In Forget the Velominati’s Rules, you’re not doing it wrong Peter Flax tells the story of coming to hate “the rules” of cycling.
He writes, “The outermost layer of the problem is that many of the rules are empirically stupid. Telling everyone to stuff tubes and tools in jersey pockets sounds really clever until a group ride grinds to a halt because no one has a chain tool. Urging the masses to remain in the big ring and slam their stems and ditch frame pumps is neither smart nor droll. (But telling a demographic of hobbyists that spends thousands of dollars to buy bicycles that reduce road chatter to “Harden the fuck up” — now that’s funny.)”
What are the rules, anyway? Here’s the list, The Velominati’s Rules.
About “the rules” The human cyclist writes,
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.
On Facebook my friend, colleague, and fellow cyclist Tim Kenyon has written about his own version of cycling’s rules and I blogged about them here.
Recently Tim talked about his bad experience with the macho cycling culture associated with “the rules.”
So last week as I rode between Bamberg and St Agatha, I passed another cyclist traveling the other direction. While I have never endangered any land speed records while cycling, it’s fair to say that I was at least not dawdling at the time. I smiled and nodded my head at him, in a reasonably normal show of cycling solidarity and neighbourliness.
“COME ON, WUSSY BOY, PICK IT UP!!!” he screamed as he went past.
Naturally I found this a bit puzzling. What sort of relationship did he imagine that he and I had, that could make this a non-pathological form of interaction? Did he read on one of those sad “The Rules” internet pages that this was the way to prove one’s status as a *hard man*? Or was this somehow imagined to be a bit of beneficence — a piece of pro bono personal life coaching from an expert who would normally charge big bucks to scream insults at elite athletes?
These questions occupied me only for a few minutes, though, and I can say I had quite forgotten the incident before yesterday, when, riding up the last hill into Kitchener from Petersburg, I recognized him coming the other way, down the hill. My friend and I were at the end of a long ride, and my friend was hurting just a bit. So he was spinning his way up the hill a minute or two behind me. I was getting a last good anaerobic push in before the end of the ride, so was standing up and doing my best to shatter myself on the climb. By the time I’d recognized the roving screamer, he was speeding down the hill past me.
“PICK IT UP, PICK IT UP!!!!” he screamed at me.
*Now, that really is just plain weird*, I thought to myself. When my friend caught me after the crest of the hill, I asked him whether anyone had screamed at him on his way up the hill.
“Yeah,” he panted, clearly very puzzled. “Some guy yelled that I was, uh, a wussy boy.”
So now I am left to wonder: Who is this sunglassed crusader? Does he ride the streets, day and night, since wussy boyitude never sleeps and hence neither can fighters of wussy boyitude? Was he called a wussy boy in his formative cycling days, and does he now reenact this tragic memory when encountering strangers? Is this a kind of verbal tic, and if so, is it limited to cycling situations? What if we met in the Superstore, each pushing our shopping carts laden with espresso beans, agave nectar, and Clif Bars? If I met him walking on the sidewalk, or on the ice playing hockey, would he still be neurologically compelled to scream “WUSSY BOY” at me?
I cannot say. It is a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, dusted with freakshow, encased in Lycra, and perched atop carbon.
I confess that I’ve liked “the rules” in the past as a cycling in-joke, a way of making fun of how seriously we take it all. I especially like the “badass” rule.
I’ve written about riding in bad weather here.
But insofar as they seem to be taken seriously, not as cycling culture poking fun at itself, and they seem so macho as to exclude those who won’t play by the rules, I think the joke might have just run its course.
We don’t need gatekeepers to tell us who the real cyclists are. As is the case with my academic discipline, philosophy those who want rules are interested usually in keeping certain kinds of people out. We don’t need that, not in cycling, not in philosophy.
Bye bye rules!
Just ride your bike!