The Rules and cycling culture: healthy, or elitism?
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.”
“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.
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.