Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hey. You Look Good.

Gran Prix of Beverly
Looking straight at her, he said it with nonchalant sincerity, nodding in approval for emphasis.

"Hey. You look good."

In response she gave him a startled, almost bewildered look. As if caught off guard by his directness. As if to say "Hey buddy, this is a cycling club, not a night club. And don't you know any subtler flirting tactics besides?"

Witnessing the exchange I had to suppress a laugh. When this phrase was first said to me on a ride, I did not know what to make of it either.

Of course the guy was telling her she looked good on the bike. That her position was good, that the bike fit her well, that she had good form. It's all in the tone and in the look. Once you get used to this pronouncement in a cycling context, it's hard to mistake for flirtation. But the first time it does catch you off guard. "You look good." Just like that, huh?

I don't tell other cyclists they look good on the bike when we ride together. I don't feel ready. What do I know good form from bad? Yes I see things, and I think it to myself. But it wouldn't be right to say it. The compliment must have significance.

But when I have my camera the dynamic changes. I tell riders they look good then, and it takes on a different meaning: happy, radiant, picturesque. Maybe they have a contagious smile. Or an intriguing frown. Or the light through the trees is falling on their face just so. Or the colour of their bike interacts perfectly with the colours of the bench they are standing beside. It feels natural to say it then, looking through the lens of my camera. "You look wonderful." Or "That's beautiful - thank you."

And there are times when I know not to say it. Just like sometimes I know not to point my camera. Even though the scene looks perfect, I just don't.

The human gaze is such a complicated thing. It communicates interest, care, the acknowledgement of the other, but also scrutiny. We want to be gazed upon to some extent, but there is always a line beyond which we don't. In cycling, the gaze is ever present - focused on each other's bodies, movements. Sometimes it is silent judgment. And sometimes it culminates in "Hey. You look good." In response to which I simply say "Thanks" and continue to pedal.

23 comments:

  1. We all have an eye for something. That's just life.

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  2. OMG keep these coming V! This is turning into a summer of stories.

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  3. AFAIK I'm the only one to tell you looked good on a bike once... you started looking good.

    Non-bikey people have weird associations with words that mean something in a sporting world.

    Lose the upper body, gain strong legs = the trad proto look.

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  4. Replies
    1. Our independence was outsourced years ago.

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  5. Interesting observations.

    I think it is too bad we in the US are so worried about being PC, that casual comments can become highly suspect. I work regularly across the US, in Canada, the UK and Europe and find comments (flirtatious or innocent) made between the sexes, so to speak, is only a big concern in the US. I wonder if we need to be so concerned.

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  6. Accepting compliments like this and giving them are a couple of stages in being a cyclist.

    Another stage is when you check out the bike and not the lycra or wool clad biker of the opposite (or not, depending on preferences) sex. Maybe you aren't yet comfortable enough as a cyclist to notice, or admit to noticing, the rider. Complimenting that rider stage must come later.

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    1. Oh I notice the rider and examine him/her thoroughly (in addition to the bike). I just don't think telling them they look good would mean much coming from me, so I don't say it.

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    2. Velouria, I believe everyone notices - if they are being honest. Notices the bike or the rider, or both. I for one encourage you to say something, if it is authentic. I know compliments can be taken as flirtatious here in the US, but I say don't worry about it. If it's not, it's not. And everyone can use a compliment when it's deserved.

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    3. Bad writing ... the "you" was the generic person comfortable looking at bikes but not riders - like me. I think you are shy about checking out riders' positioning, etc.

      I was once told I my bike fit me, a complement to the guy who fitted me from the person who gave me advice on how to shop for a custom frame.

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  7. Complementing stylish strangers, be they on bike or foot, is a delicate art. I prefer to think of it more a salute than a judgement. Success lies in making subjects feel good about themselves. It's best approached in the context of their clothing or bicycles before moving to the personal. And don't assume their personalities are as outgoing as their fancy dress or wheels: I've met many an introvert this way. The boundary line is a supple one. You make a good point about being direct with the flattery whilst engaged in the photography. 'Tis far better the end than the means. Thanks for raising this issue. We should all be happier for it.

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  8. I mostly just keep my mouth shut when riding with members of the opposite sex. It is so easy for things to get mis-interpreted. In this case it was flirtation, but it could also be mistaken competitiveness, sarcasm or even braggadocio taken the wrong way.

    "Smack talk" while climbing hill might be funny between guys, but when females are involved, one has to be careful not to offend.

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  9. I find myself doing this a lot recently, but almost never say anything to the rider, other than a friendly nod.
    I'm usually such a shambles that people ignore me and complement the bike.

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  10. This reminds me of a shtick in Family Guy where the doctor tells Peter he's 'fine', and Peter responds by saying something like "What, are you coming on to me now?"

    One of many reasons I tend to be minimalist when socializing...

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  11. Oy what a teapot sized tempest!
    Both schools of thought are "right". I tend to "align with" what Cameron Adams said just earlier. I see tons of people in sensory overloaded NYC. I notice, we all notice. Every now and then I'd like to issue a compliment but hold back because people are unpredictable in their sense of self or perception (Uptight? Deer in the Headlights? Secure and Awesome?) so I shut up. (I once got such a dirty look when I offered to help someone with their (obviously) flat tire. No good deed goes unpunished.

    Ms. Velouria, you are well within reason to state such things as you see them. You know a great deal more of cycling in general than you are bestowing on yourself right now. Most can wax on and on about frames and geometry, but they've never even brazed a single joint! You've built stuff! You've ridden in more places than many. You've seen and done it. If you told me my seat vs. bar positioning looks a little awkward or I had a decent pedal stroke or whatever, I would feel fairly, ably, and equitably judged.
    Biking compliments- in NYC it's hard to discern sometimes if your seeing a transportation-only person or you're coming across a bona fide bike geek (sometimes). If I'm looking toward his/her legs, I'm looking for the brand. If I'm really looking, I'm trying to see if it's Reynolds 531, Columbus SL, SLX, Tretubi, Cromor, etc.!! Honest!

    All of that aside, there is nothing wrong with flirtation. There had to be a way people 'got together' before on-line dating.


    Like the rest, always looking forward to the next post!

    vsk

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  12. the slant of your narrative continues to elude me...i read it and then look for it in nature with newly sensitized eyes/ears and find it very different from experience. that said, it makes me think about how one experiences everyday encounters.

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  13. Nice post and all, but who is the hot guy?

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    1. Just someone I snapped at the Gran Prix Beverly race. But everyone there was totally hot, it was a scorching day.

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  14. Yeah it's not a big deal. Someone's got nice form and just seems to have it all going, its nice to see so... hey, you look good. And then there's... hey, you look like a god! Mortals can only dream.

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  15. In the eye of the beholder. Since I started doing big(gish) miles on the bike and my body mass migrated off my face, chins and torso to south of the waistline, the commonest comment from non cycling relatives, friends and colleagues is "Hey. You look like shite." Unfortunately, my favourite shirt and suit manufacturers do not do ranges in lycra.

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  16. In Yorkshire 'you look good' is still considered pretty much an enforcable proposal of marriage in some parts so such observations need to be considered carefully. It's a shame really because a well turned out rider on a smart bike is a most elegant sight, male or female, but there has to be an etiquette which we all observe I suppose, and wearing bike shorts, like travelling in a lift or on the tube, makes folks wary of strangers approaching them with compliments. I wouldn't mind if folks told me I looked good though, and one day somebody might just get drunk enough to say it.

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