I. Thou shalt be on time and not leave thy ride buddies waiting.1 of 11
"Fashionably late" may impress people if you are royalty. Or maybe a Kardashian. But that nonsense doesn't wash when it comes to an organized group ride with an official start time and location. While you flit around the house looking for your water bottle and adjusting your tiara, your buddies are waiting around in lycra outfits looking like idiots in the middle of a park. Most of us have limited time to get out and ride before we land in the doghouse or doing yardwork all day, so if you're late, don't expect the limo to wait.
II. Thou shalt not use aerobars on a group ride. Ever.2 of 11
Sure, we all know you are rock steady in your aero bars and can ride for hours on end at warp speed with nary a wobble. The thing is, with the unpredictable nature of riding in a group at high speeds just inches from the wheel in front of you, having access to your brakes is pretty important. Of equal importance is the ability to steer so you don't end up in a ditch, covered in road rash and poison ivy. Besides congenial hobnobbing, the whole point of group riding is the aerodynamic advantage of the bodies in front of you blocking that nasty headwind. In these scenarios, aerobars will only accomplish two things: scaring the crap out of the group and making them think you are a triathlete, a jerk or both.
III. Thou shalt obey the rules of the road.3 of 11
If there is anything that endangers cyclists as a whole, it is those individuals who feel that as soon as they straddle a bike, the rules of the road no longer apply to them. Blowing stop signs, red lights and crosswalks might get you where you're going two minutes faster—and maybe even score you a sweet KOM—but it will also show every driver on the road that all cyclists are arrogant jerks who think they own the asphalt. Best case scenario, you'll get honked or yelled at. Worst case, you'll find yourself on the losing end of a collision with a truck. If you manage to avoid both, that driver might just be pissed off enough to take it out on the next cyclist they see. When you're on the road, think of yourself as an ambassador for all other cyclists—the kind of ambassador that doesn't pee in the punch bowl or steal the silverware at official functions.
IV. Thou shalt obey the rules of the ride.4 of 11
Much like snowflakes, every group road ride is unique and therefore has its own unique set of rules. Make sure you know what they are before you roll up and freak everyone out by doing something completely different than what they are expecting. Subjects of variability might include:
- Formation: single, double, rotating, or echelon
- Rotation direction: off to the left or off to the right
- Pull length: ranges from token to superhero
- Sprint points: so you don't find yourself left in the dust
- Drop vs. no drop: see above
V. Women shalt be treated equally among men.5 of 11
Let's face the facts. Like most sports, cycling is primarily dominated by men. In my experience, this has rarely been an issue of contention—something I attribute to the general awesomeness of the dudes I ride with. However, there have been occasions, in less awesome company, where my lack of male genitals has been an obvious bone of contention. Unless you know better, never assume we are slower, weaker or unable to change our own flat. And unless you are the person lucky enough to share our bed, never, never, tell us how nice our ass looks in our bike shorts. A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn't say it to a guy, don't say it to her.
VI. Thou shalt be seen but not heard.6 of 11
As a kid, who didn't love putting a baseball card in the spokes of their bike to make it sound like a Harley (a small, broken one)? As cool as it was when we were seven, we are now older, wiser and considerably more cranky. Riding beside someone with a dry and squeaky chain is like sleeping beside someone who grinds their teeth. Generally one's affection for their sleeping partner will control the overwhelming desire to smother them with a pillow, but in this scenario, I wouldn't count on it. Squeaky chains, creaky bottom brackets and rubbing brakes are not only annoying, but audible proof of crappy bike maintenance. As for your surprise attacks during the local crit... You may as well send out engraved invitation with an itinerary. A modest amount of regular maintenance will keep your bike silent and keep you safe from being smothered.
VII. Thou shalt not halfwheel.7 of 11
Halfwheeling is a cardinal sin of group riding etiquette and easily one of the fastest ways to raise the hackles of your riding buddies. It's like blowing snot rockets on the poor sucker behind you but way more dangerous. Halfwheeling generally occurs while riding in a social double paceline when instead of riding "handlebar to handlebar," one rider pulls ahead of the rider beside them. If this happens at the front of the group, it's an uncool way of telling everyone else they are too slow for your royal self. If it happens mid-group, it means you are overlapping the wheels of the riders in front of you without their knowledge and therefore putting everyone around you in danger. Riding with your partner is safer and lets everyone know you are a team player. Save your shows of awe-inspiring dominance for designated sprint points or your next race.
VIII. Honor thy riding Brothers and Sisters.8 of 11
Always remember we are all one in the great cycling universe, and when we come together to embrace the joy of the ride, we are putting our safety in the tender hands of our riding companions. As such, it behoves us to point out the 2X4 lying on the side of the road so the rider behind us doesn't hit it and crash face-first into the pavement. Whether riding alone or in a group, it is equally important to behave in a predictable and responsible manner. Nobody wants to ride with someone who acts like a squirrel after seven cans of Red Bull. Watch the road, hold your line and if someone passes you on your training ride, deal with it. Don't speed up to pass them just to slow back down again. This is especially true if you are one of those guys who can't stand being passed by a woman—because God hath no fury like that ex-pro you just passed.
IX. Thou shalt be self-sufficient.9 of 11
In grade school there was a kid who always managed to forget his lunch at home. It seemed every other day his poor mother would come squealing into the school parking lot in her Ford Granada, springing from the still running vehicle with the errant lunchbox in hand. She'd burst into the classroom, apologizing profusely to the teacher while shooting her son a look that would melt steel rebar. We all forget things sometimes—tire levers, a water bottle—but don't be the guy who habitually shows up at a ride like a scatterbrained third-grader, empty-handed and expecting others to come to your rescue. Even the most patient and generous of ride buddies will start to think you're a tool for not having your tools. Always make sure you have everything you need to fix a flat—tube, levers, pump—and enough food and water to make it to recess.
X. Thou shalt ride in style.10 of 11
It is no secret that roadies can be particular when it comes to style. Taken to extremes, the level of matchy-ness and Euro-snobbery of the road cyclist can be downright obnoxious. That said, there are simple truths—whether based on nostalgia, practicality or style—that can help guide us in our quest to not look like doofuses in front of our riding chums. These truths have been lovingly collected and recorded through the annals of cycling by The Velominati, the Keepers of the Cog. Whether you are looking for guidance or a good chuckle, The Rules documents these truths—from the proper color of bike shorts (any color you want, as long as it's black), to the art of being Casually Deliberate. Follow The Rules and you will find yourself a master in the art of Looking Fantastic on a bike.