Adventure Motorbike Hiking Mindfulness

When saying ‘Hi’ becomes annoying

I’ve been reading (actually trying to finish) the ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’, and I’ve got admit it’s a hard to digest book. Maybe that’s because it is not what I was expecting it to be. It wasn’t really into the book story until recently at almost 80% of the book, that its content started to sink in.

However, I’m not here today to tell you about how complex this book ended to be but rather about something that the author mentions in his book and got me thinking about how city people and country-side people relate to each other.

In the book the author says the following:

Excerpt from ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ , Robert Pirsig, 1974

This can be found in Chapter 29 in case you’re interested in it. 

Me as a hiker

I’ve always wondered why it’s more common to find people who say “good morning” in remote places rather than in natural spaces close to big populated cities or very crowded parks.

A few weeks ago I went for a hike with a group of friends to a place called Congost de Mont-rebei, located in the border between Catalonia and Aragon. We decided to spend the weekend there, and on the first day it was raining cats and dogs. That didn’t deter us from hiking and the few hikers we came across said “hi” or “good morning”. 

On the second day, the rain stopped and the clouds left the valley showing its beauty and glory. As we were hiking back, and the clouds were slowly fading away, we started coming across early-morning hikers who happily said “good morning”, “hi”, “have a nice day” in a very friendly way. 

However, as we were half-way through the hike the amount of hikers started to increase with each step we took. It got to a point where the queue of people passing next to us seemed liked a queue to a concert.

Around that point is when people stopped saying hi or didn’t even reply back to my hi or good morning. People body language and behaviour was the same as in the city, just rushing through not stopping to appreciate anything or anyone. 

I find that in big cities it is the same, since we don’t really say hi to strangers, in the same way we happily do in the mountains. This is as the author of the book says “paradoxical” since we’re meant to be “social animals” aren’t we? 

The same happens in city parks or mountain in your city. Have you noticed that when you go for a walk or hike, it is only the early morning hikers, walkers or cyclists who gladly say good morning at you.

I presume this issue gets worse in even bigger cities like London, Paris, Madrid, Tokyo, Berlin, NY, Manila, Bangkok, Sydney. Actually I used to be an early morning runner in one of London’s famous parks, Regent’s Park and I can’t recall a single person who said hi or good morning. 

However, if you’d drive outside of London and visit Virginia Water, which is part of the Windsor Great Park, people were surprisingly friendly, chatty and happily would say “good morning” even though this area is well known for being extremely well-off and posh. See the contradiction? 

Virginia Water, Great Windsor Park, UK

Just think about it. 

Me as a rider

Now as a rider things are not different either. However, before I expand on this part I’d like to remind everyone that in pretty much all Europe people ride on the ride and hence they have the pleasure of having the left hand free to wave or signal to incoming bikers. In the UK, riders don’t have that pleasure so hence they nod. Now, in Japan things get even crazy because since the speed limit is so low in some parts, especially when riding through villages I’ve seen riders “waving” at each other. I don’t know if this is a common thing among road bikers, but I think that’s cool. It’s subtle difference, but I thought it was worth mentioning it.

When it comes to riding I’d dare to say that the same applies, although with some small differences. 

When you ride in a city you don’t really point two fingers down to any motorcycle you see coming opposite to you. Sure, it just doesn’t make sense I guess, as you would not be nodding either simply because you’d get a massive neck pain by the time you arrive at your destination.

You wouldn’t want to wave in this chaos, would you?

Yet, when you go outside the city and hit the empty roads you’re most likely going to extend your left arm and point your two fingers down, or just wave back (it really depends, and I don’t think there’s a rule to it) at incoming bikers.

Nevertheless, when the roads become too crowded, you will most likely not wave back, even if it is a road in the middle of nowhere. Or will you? My experience has shown me that bikers don’t do it, but it will be interesting to know if this different elsewhere. 

I reckon one way of understanding this behaviour is that bikers are like a pack of wolves. This is actually a nice hypothesis I just came up with now. Bikers are social but not that social as to signal, nod, wave back when they encounter many bikes on the road. Also, it can be dangerous since you won’t be noticing what’s in front of you on the road.

The special case are adv-riders when riding off-road, and I am not saying this because I own an off-road bike but because things are indeed different. The difference most likely will be because this type of riders are riding in remote places and sometimes haven’t seen or come across any bikes or people in days. Hence, when they come across a bike in the middle of nowhere they don’t simply wave or nod, they stop, turn off the engine, take the helmet off, have a little chat, might exchange some food, drink or both, exchange numbers (these days it’s more Instagram handles or emails), put the helmet on, joke a bit more, jump on their bikes, turn on the engines and they say “have a safe ride” 

Two guys I met after riding alone for three straight days in the middle of Spain

Of course I’m not saying that all adv-bike encounters in the country are like that but it’s a common scenario. 

This last bit actually coincides with the author’s comparison between people living in big-cities like LA or NY and people living spread apart like in the case of Idaho or the Dakotas. 

So my last question to you will be, what kind of hiker and biker are you?

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