Life is a series of rules. From the Ten Commandments to the Highway Code, we humans crave and need rules to avoid anarchy. Or maybe we simply want to avoid the embarrassment of breaking unspoken social guidelines. (Here’s a test for you the next time you enter a semi-crowded elevator. Get in and stare at the back wall when everyone else is facing the other way.) Thus it comes as no surprise that cycling too has its own unspoken, and in the case of Velominati, written rules.
Velominati’s The Rules are to be admired for their verve, chuckled at for their humour, but never to be followed. A mixture of the serious, the chest beating, the polite and the traditional along with a healthy dose of tongue in cheek humour, The Rules make a good read and will lead all cyclists to shake and nod their head at the words before them.
“The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules”
The Rules come in for much criticism, perhaps because the most (in)famous of which is Rule Number 5. Harden the Fuck Up. Very macho. That said, the only criticism I have is not of The Rules themselves but anybody who takes them seriously. Or quotes them at every given opportunity.
You’ll often hear folk out on rides or see commentators quoting numbers and referring to The Rules on cycling forums, mostly in jest but sometimes not. This blog post then is The Rules Rewritten, an antidote to the chest beating inner-chimp behaviour that exists within a certain type of cyclist, mostly but not exclusively of the male variety.
“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively”
Dalai Lama XIV
The Rules Rewritten
RULE #1 || Disobey The Rules.
RULE #2 || Don’t use anybody else as your example. Go your own way and knowingly flout The Rules.
RULE #3 || Uninitiate the initiated. Lead them astray.
RULE #4 || Forget the bike. It’s all about the ride. Anyone who says otherwise is obviously not a cyclist.
RULE #5 || Harden The Fuck Up and stop living your life by rules.
RULE #6 || Use your mind and never follow. Lead. You are not a sheep.
RULE #7 || Tan lines look ridiculous and mark only your self-neglect. Your skin is an organ just like your lungs, respect it.
RULE #8 || Saddles, bars, and tires can be any colour you wish. Valid options are any that make you feel good.
RULE #9 || If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are either unlucky or an idiot. Don’t be a member of that special club of people who feel smug for enduring unpleasantness.
“Any fool can make a rule and any fool will mind it”
Henry David Thoreau
RULE #10 || It gets easier if you go slower.
RULE #11 || Family comes first, not the bike. Unless you enjoy microwave meals for one. And sex with your seat post.
RULE #12 || The correct number of bikes to own is L-1, where L is the number of legs you own. The minimum number of bikes one should own is one. Obviously.
RULE #13 || If you draw race number 13, remember you don’t believe in superstition. Or Santa Claus. Or riders who dope.
RULE #14 || Shorts should be clean. Nobody wants to see you itch down there.
RULE #15 || Don’t worry about what shorts to wear with the leader’s jersey. You are not a pro let alone the leader of a race.
RULE #16 || Respect the jersey. Championship and race leader jerseys must only be worn to annoy a particular breed of cyclist who thinks you should have won the corresponding race. These folk also eschew baseball hats because they haven’t played Major League Baseball and all leather goods because they’ve never been a cow.
RULE #17 || Team kit is for sale in most shops. Buy it and wear it if you like.
RULE #18 || Know what to wear. Otherwise you’ll get cold or arrested. Unless it is world naked cycling day.
RULE #19 || Introduce Yourself. Don’t worry if others don’t like your kit or bike.
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
RULE #20 || There are only three remedies for pain. These are rest, alcohol and painkillers. Any combination of the three will do the job.
RULE #21 || Cold weather gear is for when you feel cold.
RULE #22 || Even when not riding, cycling caps will keep your head warm, keep the sun out of your eyes and save you brushing your hair.
RULE #23 || You may employ the aerodynamic tuck whenever you like because you understand the laws of aerodynamics.
RULE #24 || Speeds and distances shall be referred to and measured in whichever measurement system you or your audience is familiar with.
RULE #25 || The bikes on top of your car should be well secured.
RULE #26 || Make your bike photogenic if you must, just don’t share it on social media. Nobody cares.
RULE #27 || Shorts and socks can be any length you wish so long as they don’t get caught in your chainset.
RULE #28 || Socks can be any damn colour you like. They’re just socks.
RULE #29 || Saddle bags belong on the bike to carry the things that look stupid and feel uncomfortable in your jersey pockets. Just ask anybody who has crashed and landed on the mini-tool in their jersey pocket.
“The golden rule is that there are no golden rules”
George Bernard Shaw
RULE #30 || Some pumps fit on frames. That’s why they are sold with frame mounts. Use them.
RULE #31 || Spare tubes, multi-tools and repair kits should be stored in a saddle bag. That’s what saddlebags are for. See rule #29.
RULE #32 || Hydration packs are never seen on a thirsty road rider’s body.
RULE #33 || Shave your legs if you wish, just remember nobody will believe any half-baked excuse you give for such an action. Similarly there’s no excuse for referring to your legs as guns.
RULE #34 || Mountain bike shoes and pedals have their place on a road bike. For example, commuting in a busy city.
RULE #35 || No visors on the road. They will get scratched. Leave them attached to your helmet.
RULE #36 || Eyewear shall protect your eyes first and foremost. If they make you look cool, consider it a bonus.
RULE #37 || The arms of the eyewear shall always be placed on or near your ears. That’s how they work.
RULE #38 || Play Leap Frog if you must. You’re a hero in your own mind only but if it makes you smile then so be it.
RULE #39 || Never listen to anybody who refers to glasses as eyewear.
“The best way to reconnect with your freedom is to look at the rules you have that govern your freedom”
RULE #40 || Tires are to be mounted any which way you manage to get the bloody things on. You are not a pro mechanic. And even if you were a pro racer you’d simply swap wheels making redundant any arguments of saving seconds by quickly finding valves.
RULE #41 || Quick-release levers are to be sufficiently tightened lest you lose your wheel.
RULE #42 || A bike race shall never be preceded with a swim and/or followed by a run. That’s why they have separate events called triathlons. Can’t see how you’d confuse the two very different things really.
RULE #43 || Be a jackass if it raises a smile and makes others laugh. Don’t confuse jackass with badass.
RULE #44 || Position matters and is as unique to you as your body. Comfort is your only worry.
RULE #45 || Slam your stem if it means the bike fits you. Spacers are the difference between comfort and a bad back.
RULE #46 || Keep your bars for after the ride. Drink riding ain’t cool.
RULE #47 || Ride triples if you were drinking triples the night before.
RULE #48 || Saddles must be comfortable. Take the advice of your bike fitter not your stylist.
RULE #49 || Turn the bike upside down when getting the frame security stamped by the police. Don’t make them crawl.
“Gonna change my way of thinking. Make myself a different set of rules”
RULE #50 || Facial hair is as natural as the hairs on your legs. Grow it, shave it, groom it.
RULE #51 || Livestrong wristbands are no longer associated with cycling. For some reason.
RULE #52 || Drink when you are thirsty, preferably just before. Water bottles are only to be referred to as bidons if you’re French or pretentious.
RULE #53 || Keep your kit clean and new but don’t be afraid to ride through puddles. You’re double hard remember?
RULE #54 || No aerobars on road bikes unless of course you understand the rules of aerodynamics. See also rule #23.
RULE #55 || Employ powered transportation on mountain climbs for the cheap thrill of descending or to practise your descending.
RULE #56 || Take your coffee like you take life, not too seriously and any which way you like.
RULE #57 || Stick whatever you wish to your bike, you paid for it.
RULE #58 || Buy online if you’re on a budget or don’t have time to go to your local bike shop or if the service in the LBS terrible.
RULE #59 || Hold your line except when faced with a car, animal, pothole, pedestrian or any other impediment. Otherwise you might wake up staring at a very different line. Beep, beep, beep.
“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else”
RULE #60 || Use the washer-nut and valve-stem cap when changing inner tubes. They each serve a purpose even you can figure out.
RULE #61 || Keep your saddle smooth and hard should you so wish. Just don’t complain to anybody the next day when you’re hurting.
RULE #62 || You shall not ride with earphones. That’s what portable speakers were invented for.
RULE #63 || Point in the direction you’re turning using the full extension of your arm so people can actually see it.
RULE #64 || Cornering confidence increases with thicker tyres and the correct tyre pressure.
RULE #65 || Maintain and respect your bike by riding it. You should not clean or lubricate it more than you do yourself. Do not refer to the bike as your machine. That’s your name, remember?
RULE #66 || No mirrors. Mirrors are for your bedroom ceiling so you can admire your chiselled calves and muscular thighs. Just never look above the waist.
RULE #67 || Hide from the wind as much as you can because you understand aerodynamics. Riding wheels and jumping past at the end is one thing and one thing only: smart.
RULE #68 || Rides are to be measured by how much you enjoyed it.
RULE #69 || Cycling shoes and bicycles are made for riding. Of course, you may need to walk at some point when on a ride. This is fine. Just don’t wear your cleats on your wedding day.
“Integrity has no need of rules”
RULE #70 || The purpose of competing is to talk about it loudly at your next cafe stop.
RULE #71 || Ride Properly. It is unlikely most of you are actually training despite your claims to the contrary. And if you are, respect others.
RULE #72 || Legs do not speak louder than words for they cannot speak. Crying and wailing out in agony is often louder than words.
RULE #73 || Gear and brake cables should shift your gears and pull your brakes. If you think length is important then you’re talking about the wrong thing.
RULE #74 || Data from power meters, heart rate monitors and your GPS will keep you entertained when you’re not riding.
RULE #75 || Race numbers are for posting to your favourites social media channels so everybody can see how much of a hero you are.
RULE #76 || Helmets are to be worn on the head or to be debated endlessly on internet forums.
RULE #77 || Respect the earth; cycle.
RULE #78 || Remove unnecessary gear. Remember, a seat is not unnecessary even if you want to save weight and you plan on standing up for your entire hill climb.
RULE #79 || Fight your town lines if anybody quotes The Rules at you.
“You are remembered for the rules you break”
RULE #80 || Waiting for others pre-ride or at the start line pre-race, you must be patient. A group ride is exactly that. A group. Ride solo if impatient.
RULE #81 || Talk about rides and crashes as it may make you appear friendly. You may even learn something.
RULE #82 || Whilst riding in the cold wear what keeps you warm. Worry only about the gap between you and the nearest bike rider, the curb and passing vehicles.
RULE #83 || Be self-sufficient. Bring a bike to the group ride. Piggy backs are little fun.
RULE #84 || Follow the Code of Don’t Be A Dick. Stop when your fellow rider punctures. You are not riding the tour.
RULE #85 || Descend like a Pro. Unless that pro is Bradley Wiggins in the 2013 Giro.
RULE #86 || Don’t half-wheel. You’ll not get very far.
RULE #87 || The Ride starts when everyone has arrived. Remember, there is life outside of cycling.
RULE #88 || Don’t surge. Unless you’re in an imaginary race on the Champs-Élysées trying to beat Mark Cavendish to the line.
RULE #89 || Don’t put on dodgy accents when trying to pronounce the names of international races.
“The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr
RULE #90 || Never Get Out of the Big Ring when cycling downhill.
RULE #91 || No Food On Rides. The exception being when you’re hungry.
RULE #92 || No Sprinting From the Hoods. Unless the hoods are carrying guns or knives.
RULE #93 || Descents are not for recovery, they’re to shout ‘Weeeeeeeeeee’
Live life by your own rules
What about you? What rules run / ruin your rides? Me? The cliché of enjoying the ride is something I try to do as much as possible, be it the commute, an eyeball bursting hill climb or a long hard slog into a vicious headwind. Granted, this is a rule I also break. Often.
For all of the rule breaking quotes above, there is one rule I rarely break. The rule of the red light. Damn, I’ve been known to stop at the curbside in front of of the chambers of ladies of the night and wait for the light to turn to green. It never does.
And finally, we should remember not to confuse rules with laws.