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The Rules and cycling culture: healthy, or elitism?

Thursday, October 23, 2014 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


In yesterday’s blog, “Why most roadies opt for bottles over wearable hydration units“, one of the comments I specifically addressed came from JSF member “akm3” (Allen!), and Allen’s follow-up comments brought up some interesting questions:

Note that the “Rules” mentioned below are the Velominati Rules

“OK you make good points about Rule #32 (Humps are for camels: no hydration packs), but what about rules: #3 (no matter how good your reason for knowingly breaching The Rules™ it’s never good enough) or #7 (Tan lines should be cultivated and kept razor sharp), or #8 (Saddles, bars, and tires shall be carefully matched), or … I don’t know #50 (Facial hair is to be carefully regulated).

I am NOT a serious road rider so perhaps I just haven’t seen the wisdom in all the rules (Although Rule #5 applies to pretty much every sport). They just seem SO exclusionary, elitist and arbitrary.

Example: “Rule #24 Speeds and distances shall be referred to and measured in kilometers: This includes while discussing cycling in the workplace with your non-cycling coworkers, serving to further mystify our sport in the web of their Neanderthalic cognitive capabilities. As the confused expression spreads across their unibrowed faces, casually mention your shaved legs. All of cycling’s monuments are measured in the metric system and as such the English system is forbidden.”

My reply:

“You don’t pick up on the tongue-in-cheek tone of the Velominati Rules?

Velominati “rules”, while often quoted, are not in any way official or real rules. It’s a bit of fun. There’s some sage advice mixed in with a healthy dose of sarcasm, humor and silliness. They are winking at you. At least that’s my take on The Rules.”

…but there’s more to it than that. After I replied to Allen, I thought about it a little more and figured this morning I’d expand on why I think things like The Rules exist, and why I think stuff like that is important.

The Rules.

The Rules.

Cyclists who spend a significant amount of time on the road with automobiles have to put up with quite a lot. We’re extremely vulnerable out there. We ride around on 16 pound carbon fiber bikes and share the road with speeding 4,000+ pound vehicles made of metal and glass. Added to that, there are large numbers of distracted drivers, bad drivers, angry drivers, inebriated drivers, flat-out crazy people… every time we ride, we’re at their mercy.

We’re honked at, cussed at, flipped off, have objects thrown at us, are “buzzed” on a regular basis and are generally despised by a significant portion of the people we encounter on the roads. Unfortunate, but true.

As road cyclists we accept those risks for love of the sport, but dealing with all that stuff is much easier when you don’t feel alone. So, one of the ways “serious” cyclists (meaning those cyclists who put in a large number of miles on a regular basis) help process and deal with the danger is to form a collective. The Velominati Rules are just a natural extension of this. While all of that may seem cliquey from the outside looking in, it’s really just a normal human reaction to the risks we share as cyclists. I think this bond we form is perfectly normal, healthy and cathartic–and far from exclusive to cycling, by the way.

John Stone Fitness Comments

2 Responses to “The Rules and cycling culture: healthy, or elitism?”
  1. Big difference between a hobbyist and someone living a lifestyle. If I were simply someone jumping on my bike on Saturday mornings for my weekly ride and occasionally entering a race, then I’d give two shits about someone’s rules. Vice versa, if I were ingratiated in the cycling lifestyle I’d put a lot more credence in the rules, in large part due to the comradery aspect that John speaks of. The issue I gather is when one tries to impose their ‘rules’ onto someone with which the rules were never meant to apply?

    No matter what though, the universal rule should always be nice, helpful, and accepting; not everybody on the road or in the race is there for the same reasons as you.

    GD Star Rating
    • “The issue I gather is when one tries to impose their ‘rules’ onto someone with which the rules were never meant to apply?”

      I don’t see much, if any, of that going on. While I think most cyclists will try to provide advice to someone who is doing something counter-productive, dangerous or needlessly adding to their discomfort, that’s about the extent of it.

      As I wrote yesterday, most of us don’t care if someone chooses to wear a CamelBak or whatever (and those who do care need to get over themselves).

      I love seeing people out on their bikes and, unless I’m in the middle of a hard effort, I wave at everyone from cyclists on $10,000 TT bikes to overweight folks on Wal-Mart bikes who are just riding to have fun and get healthy. I also never pass a cyclist on the side of the road without asking to make sure they are okay, and almost everyone I ride with is the same way.

      There are jerks in all walks of life, but–by and large–I’ve found roadies to be an exceptionally friendly and accepting group of people.

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