Unwritten rules of road cycling: The Classics

Francois-Léo Fortin G.
  • 5 minutes

Cyclists can be a tad stuck up with the culture of the sport and this can cause outsiders to view them as a closed group. Since we think cycling should be for everyone, here are our 5 classic road cycling unwritten rules that will help you blend in! 

With more than 150 years of racing, cycling is by no means a new sport. With that rich history comes a well-established culture in pelotons worldwide. Riding at 40km/h in proximity to other cyclists demands that all the athletes within the peloton can trust and predict each other to avoid crashes or injuries.  

That, and the fact that cycling is simply so hard, explain why some “unwritten rules” emerged from the cycling communities. But with time, those rules became less of a safety necessity and more like culture within the sport. Dictated by famous events or riders, cultivated by amateurs and pros, and documented by the famous Velominati, these unwritten rules are more and more challenged by the boom of new riders and technologies.  

So... Are they still pertinent? 

That’s what we asked ourselves at Cycling Avenue. So we decided to share with you our 10 “unwritten rules” for the cyclist of the 21st century in a two-part blog post.  

Inspired by the classic Velominati rules and adapted for our time, let's start with our 5 classic cycling rules ! 

5 ways to look like season cyclists are: 

  • Introduce yourself to the people you’re riding with 

  • Wear white socks and white shoes 

  • Own 3 different bikes 

  • Wear a well-fitted and clean kit 

  • Line your tire label with the tube's valve

These classic “unwritten rules” are so linked to cycling history that it’s hard to ignore them. In our opinion, you should respect them in any peloton. Inspired by Velominati’s Rule book and years of experience on the bike.

Introduce yourself and take your pull

For us, these two go together. Even if you don’t know anybody who rides a road bike, it shouldn’t be long before your ride into the locals on one of your training. You might feel strong enough to join them and jump in their draft, which is fine.  

But... take a few seconds to come up to the riders (at least the one you're directly behind) and introduce yourself. It feels silly but it's like somebody gets in your yard for a BBQ and no one there knows who this person is. 

This brings us to the second part of being part of a group of cyclists... taking your pull. It’s okay if it’s only for a few pedal strokes, even if the pace drops slightly.  

Unless you’re in a big enough peloton or somebody offer to you to stay at the back, keep your place in the group, and contribute to the pace. Invest whatever energy you can but avoid blowing up after your pull. Talk to another rider if you can’t go as hard as they do, which is easier if you’ve introduced yourself before.

To be a great cyclist, you need a peloton. It’s one of the reasons why the cycling community is so central to the sport. Talking to another rider is the first step to being part of it. 

Feet etiquette

When it’s time to gauge a cyclist's personality within its sports, almost nothing comes to the ankle of his or her shoe/sock combo. This can be confusing to new riders because of how silly it is but the rules are simple.

White shoes and white socks are pros. Black shoes and white socks are old schools. Black on black is cool too but is normally better suited off roads. If you feel you must go colored on either the socks or the shoes, make sure they damn well match together as well as your kit.   

On sock length, it’s simple... going long! No socks are an absolute no, as are the ankle-length ones. These belong on a tennis field. Compression socks should be reserved for recovery.   

The same goes for the pedal type. Only one option is acceptable: roads. Mountain bike shoes and pedals have their place... On a gravel bike! 

The correct number of bikes to own is n+1

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is one, for obvious reason, we love bikes so much here at Cycling Avenue, that we think that the classic n+1 rule from the Velominati should go untouched. Here is how it goes: 

“While the minimum number of bikes one should own is 3, the “correct” number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.” 

Time to do some maths? Check out our Refurbished bikes and get your equation right!

Match your kits and respect the jersey

Now that everyone has a camera in their back pocket, keeping a slick look can be challenging. The basics are simple : Keep your kit clean and fresh. Please think about the riders you’re with and always wear freshly laundered kit. Under no circumstances should the.... ahem, crackal region of your shorts be worn out or see-through. 

You don’t have to buy expensive clothes! Simply choose a well-fitting black bib and match it with a stylish jersey. If you want to go with another color than black for the bib, it should be a matching team kit or complementary to your jersey.    

Please respect the hard-earned work of athletes. Championship and race leader jerseys must only be worn if you’ve won the championship or led the race. Would you wear a Championship ring from a tournament you weren’t in? 

Wearing a Pro team kit is also questionable. Unless you are part of the team. If you must fly the colors of Pro teams, match all pieces perfectly. Non-mix-and-match is acceptable here! 

Tire etiquette

Like the shoes/socks combo, you can tell a lot about a rider through his tire etiquette. Little details can ruin any top-end, fast-looking wheelset for the fancy road rider. Here’s how to avoid snobbish comments on your new wheels day.

Mount your tires with the label centered over the valve stem. This comes from pro mechanics because it makes it easier to find the valve. You’ll do it because that’s the way pro bikes look. As a bonus, you’ll precious seconds while fumbling with your CO2 after a flat. 

Talking about the valve, ditch the washer-nut and valve-stem cap. It’s useless and will make you save 6 grams/wheels (according to our estimation). They are only supplied to meet shipping regulations.  

Finally, if your tire of choice comes with tan walls, choose this! There’s just something about a beautiful bike with tan tires that can’t be matched by black tires. We’ll call it panache! 

And just like that, we are through our 5 classic unwritten rules of road cycling. Come back next week for our second part where we’ll suggest 5 unwritten rules for the 21st-century cyclist.  Until then, we’ll leave you with 2 famous sayings from a famous cyclist that, combined, could become our new mantra: “it’s all about the bike, but it’s never easier... you just go faster!”

Search by subject

Further reading

There’s a moment in a cyclist's life when, desiring to push themselves beyond their own limits, a critical choice must be made with respect to switching to clipless pedals.

Buying a bike might seem like a simple task, but there are plenty of things to consider to zero-in on the perfect bike for you. Different bikes are designed for different purposes and the price should not be the only deciding factor.

It's that time of year! After many months of riding your bike, you can't take it outside every time the sun comes out. Spring, on the other hand, is synonymous with melting snow, which is also synonymous with wet and dirty roads.