach stuck in your front teeth/ your button has popped open, I can see your bra / your dog has just done a massive po0 on the lawn over there. ( I did say on and off bike…nite only one of these is on topic!!!!

  • John Romeo Alpha May 16, 2014   Reply →

    I recently saw a woman whose scarf had come unwound in back, was swinging around her back tire, about to get caught, twisted up, and pull her choking off backwards. I guess I shouldn’t have spoken to her or given her advice about what was happening because I was wearing Lycra and am a dude? Because, what, I was both objectifying her and condescending to think she didn’t realize on her own that she was about to be strangled? OK I will remember that. Thanks for the advice. Of course unsolicited advice not only works at key moments, sometimes it’s actually a moral imperative.

    • NS May 17, 2014  

      Re the scarf – Advice re imminent possible accident wouldn’t be ‘unwanted advice’ (that is the title of the post…. there’s a difference between unwanted and unsolicited).

    • David Booth May 8, 2015  

      But the difference is entirely subjective. The WMD has no way of knowing in advance whether the advisee wants or does not want the advice. He can only guess. The criticisms of “condescending” advice merely mean that the WMD guessed wrong.

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