Obey The Rules
Frank Strack, founder of velominati.com, explains why The Rules of cycling may not make sense to everyone, but why you should follow them anyway
As with any religion The Rules are rife with contradiction and myth
Strength may only be revealed through exposing weakness. Cycling is, in equal measure, the most difficult and the most beautiful sport in the world for the simple fact that cycling affords us the most comprehensive path to suffering and thereby provides us a direct conduit into our personal strength. The road lays us bare and allows us to suffer as we have never suffered before; through the sensation of flight, we are allowed to graze the touch of death without crossing over. And we do all this while dressed in skintight Lycra.
Lycra is a tough look to pull off at the best of times, but then we go and put our heads into what amounts to a hollowed-out bowling ball, pull on sunglasses that look like rejects from the 1982 version of Tron, and then stumble around in a pair of stiff shoes with a protuberance under the ball of the foot. To the uninitiated, the pimply-faced guy who just spilled his milkshake all over your girlfriend makes a better first impression than a cyclist. And we haven’t even gotten to the shaved legs yet.
Once the sun comes out, our tight clothing places sharp tan lines on our legs and arms, leaving us with a ghostly white torso and thighs. As time passes, the legs become ever more muscular as the upper body is whittled down to the smallest sustainable wimpiness. I recently told my partner that I could no longer carry two jugs of milk into the house at once for fear of bulking up my arms too much. She looked at me with an expression that fell somewhere between resignation and pity.
So why do we do it? Why is it so important to look the way we do? Because if something is worth doing, it’s worth looking fantastic doing it. Cycling is definitely worth doing, so now you have to decide if you are going to look fantastic on a bike and never look good in swimming trunks again (a bigger forsaking for some than others) and, rather than admiring the shape of a woman’s legs, forever wonder if she has any helpful tips on how to obtain a smoother shave.
It might not make sense at first, but as you unravel the fabric of this sport, you are destined to realise that it is exquisitely complex and rooted in over a hundred years of history – a history of evolving culture, equipment, etiquette and style. And that is why we invented The Rules.
The Rules, as they are known, are the cannon of cycling’s history and etiquette as laid down on the Velominati website. Numbering nearly a hundred, The Rules catalogue this history for consumption by the uninitiated and reference by those already baptised in the water of the Bidon.
Be warned: this strays close to religion, and as with any religion it is rife with contradiction and myth. Some Rules are practical; some Rules are purely a reflection – void of justification – of how things are done correctly. Other Rules are arbitrary. Yet, somehow, all Rules are to be obeyed and by striving for Rule Holism you will find that as your compliance grows so does your passion and skill as a cyclist.
Teach and you will learn. Follow and you will lead. Digest The Rules, observe them, see them observed by others. Consume them serially and work your way towards Rule Holism. Watch your cycling life transform as you shed your European Posterior Man-Satchel, burn your Yellow Jacket of Authority, shave the guns, and emerge on the other side as a Velominatus, a cycling disciple of the highest order.
Frank Strack is the founder of velominati.com, home of The Rules.