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Rules are Rules
WORDS: Collyn Ahart
Every so often a list of “rules” surfaces about how to ride a bicycle. Which height of socks to wear. What length of shorts. What colour isotonic beverage. What exact shape of mud-guard. What kind of coffee to drink and almost certainly what to name your first-born son (higher points awarded for more obscure racing-legend dedications).
65 miles into 130, our motley crew of mix-matched kit, ankle socks, mud, bug and gel-smeared faces as the dewey sun beat down through rainbow shadowed trees, there were very few rules any of us cared about.
I remember my first jersey: a neon yellow so-called ‘gift’ from my father. I would wear it with baggy spandex shorts (no padding), complete with pink and black leopard print. All knees and elbows, they fit me about as well as I fit my old blue Raleigh racer with its seat post rammed down to its lowest millimeter. The obligatory peanut butter and jelly sandwich stuffed into my back pocket swung around to my side, which I systematically heaved back into position every 18 pedal strokes. Too small for proper cleats, my running shoes back then were purchased on their ability to become compact, laces tucked in, easily slotted into pedal cages.
Nineteen years ago this month I took off on my bike to ride the 11 miles into town by myself to celebrate my 10th birthday. I had to take a little break at the five-mile mark to eat my sandwich, stretch my legs and check my bike over. No punctures! There was no cell-phone … I was free! I was celebrating a double-digit birthday! I was almost a teenager! When I finally arrived in town, I learned the first rule of cycling.
While the days of pink leopard print are far behind me, the only rules that matter haven’t changed much:
1: Tell your mother where you’re going and what time you’ll be home. This applies until your 18th birthday and over every family holiday for the rest of your life.
2: Pack a sandwich. Nutella is an option resulting in extra points.
3: Bring a friend. They will inevitably eat half your sandwich, which should be cut down the middle for ease of sharing.
All other rules are variable.
The first thing I learned working at a fashion magazine was that an abundance of rules are for those lacking in confidence. White after Labor Day? Totally an option. Spots and stripes?… clashing can be a good thing. Pink and orange… have you seen any Jil Sander lately? The most influential people live above the rules. They know their bodies and they challenge the norm. They know what’s appropriate but refuse to be slaves to the dress code. Looking good doesn’t require rules… it requires confidence.
5,000 miles into my year and the only rule I have now about what I wear when I cycle is that if I have to think about what I’m wearing, I’ve failed. If the shorts cut into my legs, I’ve failed. If I’m too cold or too hot or too wet, I’ve failed. If I can’t get anything into my back pockets, I’ve failed. But everything else is just me.
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