There are many defining features that separate us from other species. We are clearly distinguishable from fish by our lack of fins and ability to walk down stairs rather than flop aimlessly at the top of them (although I’ve seen evidence in tube stations that may point to the contrary). It’s also pretty easy to differentiate between men and flies. Men are attracted to football stadiums, breasts and armchairs whereas a fly likes nothing better than a knee deep excursion into a turd. However, in my view the strongest distinguishing card dealt to us by evolution has been rules. Humans have developed a vast array and network of intertwined rules over the centuries which other animals just could not give a toss about. Their world is a lot simpler than ours as they can go about their business unhindered by regulations that may cause them to be reprimanded by their peers.
Health and safety legislation is a clear case in point. Imagine this applied to the animal kingdom, in particular the annual wildebeest migration in the Serengeti. On arriving at the river, the wildebeest would be met by a stern faced supervisor holding a clipboard bearing a series of important questions. Was the wildebeest aware that in crossing the river they were responsible for their own health and safety along with that of any minor wildebeests that were accompanying them? Were they able to swim 20 metres through a raging torrent of mud whilst dodging crocodiles? Had they come equipped with four water wings, a snorkel, lion repellant and a will? Were they able to climb a vertical 15 foot mud bank equipped with only cloven feet and motivated by sheer terror?
Were the wildebeest to pass this initial test, the supervisor would ask them to sign a disclaimer, try and sell them a collision damage waiver policy and then read them out the rules of river crossing.
All wildebeests must proceed in an extremely disorderly fashion including the exertion of extreme pressure upon the wildebeest in front in order to move the queue rapidly forward.
Should a wildebeest become entrapped in the jaws of a crocodile they must disengage from the melee, offer token resistance then smile to the BBC camera before being dragged under.
Under no circumstances should any wildebeest offer aid to another including siblings, parents and in particular offspring. Remember, it’s every wildebeest for his/herself.
Were these rules to exist, the migration would never happen. The wildebeest species would fall into extinction with only a thin smattering of health and safety wildebeests remaining at the river bank roaming resplendent in high viz jackets. It would become equally farcical for the waiting crocodiles. They would be required to ensure that they had properly washed and cooked each captured wildebeest before consumption. Further regulations would require the filtering of any horses from the herd as fit for hyena’s only.
Of course none of this will actually happen, us humans will continue with our rules and the animals shall wilfully discard them whilst being eaten/drowned/stampeded in muddy creeks. To make matters worse it appears that we also appear to suffer from unspoken rules. For example,
Every sentence spoken in earnest must contain the word “literally” regardless of the fact that there is no metaphorical sub-meaning (apologies, in-joke with the wife)
Queuing, waiting, sitting, walking, eating, drinking or any other activity apart from swimming without a smartphone is strictly forbidden.
It is imperative that every five minutes of prime time TV be tweeted
Such unspoken rules have also pervaded into cycling. I was reprimanded upon many of them when I first joined a road club and these rules rapidly became spoken ones. My shifters were moved into the horizontal position by Pete the Elder, the chain ring marks upon my legs frowned upon by John the ticker and my choice of cake switched to coffee-and-walnut by Steve the rock ape. Just about every single thing I did in my first year of club riding transgressed an unspoken rule with the phrase “Someone tell ‘im” a constant companion to my Sunday rides.
So it came as something of a shock a few years back to come across the written rules for cycling. These had been proposed by the Velominati, a shadowy organisation who had documented everything currently unspoken into a long list. There’s a link to them here and I’ll leave the vast majority of you to facepalm and tell me that you’d read them yonks ago. Well, so had I. But recently I was reminded of these rules by a friend who pointed at the pump strapped to my seat tube whilst frowning and muttering “Rule 30”.
This pissed me off a bit as it was probably the only element of my ride that was in contravention. My stem was properly slammed, my jersey and shorts were colour matched, my glasses were sitting proud of the helmet straps and I didn’t have a bell or playing card/clothes peg attached to the bike. I sulked for most of the ride and on returning home revisited “the rules”, it turned out that I had broken loads of them. Unshaven legs, use of inner ring and incorrect coffee choice at cafe stop to name a few.
Scanning the entire list made me realise that I would always be in contravention in some form or other. Taking the pump as an example, there’s a good reason it’s strapped to the bike, if it wasn’t I’d forget it and subsequently be subjected to the long walk/phonecall to Helen of shame after puncturing miles from the nearest bike shop. I stopped shaving my legs years ago after a “near miss” in the testicle region. And as far as I am concerned coffee ain’t coffee without milk.
Having got to the bottom of the list I had a clear picture of one who could actually conform to the Velominati’s rules. Male, late twenties, Italian, part time model, unlimited clothes/bike budget with olympian VO2 max. I only meet one of those criteria (just). Clearly these rules are not ones that I can be governed by and hence I must draft my own cycling constitution within which I can happily abide. So I retreated to the shed with pen, paper and a milky coffee and began construction of my own little list. These would be rules for the British cyclist. They would be designed to include all creeds and colours of wheeling, a manifesto devoid of fashionista, a celebration of diversity but most importantly a complete list of my own cycling prejudices.
Like the vast majority of my projects, Dave’s rules currently has status “work in progress” but I’ll give you a taster of where I’m at and you can make up your own mind.
The Rules (for normal cycling types)
Rule 1: When you pass another cyclist on the road, you acknowledge their presence. Acceptable gestures include; a slight lift of the right hand from the bars, a nod of the head, a cheeky sideways wink, a gasped “hello”. Should the gesture not be returned it is important to head for the nearest cycling forum and accuse all mountain bikers/roadies/CTC types/recumbent riders (select one) of being miserable bastards.
Rule 2: You shall never name your bike. We are not horse riders heading out for a canter on Dobbin having lovingly fed him hay. We’re explorers, navigators, travellers, athletes and engineers. Our bicycles are our tools, I doubt Captain Scott christened his sledge ‘Swifty’? Naming your bike can only lead to embarrassment as you find yourself shouting “Bloody hell Monty, what the hell are you playing at?” at an upturned bike in the middle of a well attended sportive.
Rule 3: You say you’re going to ride, you ride. It must be clearly noted that I am possibly the worst offender in the UK where rule 3 is concerned. I regularly concoct a litany of excuses that range from feigned illness to loss of limb. Some of these excuses can only be used once.
Rule 4: It’s miles not kilometres. Great Britain has proudly resisted the metric system for road distance measurement for good reason, we prefer to work harder to make our numbers. Kilometres are the easy way out, a 10k ride is suddenly a lot less significant when presented as 6.2 miles. Our European brethren adopted kilometres to make their rides easier, we’re made of sterner stuff. We shall sniff at kilometre centuries and only properly doff the cap at a rider who’s completed one hundred miles.
Rule 5: There is no rule five.
Rule 6: If you’re going to speak out on behalf of cyclists, please look normal. Nothing will deter potential converts more than a scraggy bearded Cedric and his nasal drawl banging on about greenhouse gases whilst resplendent in lime green corduroy trousers, mismatched cycle clips and a filthy orange high viz vest. We’re a nation of lemmings people will only follow you into cycling if you look like Victoria/David Beckham or possess a picture of kitten doing something cute.
Rule 7: Your significant other is far more important than the bike (when it’s raining)
Rule 8: It’s acceptable to overtake another rider on a hill … as long as prior warning of approach has been given. How many times have I been caught out by riders who sneak up behind on well lubed bikes only to take me at the summit. I grudgingly accept defeat whilst simmering that if I’d been given notice at least twenty percent more effort on my behalf would have seen them off.
Rule 9: Keep the right calve away from the bike at all times. Chainring oil imprint marks the amateur.
Rule 10: The acceptable amount of time spent faffing whilst fixing a puncture is as long as it takes for one of the more experienced group members to take over and do it themselves.
Rule 11: Post ride it’s obligatory to publish to all social networks statistics, routes, pictures of bikes against gateposts/food/cows/crap landscapes along with references to beer and cake. Your non-cycling friends will be fascinated and never tire of such posts whilst your cycling friends will nod in appreciation. Rest assured that the scroll wheel shall never be flicked upwards to the tune of a muttered “who gives a shit”
Rule 12: As cyclists it is important that we vengefully share and attack any anti-cycling diatribe that we may encounter across the internet. Such actions will ensure that our abusers clearly recognise that we are a force to be reckoned with and hence in the future will give us a wide berth when travelling at speed in their steel reinforced cages equipped with air bags.
Rule 13: The N+1 rule shall be seen to satisfy a cycling bare minimum. A correct response when asked “How many bikes do you need” shall be “All of them” shortly followed by “Now”
Rule 14: Poor ride performance is always due to one of; nutrition, hangover, niggling injury, lack of sleep, rubbing brakes, incorrect tyre choice, inclement weather or misalignment of the astrological chart. It is never down to the fact that you have not trained properly or did not put in the requisite amount of effort or are actually a pretty mediocre cyclist. It’s important that the proffered excuse is regularly discussed with ride colleagues who will show their clear understand of your particular predicament by yawning.
Rule 15: Bike cleanliness and mechanical performance is inversely proportional to fitness.
Rule 16: There’s ALWAYS time for a ride
Rule 17: Never shoot red lights, pass lorries/buses on the left, manoeuvre without a life saver or fart on a club run. Each of these actions is potentially life threatening and even if survived brings cycling into clear disrepute within the eyes of the beholder.
Rule 18: Hot drink prejudices have no place in cycling. However, it’s Coffee and Walnut cake or find another cafe.
Rule 19: The correct sequence of events when dealing with a colleague’s cycling accident is as follows: stop laughing, check bike, place colleague back on bike, repeat. Emergency services should only be called in the event of bike becoming unsalvageable or colleague refusing to remount/lapsing into coma.
Rule 20: Cycling matters.