Rapha-quette – rules for modern cyclists

• White socks only from May onwards. Black socks are for winter months.

• Yes, vintage jerseys – 20 years old or more – can look rather chic but, let’s face it, you do not ride for the US Postal/Quickstep/Liquigas team and you do not get paid big bucks to wear its garish livery, either… so who are you trying to kid?

• All road cycling kit should be road cycling-specific. Men who wear floral board shorts intended for the beach whilst on the road should be banned from the sport. Training shoes, baseball caps, Aviator sunglasses etc are also totally unacceptable. And those novelty jerseys printed with Heinz Baked Beans, London A-Z and Marmite logos? Not funny or clever.

• The only exception to this rule is a wooly hat for winter riding which can be of generic outdoor or hand-knitted provenance. Ski hats with big, comical bobbles, perhaps emblazoned with the name of a Dolomite resort or Alpine mountain, are also allowed. Wear with clear or yellow-lensed glasses – spectacle arms worn over (not under) wooly hat. Persol sunglasses, as worn by David Millar, are also OK.

• At cafés, bars and pubs cyclists must always sit outside, no matter what the season. Why? Well it looks more European and you can keep an eye on your bike, but mainly because there is no place for Lycra in a public bar and a nice Sunday-lunching family does not need to stare at your ugly lunchbox.

• Acceptable drinks to enjoy halfway through a ride include French/Italian/Spanish lager (strictly bottles only), a glass of cold shandy (refer to it as “un panache”, if it makes you feel more French), a glass of ice-cold rosé (Duralex tumbler please) and, particularly during winter, a slug of brandy from one’s back pocket to “correct” your coffee. Citrus juices are a bit acidic but apricot juice straight from the bottle is good. Coca Cola, Fanta etc are only acceptable served in bottles. No vodka-based drinks or pints of bitter.

• Cycling food. During a ride lunchbreak; pasta, slices of proper, thin crust pizza, Caprese salad, steak frites, toasted panatone, ham and cheese baguettes. Full English breakfast is also acceptable when riding in UK.

• Cyclist’s tan; brown forearms, brown shins and calves, brown nose, ears and cheeks, brown stripe on back of neck, dry, chapped lips, brown fingertips, sunburned triangle at sternum, weird little brown circles adjacent to the thumb where there’s a gap in the mitts. Everything else – feet, ankles, tummy, thighs, forehead, hands etc; sparkling white.

• When two roadies travelling in opposite directions pass each other, brief eye contact must be made and the cursory but crucial “cyclists’ nod” administered. This is as close as we get to a Masonic handshake.

• Cycling, like rock ‘n’ roll and flower-arranging, is an alpha male lingua franca. You can bond with like-minded riders and tag onto club rides all over the world. But when not in the company of fellow cyclists, the first rule of cycling club should always be: don’t talk about cycling club. All road cyclists should have plenty of non-roadie friends who have absolutely no idea what they get up to of a Sunday morning. And that’s just the way we like to keep it. Why? Well, non-cyclists simply don’t understand us. In fact, they think we are weird. (To be honest, we are… a bit.)

• Learn some basic repair skills. This is not nerdy, it is essential. Knowing three bits of simple maintenance could be the difference between a long, wet walk pushing your bike to the nearest taxi rank or train station and a simple trundle in to the nearest town. Master the mysterious ways of a chain breaker, get the hang of fixing a flat tyre and carry the appropriate tools at all times.

• Be friends with your local bike shop mechanic. He can do stuff you can’t. Bike shops are essential for not just buying bits but also for hanging out in and drooling over hardware.

• Appreciate the elegant efficiency of your machine, taking time to look down at your chain and mechs doing their magical stuff as you change gear. Your bike needs to feel your love.

• Try not to rock your shoulders too much when climbing. It’s a waste of energy and it looks silly… and remember to breathe.

• Always black shorts. White shorts are for aerobics teachers.

• Having lots of bikes makes perfect, rational sense. Road bikes in carbon, steel and titanium are all essential. Consider owning also; a meticulously restored vintage Hetchins, Holdsworth or Colnago; a gentleman’s bike for when you ride around town in a suit.

• Unless you are astride a touring bike, any extraneous equipment should be kept on the body, not on the bike. Pumps, tool kits, rain jackets etc look naff, twee and nerdy mounted to the crossbar saddle or bars and spoil the elegant lines of your titanium frame. So stuff all your bits and pieces in those three pockets on the back of your jersey.

• The only exception here is a folded up tyre, rakishly attached to the rear of the saddle with an old fashioned pedal strap.

• Use of a handlebar-mounted Garmin or iPhone for navigation is OK but stopping to consult a crease-worn Ordnance survey map is much more the thing.

• When stationary, always complain of being cold; it makes everyone think your body fat percentage is really low.

• Clip-on aero / TT bars? Non.

• Make like the Italians who like to ride slow and long. It’s stupid, uncool and very rude to burn off at top speed at the beginning of a Sunday morning jaunt. Cyclists that do this always end up struggling at the back anyway.

• Do not refer to a sportive as “a race”. Racing is racing, everything else, even the mighty Etape du Tour, is a jolly.

• Bar tape should be finished off using plain-coloured, bog-standard electrical insulating tape.

• Presta innertube valves should be left nude (ie no dust caps) and collarless.

• Clean your bike with a brush and a bucket of warm soapy water. Using a jet wash is vulgar and insensitive to your bike’s feelings.

• Too high seat posts; look sporty but your arse looks bad rocking about on the saddle. Go for a low Belgium style. Same goes for stems that a far too long for your physique…you’ll be seeing the osteopath soon enough.

By Simon Mills. Via Rapha.

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