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The Rules of Cycling are there to Help, not Hurt You… Or Your Feeling

November 2014

I read a really funny article, The Unwritten Rules of Cycling Etiquette, yesterday… It was linked by Gerry at The Vicious Cycle in a post about wearing ear buds while cycling.  Before I get into this, know one thing about me:  I LOVE posts about cycling’s rules – and I don’t mean that facetiously, I really enjoy them thoroughly.  Allow me to explain…

Gerry, the author of that post, says he sees no French cyclists wearing the things on a bike but he does see North Americans do so, and from the sound of it, fairly regularly. It is his opinion that “…riding my bike is one of the few times during the day that I’m actually unconnected to the virtual world, so those precious hours on the road are a breath of fresh air. I also get tons of inspiration on the bike, not to mention a fair few good ideas (or ‘ideas’, at least). I might be wrong on this, but I bet that this wouldn’t happen as much if I had that next guitar solo to think about.“.

If I am to be politically correct about it, that sums up my position fairly. My unvarnished opinion is a little less um, nice. That said, many of the “Rules” of cycling, written or unwritten, are not there to make a person feel less than, they’re there to help a fellow, in the gender-neutral sense, fit into an otherwise very cliquey group.  It appears that some people tend to take the tongue-in-cheek nature of the rules a little too seriously though, and wind up with their feeling hurt.  Notice, that’s the singular, not the plural.  Yeah, that’s not a type-o.  In the circles I run we call that our “bullshit feeling”.

In any event, going back to the unwritten rules of cycling etiquette, take this one on cycling shorts:

MEN: there are many rules regarding shorts. First of all, they don’t exist. Forget about them. The only acceptable garments to wear are bibs, no exceptions.

Now, I could get all flustered at the fact that I’ve got well over $500 in the four pair of shorts that I own right now, get mad and run out and spend another $500 on bibs – simply because this guy says shorts don’t exist, but I don’t have to…  They do exist in my neck of the woods.  In fact, most of the guys I ride with wear shorts in lieu of bibs.  So while that may be a rule somewhere, it’s not one where I ride.  Another fine example is the shaving of the guns…  I do but there aren’t too many others in our group.  In fact, and this is kind of funny, I shaved the day before my first club ride because I read on the internet that I’d be looked down on as a noob if I didn’t.  In fact I was a noob but let’s not that get in the way of a funny story.  Imagine my surprise when I showed up and there were only three other guys with shaved legs.  The other 25 or so were au natural.  Yes indeed, I did feel a bit like a dope.  That said, my legs do look stellar when I’m hammering down the road so it’s not all bad.  And on top of that, my wife really digs it (bow-chicka-wow-wow).

There are other rules as well that fire people up…  Matching kit, sock length, saddle bags, short color, saddle/bar tape color, there’s a rule for almost everything.  Take a look at two photos for me, first with all of the rules followed [ED: All of the rules that matter]:

Not bad if I do say so myself (and I do say so myself)…  Okay, now this one where I didn’t follow any:
Olympic Triathlon_07092011-5
Folks, there are so many fashion f*ck-ups in that photo that I don’t know if I can count them all, call it a veritable shit-ton.  See, this is where having a healthy, if huge, ego really comes in handy because I can look at those two photos and say, “hey, that last one was all of three months into cycling for me…  I didn’t know my @ss from a hole in the ground and that’s okay (if gnarly)”.  When I sat down in my first Algebra class, I opened to the back of the book and thought, “I’m screwed”.  I wasn’t, I just didn’t have the knowhow on that first day.  Well, cycling is no different.  Point is, if I hadn’t read the rules with at least some semblance of an open mind I’d still look like that dork in the second photo.  Say what you want about how strictly one must adhere but I’d rather be the guy in the first photo any day of the week and twice on Sunday (and that’s not even my good kit).  On the other hand and as I explained before with gun shaving, many of the “rules” only apply in certain areas.  Take saddle bags, strictly against the rules, yet there are only a few of us on Tuesday night who forgo them for carrying the tube, pump and tire levers in our pockets.  For my first two years I used a saddlebag.  That changed when I bought my Venge though, because the bag made my bike look like a Ballchinian:

I just can't stand my bike looking like a Ballchinian.

I just can’t stand my bike looking like a Ballchinian.

So, dear friends, whilst it may seem so at times, road cycling (and even mountain biking) rules are not meant to constrict you…  They’re meant to be worn as a comfortable (yet form-fitting) kit that lets one move about freely.  They’re not a straight jacket.

Except the damned headphones…  Don’t wear headphones on a bicycle for God’s sake.  There’s only one easier way to  spot a noob…  They have their tighty whities or granny panties sticking out of the waistband of their cycling shorts.  Yes, I have seen it before and yes, I did chuckle.


  1. Chyrel says:

    I just saw a lot of them earlier. Chuckled at the conclusion of this entry. Lol. 🙊Rules are just there. I don’t even follow those “unwritten rules”. That I should wear matching colors, my jersey should be of the same Brand of my bike and all that. Takes out all the fun in riding. I just go out and bike.

    happy weekend! 🙂

    • bgddyjim says:

      And a happy weekend to you as well. When I’m heading out on my mountain bike, I never worry about the rules. On the road bike though, especially since I bought my Venge, I try to stick to them as much as possible. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Sue Slaght says:

    Totally with you on the head phones. Always good to hear the cement truck coming up behind you. I refuse to wear a bib, rule breaker that I am. 🙂

  3. Frank Burns says:

    This almost inevitably prompts a limerick……

    “I know a roadie named Jim
    Who always likes to look trim
    Rejects bibs for ‘banned shorts’
    Shaves his legs and cavorts
    ‘Stride a bike that must always look prim”

    Keep up the entertaining posts! 🙂

  4. I have this permanet tan, which started out as a sunburn, on that part of my back that peeks out just above my shorts and below my shirt when I’m in the aero position. A cyclist tramp stamp? I still don’t feel the need to get bibs. Maybe I’ll remember to sunscreen that area next time.

  5. isaac976 says:

    oh no .. I am a noob.. I wear headphones… but then again the volume is faint and I can perfectly hear my surrounding..

  6. saltyvelo says:

    did you mention the unwritten rule about dudes with arm tats?

    • bgddyjim says:

      Never saw that one… And it’s way too late now anyway. I only know three rules about tattoos.

      1. Get ’em only where they cover unless you’re exceptionally wealthy – otherwise memorize this line: “You want fries with that?”

      2. No wife’s name. May as well skip all of the pain and anguish of your marriage falling apart and go straight to divorce court. It’s bad juju.

      3. No vaginas or curse words, and don’t trust the f*ckin’ tattoo artist’s spelling!

  7. […] Now, once I put that saddlebag on my Venge and discovered that it made the bike look like a Ballchinian, well it had to go and I had to figure out a better way to stow my spare tube, tire levers, CO2 and […]

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