Breaking the Rules: Thumb-Hard; Finger-Easy

The Rules are a living thing; a set of truths that have been captured but which do not represent a comprehensive record.  They speak to whole larger than any of us and thus will never be complete. Indeed, we will always need to read between the lines of – to feel – The Rules in our pursuit of them.

Take, for example, Rule #57: No stickers.  Simple, logical. Obviously, this is aimed at stickers applied after-market by a consumer attempting to self-identify with a group of some kind.  Frame decals and safety stickers applied by the manufacturer are obviously not in violation, while, on the other hand, if one were to put a label on your handlebars that reminded you how what the various levers do when shifting, that probably falls into the “Maybe Not” category and should never need to be recorded in the Canon.

When plodding around town, my eye always seeks out bicycles and I make quick, almost subconscious assessments of how compliant the various bikes are with The Rules.  When I find sufficiently egregious violations, I generally snap a picture of it, just in case I need it in the future for court hearings and such.

This particular violation was seen while a Velominati Scouting Team (consisting of Jim, John, myself and various friends and family) were out doing a test-ride of equipment prior to our Big Ride on Saturday.  I took these photos for the bike’s violation of Rule #44 Rule #45, Rule #48, Rule #49, Rule #57, and Rule #61. Surprisingly, there was adherence to one of the more subtle Rules, Rule #40, but I’m guessing that was by some sort of freak accident, since the owner of this bike can not possibly have been attuned to it.

Upon closer inspection of the handlebars lurked a perfect example of why The Rules will never be a comprehensive Study Guide to cycling’s canon of etiquette, for this violation should never need to be explicitly documented within it’s texts, a Velominatus should “feel” it:

These particular stickers prod at the psychology of the bike’s owner: Thumb Hard, Finger Easy. (There might also be a moral lesson hidden within the meaning of those stickers, but I’m not smart enough to grasp it.)  I’m almost impressed by the fact that both stickers have it right despite the insistence of those damn Italian developers of the Campy Ergo levers to make both levers work the opposite way.  I can only imagine how many iterations it took to get the labels right.  Further, the bold, white font does nothing to the label’s subtlety; this is the work of an individual making a public declaration of their inability to absorb the workings of a simple mechanical device.

The only explanation I can come up with is that this bike belongs to a compulsive labeler; I can only imagine what other stickers this person has surrounded himself with to clarify the obvious.

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69 Replies to “Breaking the Rules: Thumb-Hard; Finger-Easy”

  1. @brett
    Spot on, mate. On everything.

    I hear you, man. The site is about cycling. And if there’s anything that doesn’t need Rules, it’s mountain bike, commuting, etc. But it’s fucking fun to tease some stranger’s bike for putting stickers on his bars in order to make riding his bike more sensible to him/her. Of course, tongue firmly in cheek.

    The Rules are about road cycling because that’s where the history is. That’s where the culture is. It exists no where else but in the world of road racing and riding.

    My heart and my focus will never leave the road, whether I’m writing about Dutch Bikes, drinking beer, or watching the US take a heartbreaking defeat in the World Cup. Of course, that last one won’t grace these pages.

    Don’t worry, mate. We’ve got your back.

  2. Just so I’m not misunderstood. About every serious road cyclist I know is interested in other aspects of cycling. Reports on good rides. Mountain bike stuff. Cross stuff. Nonroad equipment–well, maybe not that. Scratch that one. One of the most interesting articles I’ve come across is Frank’s piece on the super-stylized fixie bikes.

  3. @frank


    So I’m reading Frank’s reply, the part about cycling culture existing and being steeped in road cycling, and the first thing that pops into my head is “yeah but fixie culture is picking up steam quick man” and then I read david’s response. That’s why I like it here. There are things that tie us all together and others where we might find ourselves parting company. But in the end, and I think I speak for most everyone here, the true passion comes down do throwing your sac over the top tube of your finest road steed, growing out your side burns (okay that’s maybe just me), and going down the road as hard as you can with images of RdV (insert favorite classic rider of your own if you wish) in your head.

  4. @david
    Comment #48: Amen

    and as a footnote. In amongst plumbing/fitting out the re-built workshop and waiting/preparing for my kids to arrive I’m trying to be constructive. Time will tell if I have enough time to succeed.

  5. All – Good one.

    Who would think that wanking little stickers would lead to this love fest?

  6. @Rob

    And therein lies (or is it lays, Beth, because I have no fucking clue) the gift that the thumb hard, finger easy rider gave the Velominati eventhough this anonymous cyclist was the butt of some ridicule. Thanks thumb hard finger easy guy/gal, whomever you be.

  7. From what I’ve seen, Marko is right. The fixie culture is spreading like, . . . cancer? gentle ivy? It’s going on what, 8 or 10 years in cities like NY and SF? I’m still not sure what to make of them, whether to be hostile or embrace them as cyclists.

  8. @david
    Probably dangerous to over-generalize. Again: the rider not the ride. Riding a fixie is an excellent way to work on one’s stroke, after all. I don’t have one, and it’s way, way down on any priority/budget list, but a few around here have caught my eye.

  9. I agree with that. Track bikes, after all, are fixed gear bikes. (No mention of track racing on this site? I love it. Always want to do it. But, no near velodrome.) Fixie’s though, are riders with a certain style on highly stylized fixed gear bikes. It’s them I am unsure, ambivalent about.

  10. Me thinks they don’t give a toss about us and good on them for that. There is a whole new culture of fixie skidder skate board trick bike tattoo folks who are urban cool kids and a velominatus is just part of the corporate oiled machine. They might be the future?

  11. @Rob
    In that way, fixies can, CAN, be punk. That is something I can respect. But there’s a huge difference between finding and old steel lugged Flandria frame in someone’s basement and scavenging, bartering, and adding components slowly vs. buying the out of the box color-coded Masi. Talk to an old school messenger from the 80’s and my guess is you’ll get some opinions on the current fad.

    But, this is a tangent. To the point as Steampunk says, rider not the ride, and I appreciate Thumb hard finger easy guy/gal for spurring this conversation.

  12. Fuck, rob. That is too heavy. “They might be the future?” “A velominatus is just part of the corporate oiled machine.” I think one of the reasons the fixies are not just a fad, but are something more permanent, is that a certain kind of social/political ethos is backing up the movement. God help us, the little bastards are turning cycling into an ideology. It’s a clear violation of Rule #57, for Christ’s sake.

  13. @Marko In a way I was not clear I meant the “real” fixie riders, the ones who live the bike. They are the ones I see in NYC and London (strangely Paris had many fewer) and they are complete individuals, as are their bikes. In NYC I see them getting together for different reasons that have to do with social protest – hunger, naked bike, BP (now) and moonlight ride through Central Park.

    The last I stumbled on when I was in the city in the spring on the first really warm night. I had just done 2 laps of the park on my fixed folding commuter so I was in mufti so to speak. As I was leaving the park at Columbus circle at 9:45 pm I couldn’t help notice about 150 bikes. It was quite a sight and there was not one bike that followed the Rules. So stopping and asking was told it was the monthly moonlight ride. I went with it and at 5 mph we circled the whole park (about 5-6 miles). It was one of the more fun things I have done on a bike… There was a kid pulling a little trailer with a sound system. Every one had the flashy lights so this long, long caterpillar of red and white lights blinked through the spring night 2 and 3 abreast. The ride went on footpaths up down and around and past many things I had never seen before. Cops just ignored us but peds were enchanted. The group feeling was mellow in the extreme.

    Its these urban kids, and alternative living folks that I see as the spear head of a bike culture that is more about your anti establishment politics than what your bike looks like.

    The other group, those 20 somethings living in the city riding the off-the-shelf hipster, never tighten the toe straps cause it will scuff your hipster shoes, bikes are a joke. But at least they are on a bike and they might figure it out someday… ?? So yes it is about the rider and a third group in the city is that old school bike messenger with skid skills that blow me away. I have been behind three in the past year that were doing stuff brakeless that took the breath away!

    @david That is the point they flaunt the Rules and the bike is just a vehicle (pun intended) to a greater cause. The feeling I get from most of them is that if I showed up at an event on a machine that followed the Rules with my kit on I would be just part of the problem.

  14. @Rob

    Oh you were crystal clear to me man. I was really just reiterating/dwelling on your point. Believe me, not for one second did I think a man with your cycling asthete not understand the nuances of fixie culture. Cool image of the central park ride.

    On a somewhat related note, I’ve really enjoyed articles in recent months in fish wraps and online about the burgeoning race scene in Africa. Those dudes are Rule #5 exemplified. Riding rigged together bikes of all vintages with mixed gruppos and building a grass roots race scene that I can only imagine is akin to turn of the century and reconstruction post war race days in Europe. Very cool and the only Rule being strictly followed is 5, any others that are complied with are strictly by accident.

  15. First I’d like to say that I just found this site yesterday via Unbeknown to me I have been a follower of The Rules for the last 15 years.

    I decided to start catching up on the site by reading the older posts, this one was the first i clicked. Upon the site loading I could not help but laugh out loud hysterically on the sight of the first image. Why? Because I once worked for company/shop that produced those bikes. I in fact, had a hand in sending many of bikes like that one out the door. I hope that doesn’t put me in violation of Rule #2 or #3, because I was under orders and my livelihood (paycheck) were at stake. Plus its been many years since then and I have strictly abided by all rules outside of the workplace.

    Nonetheless, eventually in that personal hell, I grew numb to the “sit-up-and-beg” position as it came to be known. Then those ridiculous stickers came along. They were funny for the obvious non-bike related reasons, but silly for their intended purpose.

  16. Oh, and you can thank the adherence to Rule #40 to me. That was/is my standard protocol on all bikes. In addition to the stated rule, aligning the label this way makes it easier to track where the flat is on the tire or tube, once the tube has been removed. Using it as a reference point.

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