Tour de France Week: "The Rules" of Cycling - Interview and Book Giveaway

Cycling is a sport of traditions - its why we ride ride famous roads from the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, idolize heroes such as Fausto Coppi and Eddy Mercx, and even ride events that don't allow modern bicycles.

The Rules, written by the so-called Velominati (Keepers of the cog) are one of the best keepers of these traditions. With strict proclamations, ranging from the necessity of wearing black bib-shorts to the importance of solo-training in the rain to be a so-called "hardman," the rules keep cycling pure. But are they still relevant in a world of neon socks and equally vivid kits - as well as the influx of social group rides and the prevelance of adventure road bikes of road gravel grinding? We sat down with the man behind the rules, Frank Strack, to find out more.

/// In celebration of one of cycling's oldest traditions, Le Tour de France, we will be giving away copies of The Rules free with orders of $150 or more. ///

Why did you create The Rules? Is there a specific moment or story that led to the formation of this list?

Velominati was founded as a project to talk about the passion I and the other Keepers feel for Cycling; not just for bikes, or racing, or road riding, but for the history, culture, and etiquette of this amazing sport. We found ourselves writing about a lot of the aesthetics and do’s and dont’s and before long we laid down The Rules. 

The naming of The Rules came from an article Keeper Brett wrote where he talked about breaking his own style Rules, and we took the name and applied it to the entire canon. 

The rest of it - the popularity of it all and the fact that we ended up writing a book - was totally unplanned and organic. We’ve never promoted them or anything, it’s just like-minded, passionate people from the community who get the sense of humor behind them that have made it into what it is today.

Many of the rules glorify some of the best things about cycling, for instance,  being outside. How do you reconcile these rules with those that are more aesthetic and are often considered superficial?

There is nothing superficial about aesthetics. Paul Fournel said that to look good is already to go fast and that is very true. When we feel good, we ride better; we are more motivated to get out in the first place, even. Many of The Rules are tongue-in-cheek, but they are also very true from a cultural perspective. Americans are generally newer to the sport, so they may seem strange or ancillary, but as you study and learn about the sport, their relevance becomes more apparent.

In the end, most of The Rules have more to do with style and etiquette than they do with actually riding a bike. If you want to learn to go fast, go hire a coach.

How will The Rules adapt to the modern cycling trend of "adventure riding" or "gravel grinding," in which bike builds, clothing options, and frame bags and pumps are often integral?

Well, The Rules are about balancing the evolution of the sport against its tradition. We won’t really adapt them to fads and style trends such as wearing big, bushy beards, but we do adapt them to meaningful changes, like carrying a mini pump versus a frame pump. As far as gravel and adventure riding, that is some of my favorite kind of riding, and I make sure I Look Fantastic at All Times, but until they become part of the fabric of our sport, it’ll stay out of The Rules.

Any Rules specific to social media now that that has become so prevalent in the sport?

The problem with social media is it’s too easy to overshare. I don’t care that you went on a 12km ride. In fact, I don’t really care how long your ride was, but I do care that you ride and about the quality of your rides. Mostly, I care that you care about riding. Social media doesn’t help with that, but if you do post something out there, the more epic, the more better.

What's your favorite rule and why?

Rule #9, hands down. I just love riding in bad weather; it makes me feel like a Belgian racing the Spring Classics. There is also nothing as rewarding as the look of bewilderment from passing cars as they observe this nut job riding a bicycle for no apparent reason apart from that they are a nut job.

What Rule, when broken, brings you the most dismay?

Rule #43, for sure. No one needs to be a jerk, and road cyclists already have a bad enough reputation of being elitist dweebs. Barring that, I honestly don’t really care what Rules people break, but I do enjoy teasing people about it. I suppose the thing that annoys me the most is this whole business about saddle bags and Rule #29. I can’t count the number of times that people who justify their use of them by pointing out that Pros train with saddle bags; they are missing the point that the Rules aren’t about Looking Pro, they are about Looking Fantastic. Pros are just as capable of looking rubbish as any of us, so be careful who’s example you follow. 

I have to say, people love their saddle bags. I can assure you that my editor at Cyclist has been sent loads of hate mail and threats of subscription cancellations on the basis that I’ve been critical of saddle bags. My column, apparently, was a “black eye on an otherwise flawless magazine”. Even an ancillary mention of a saddlebag by a community member at Velominati will send the conversation into a tailspin as well.