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Bicycle Fashion: 10 Commandments Of Road Cycling Etiquette

Updated on July 28, 2016
Wearing team kit replicas are a no-no in the amateur cycling world. But pro-racers, such as Tom Danielson (pictured), get paid to wear their sponsors.
Wearing team kit replicas are a no-no in the amateur cycling world. But pro-racers, such as Tom Danielson (pictured), get paid to wear their sponsors. | Source

I've been road cycling for at least a decade. During that time, I've found that road bicycling has an unwritten code about cycling etiquette and bicycle fashion -- much of which can be a source of humor and some of which is down-right snobbish.

This is the code serious road riders abide by.

But before somebody gets their cycling shorts bunched, remember this article is tongue-in-cheek and meant to be fun.

1. Thy super hero kit shall match

The kit refers to the skin-tight super hero-like outfit cyclists wear. It is composed of a jersey, cycling bibs (no shorts, only bibs), socks, shoes, helmet, and gloves.

The jersey and bibs need to match. They should have the same color scheme as your bike, too.

But under no circumstance should an amateur wear a replica pro-team kit unless you are or were on that team. In other words, hang up that U.S. Postal jersey and shorts from the Lance Armstrong era.

If you belong to a club or team, wear their kit. If not, unbranded attire is the way to go.

You may consider wool jerseys if you're an old-school roadie, but you have to ride your classic steel frame. Riding carbon fiber, aluminum, or titanium with wool is a fashion sin.

Also, socks should be no higher than the ankle.

2. Thy Wookie-like hair on legs shall be shaved

This is directed to the men who have a hay field of hair on their legs.

Shaving legs for cycling does have benefits, including easier wound care and cleanup. Most importantly, though, they are an indication that you're not a noob, know about cycling tradition, and are interested in looking good. Who doesn't like silky, smooth legs?

3. Thou shall avoid chain ring tattoos

A chain ring tattoo, which is a grease mark on the inner right calf, happens when the dirty chain rubs against a rider's leg.

Not only does this soil your freshly shaved legs, you become branded with the mark of a rookie.

This mark is also known in the amateur racing world as a Cat 5 mark -- the beginner category in cycle racing.

4. Thou shall clip out of pedals correctly

Clipless pedals, despite their learning curve, are superior to platform pedals, which, if you're still using, means you're committing a cardinal sin by using them.

The real truth test is clipping out. Spotting a beginner using a clipless pedal system is easy: Watch for rider who has unclipped his/her foot a mile before the stop sign for fear of not being able to unclip in time. (Not unclipping in time means you'll probably lose balance when stopped and fall over.)

The only way for an experienced cyclist to unclip is let the bike come to a complete stop, then unclip. Kudos if you can track-stand.

The sign of a leisurely non-professional group ride: Riders three abreast and large gaps of space between them. Bonus points if you can spot the additional roadie sins -- some of which are not listed in this article.
The sign of a leisurely non-professional group ride: Riders three abreast and large gaps of space between them. Bonus points if you can spot the additional roadie sins -- some of which are not listed in this article. | Source

5. Thou shall keep composure in a group ride

Pro-cyclists on a group training ride are like a flock of birds.

They zip along the road two abreast in formation, shoulder to shoulder, keeping a berth of 6 inches to a foot between each other. They ride in a straight line. The hum of tires and chains, with the occasional small-talk, is heard.

This is composure on a group ride.

Compare that to amateur cyclists in a group ride. They ride three to four abreast, weaving between potholes, and strung out across the roadway.

The hum of tires is drowned out by the constant shouting: "CAR UP! CAR BACK! HOLE! HOLD YOUR LINE."

Ten riders don't need to announce the same verbiage. A simple hand gesture works just as well. Learn some basic group cycling etiquette.

6. Thou shall worry about bike weight, not about belly flab

Your bling-bling carbon fiber bike needs to be as light as possible. Carbon fiber wheels, carbon fiber bottle cages, carbon, carbon, carbon.

Aluminum weighs too much and doesn't have the carbon fiber buzzwords that describe the bike as having "vertical compliance with lateral stiffness."

Every gram counts on the bike, despite having a little stomach pouch and not being able to see your feet when you stand up. Training to lose weight is out of the question; buying parts to lose weight is the answer.

7. Thy bike shall be equipped with a double crank-set, even if thou live in the mountains

A double crankest is a racing standard. It features a commonly used set of gears, without that small granny ring -- the one your dear, old, weak grandmother needed to ride up the driveway.

Using the granny gear is a sign of weakness, which means you need to rid yourself of temptation by switching from a triple crank-set to a double. Besides, you'll look like a wanna-be racer, then.

Although you may not make it up the hills in your region with a double crank-set, you'll get stronger -- eventually -- or give up cycling.

Anecdotal Internet evidence suggests a double crank-set shifts faster than a triple crank-set, which sounds like somebody needs a new mechanic who knows how to adjust a dérailleur.

8. Thou shall always respond to training questions with nonchalance

Admitting that you've been training hard for a race is bad form. The proper response when someone asks how you'll do in a race is "I have not been training much lately, so we'll see."

This allows you leeway to win or lose and provides a psychological advantage.

If you win the race after admitting to doing little training, your competitors will think you're in good shape and will get better as the season goes on. They will be intimidated. However, if you lose the race, you can always fall back on your original excuse about not training much lately.

9. Thou shall not equip the bike handlebars with extraneous equipment

Your bike should have essential equipment, including your cycling computer, which should feature GPS, a power meter, and heart rate -- along with all the other basic cycling computer functions.

You should not equip your bike with goofy handlebar bells or, the greatest cycling sin, a mirror.

If you're a road cyclist, aerobars belong only on your time-trial bike, which you are not riding in a group.

An extra handlebar-related tip: Choose white bar tape. That's the color of the pros.

10. Thou shall not be a Fred

A Fred, according to Wikipedia, is a "derisive term used by 'serious' road cyclists to describe other cyclists who do not conform to serious road cyclists' norms."

This includes, but is not limited to, not following the 10 commandments of cycling etiquette.

You've been warned, Fred.

Music video pokes fun at cyclist stereotypes


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      Djones16 3 years ago

      This will be my first full summer of cycling and I must say that reading this article I have seen, and broken, most of these rules. I do have to admit that I ride with compression shorts for each and every ride. The only difference is that I also wear gym shorts over them. My greatest joy is to pass all of the riders that are strictly adhering to the list of rules above. Thank you for this post. Keep riding everybody!

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      ptenisnut 3 years ago

      Good fun.

      But, 'Thy' = your and 'thou' = you.

      Just sayin'.

    • profile image

      kurtrogers 4 years ago

      This is a fun article. I love biking and I make sure I have the right gear and clothing. I make sure that I wear the right compression shorts for safety and comfort.

    • profile image

      jenhardy 4 years ago

      Nice article. May I just add, thou shall wear the best compression shorts.

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      Tony Capon 4 years ago from Upminster, Essex, United Kingdom

      One of my 4 bikes is a "Fixed Wheel" which I use with clipless pedals. This requires a greater skill level, as if you don't clip-in on the first revolution you look like a real novice trying to clip-in thereafter, as you can't free-wheel and take your time to clip-in!

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