Spiderman rides again.  Photo: John Peake

Spiderman rides again. Photo: John Peake

Breaking the Rules: 33

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There’s been a lot of talk around these parts lately, a lot of strange, crazy talk. Grown men discussing their weight and height and BMI, discussing how sensitive we are to the offence caused by the terms with which we describe our female riding (and life) partners, grown men talking about other stuff that probably isn’t anywhere near as sensitive as those other things, but makes me wonder what the hell we are on about anyway.

I’d even labelled those community members who were actively discussing their weight/height as “ladies”, in what could be interpreted as a somewhat derogatory manner, although intended only in jest. It was suggested that the term Velomihottie be replaced (yet ultimately joined) by the more PC term Velominata. I was a walking contradiction, a hypocrite, and calling into question my very own values. Was I a SNAG, or a Caring Understanding Nineties Type?

I had ever more questions in my internal dialogue; “Are we not men?” (Or are we DEVO?) Someone posed that the term hardman also be put up for review, while others actually used that very term to describe Jeannie Longo, a Velominata hard enough to kick our collective sorry asses, even at 50 odd years old. While all this was going on, it led me to question my own interpretations and deployment of The Rules, and what, if indeed anything, they meant to me, and how ultimately some Rules are open to broader interpretation than others, with even some latitude for bending or breaking them completely.

I’ve had plenty of time to ruminate on them too, with nary a leg (I refuse to refer to my pins as ‘guns’) thrown over a top tube in anger, or a half-hearted attempt at anger, for over two weeks due to the typical cyclists gamut of excuses;  flu, work, social calender, weather, all conspiring against my attempts to resemble someone who was once passable as a ‘cyclist’. The will to get on the bike was still present, but the unstoppable river of snot and green lung nuggets said otherwise. As my knives (the natural antithesis of guns, kind of like bringing a knife to a gunfight) atrophied and became more like butter spreaders than machetes, long-forgotten hair started to reappear on them like lichen growing on old, rotting, fallen tree limbs. Others started to notice, and soon comments like “what the fuck is going on there?” became more frequent, and less welcome. A slew of excuses such as “I’m cultivating the forest so I can fell it” held my tormentors at bay for a short while, but ten days on and with the potential for leg dreadlocks becoming more than a weird premonition, they remained bushy and free from the sting of hot wax or the cold comfort of Baxter and a steel blade.

Now they have finally been waxed, well, at least to the tan line (a pathetic effort at Rule #7 over the summer too, if we are being totally frank, which for some unknown reason, I am). Do you have any idea how long a self waxing takes? Three frikkin days, that’s how long. Yep, half a leg at a time, well a quarter done in each sitting anyway. But what to do if you really have to get on the bike when the opportunity arises, and you aren’t exactly smooth as a baby’s bum? You suck it up and hope no-one gets close enough to realise you are half-man half-spider. And while riding with smooth calves and hairy thighs may sound like not too much of a problem, let me tell you, it certainly elicits some strange glances, even stares. But now, as I sit here a week after the waxing idea was first brought to fruition, I’m back to full smooth. And you know what? Even though I may not perform like one, I actually feel like a rider again.

What does it all mean to you, besides sweet FA? The Rules are there to be obeyed, yes, but they are also open to some bending (I’m not gonna tell Thor that he can’t run a saddlebag, are you?). Does it matter if you’re a hairy hippy douchebag? No. But it’s not exactly desirable either. And f you are dishing out The V on a regular basis, be it to others or merely yourself, then Do What Thou Wilt shall be the whole of The Rules.

// Breaking The Rules // The Rules

  1. I do think that going out of your way to follow some rules makes up for some indiscretions. Last week I didn’t get to ride all week, but it was raining Friday afternoon and I skipped out of work anyway to ride just so I could get some of that badass feeling. And it worked big time. I got in 7 hours on the bike in 3 days and hung with the big boys on the long Saturday group ride. I’m quite certain those three solid days of riding were karma for getting my ass out there in the rain.

  2. @Joe
    Brilliant! especially the beer.

  3. Addendum to Rule #33 (North Hemisphere specific, I fear):

    If the legs are not kept pristine through the winter months, all hair must be removed before MSR.

    The BFGs are so big—and I’m an hairy man—that I need to get shaving again on gun #1 by the time I’ve finished gun #2. That and the cost of razors make this a futile exercise. But the BFGs are now smoove.

  4. Assuming one is a recent convert and follower of the V (i.e. born again roadie), and thus not yet able to “dish it out” just yet (but religiously working on Rule #5), does one follow Rule #33 to the risk of looking poseurish?

  5. @CanuckChuck
    My opinion: No. If possible, go fast. If you can’t, at least look good.

  6. @CanuckChuck
    We aim for both, but given the choice between LOOKING good and BEING good, go for looking good. Which means shave those fucking legs.

  7. @Steampunk
    No, No, No, No, No! Shave your guns by DST, obviously.

  8. @CanuckChuck
    You gotta be smoove.

    When I got back on the bike, I rode a couple of times with pasty white, skinny, shaggy legs. I said, “Fuck this shit. That is too fugly to look at and go fast.” (I wasn’t a Velominatus, so I could not, by definition, lay down the V.) Once I shaved, I think I was faster by at least 3km/h just because I looked right.

  9. I have bad memories of the first time I tried to follow Rule #33 in the mid-90s. These were the dark days of my past where a bike ride was sometimes preceded by a swim and followed by a run. (Dark is a relative term–I was living in the Cayman Islands at the time.) I ran out of “gear” and only managed to shave from the ankle to just above the knee during the first session before I had to find long enough shorts to make the drip to the store to stock up on blades. Now I know I need to be well equipped before attempting compliance again.

  10. I’ve been working on a Reverence: article on this very topic… stay tuned.

  11. @sgt

    I look forward to reading it. I’ve been cycling for a bit over a year now so I feel it’s about time to take the plunge. One more step towards rule holism.

  12. @mcsqueak
    Well, I have to submit it to The Keepers, hopefully it will pass muster.

  13. @sgt

    Surely if an article about rule bending can get approval, an article about rule compliance should certainly see the light of day.

  14. So…In the absence of any road racing on TV, and in the midst of the Olympics I ask this:

    Which other sports need a version of Rule #33?

    The VMH and I are watching the men’s gymnastics and it looks like there’s some who shave (legs, chest, armpits) and some who don’t.

    I think all sprinters should shave (100, 200, 400m) but middle and long distance are free to be hairy.

    Also all beach volleyballers, long jumpers (sand), swimmers, divers, trihards and archers should shave.

    There.

  15. A lot of rugby players do.

  16. @Harminator

    So…In the absence of any road racing on TV, and in the midst of the Olympics I ask this:

    Which other sports need a version of Rule #33?

    The VMH and I are watching the men’s gymnastics and it looks like there’s some who shave (legs, chest, armpits) and some who don’t.

    I think all sprinters should shave (100, 200, 400m) but middle and long distance are free to be hairy.

    Also all beach volleyballers, long jumpers (sand), swimmers, divers, trihards and archers should shave.

    There.

    Since Phil passed away the entire cast of the Archers has disobeyed the rules fragrantly and regularly – particularly Rule #5 so I no longer listen to their tales of middle class angst.

    Rower’s should definitely conform to Rule #33 – the Brits who came second to Denmark in the Men’s Lightweight Sculls (Skulls would be more interesting doncha think?) were bested precisely because their guns were not smooth. If you can see fur at 200m+ through a lens and the small TV in our kitchen then I’d suggest there’s a problem. I’ll write to the Team GB rowing coach to inform them after breakfast.

  17. @Oli

    A lot of rugby players do.

    So that’s most of NZ into waxing then? My opinion of the great nation of Kiwi has subtly changed – very much for the better.

  18. @Oli

    A lot of rugby players do.

    Yup. Must be related to massage frequency and masses of sports tape. (Well played Chiefs…damn…)

    @Engine

    Rowers? OK. But facial hair accepted.

    Man! Those people know how to live in the hose of pain.

  19. If there’s a sport where you shouldn’t shave your legs it’s rowing. It’s a sport for rugged individualists.

    And toffs.

  20. @minion incorrect. Sculling is a sport for individualists. Sweep rowers will do whatever their cox tells them to do. Coxless crews just do it by feel.

    You must be enjoying this country’s collective sporting griefheight now?

  21. I’m grateful that this thread has been resurrected. It affords a would-be novitatus the opportunity to ask, humbly and without irony, for guidance. Having gotten back on the Bike–and by “back” I refer indirectly to the last year that I was on the Bike, which was the very year in which Le Professeur lost a long race by a thin margin–and having this year shed a certain amount of weight without even considering any misguided efforts to reduce my ability to drink effectively, I am at a bit of a stand with regard to Rule #33.

    Put simply: I am at least 5kg (more like 7 or 8) heavier than I have any business being under any circumstances while on a Bike. I have historically felt that while unshaved is ugly, shaved and fat is just hopeless.  But I am willing to be educated to the contrary, if the community wills.  Shave now, or shave later?

    And does it even matter that I live in a great forest with fourteen bears and a herd of elk for every actual cyclist?

  22. @PeakInTwoYears

    Rule #1 Obey The Rules.

    Seriously, if you think being shaved and fat is worse than unshaved (and still fat) then it will motivate you to ride more and do something about it.

    Plus there’s less chance of being mistaken by a horny bear.

  23. @ChrisO

    @PeakInTwoYears

    Rule #1 Obey The Rules.

    Seriously, if you think being shaved and fat is worse than unshaved (and still fat) then it will motivate you to ride more and do something about it.

    Plus there’s less chance of being mistaken by a horny bear.

    agreed!

    @PeakInTwoYears
    I’m also heavier than I should be, but began to shave anyway, it’s motivating to lose the extra kilos, but it’s also about creating ritual and a lifestyle and building to total cycling enlightenment. In my opinion it’s better to follow as many rules as possible and keep adding more and more as you go vs one day you feel worthy and try to follow them all.  Obeying the rules to the best of your ability helps you build good habits. I’m a fellow traveler, still learning, so I understand, but I say -go for it! VLVV

  24. @Marcus

    @minion incorrect. Sculling is a sport for individualists. Sweep rowers will do whatever their cox tells them to do. Coxless crews just do it by feel.

    You must be enjoying this country’s collective sporting griefheight now?

    Interesting. One of the news Corp rags tried pulling the “Australiasia” trick again, combining the two medal counts of NZ and Aus. Channel Nine is looking pretty sad cos people are losing interest at the midway point of their 120 million white elephant, which no advertisers wanted to use so they’re plugging their own shows while broadcasting immensely expensive coverage. And we’ve been higher up the medal table that Aus (in terms of Golds) for a few days now (won’t last).

    All of which distracts us from the white elephant in the room, that the games are being run for the Great Glory and everlasting fame of Mother China.

    At least you’re not English because if you were you’d be fucking unbearable right now.

  25. @ChrisO

    then it will motivate you to ride more and do something about it.

    This has a certain persuasive force.  I’m riding a lot and making progress, but further motivation is never a bad thing. Plus my Novitata thinks it’d be hot.

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