On Rule #9: Love the Work

Fignon gets on with the job of being a Cyclist

Fitness. The rhythm, the feeling of precision in our movement, the sensations of The Ride. The temptation of knowing we might in some way control our suffering even as we push harder in spite of the searing pain in our legs and lungs. The notion that through suffering, we might learn something rudimentary about ourselves – that we might find a kind of salvation.

Cycling, like Art, is based on the elementary notion that through focussed study, we might better understand ourselves. But to describe Cycling as a an Art does it an injustice. An artist, they say, suffers because they must. A Cyclist, I suggest, suffers because we choose to.

This element of choice, what psychologists refer to as the locus of control, is part of what allows us to feel pleasure through suffering. Through this choice unfolds an avenue of personal discovery by which we uncover the very nature of ourselvesLike Michelangelo wielding his hammer to chip away fragments of stone that obscure a great sculpture, we turn our pedals to chip away at our form, eventually revealing our true selves as a manifestation of hard work, determination, and dedication to our craft.

Having chosen this path, we quickly find that riding a bicycle on warm, dry roads through sunny boulevards is the realm of the recreational cyclist. As winter approaches, the days get shorter and the weather worse. Form tempts us to greater things, but leaves us quickly despite our best intentions. Its taste lingers long upon the tongue and urges us to gain more. Even as life gets in the way, we cannot afford many days away from our craft before we find ourselves struggling to reclaim lost fitness.

To find form in the first place, and to maintain it in the second, is a simple matter of riding your bicycle a lot. This simple task asks of us, however, a year-round commitment to throwing our leg over a toptube in heat, cold, wind, rain, or sleet, lest we spend months fighting to reclaim last year’s lost condition.

But with riding in bad weather is revealed a hidden secret. It is in the rain and the cold, when all the seductive elements of riding a bicycle have vanished, that we are truly able to ensconce ourselves in the elemental qualities of riding a bicycle. Good weather and beautiful scenery, after all, are distractions from the work. Without them, we have only those elements that we ourselves bring to The Ride: the rhythm, harmony between rider and machine, our suffering, and our thoughts. As the rain pours down and all but the most devoted stay indoors, we pull on extra clothing and submit into the deluge.

We are the Few, we are the Committed. We are those who understand that riding in bad weather means you’re a badass, period.

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338 Replies to “On Rule #9: Love the Work”

  1. @Buck Rogers
    That must be RDV grimacing behind his teammate. Eddy’s in stripes and Roger is on Brooklyn, so it must be ’75. I want to guess that’s Herman van der Slagmolen pacing Roger, but that’s only because the dude’s name is so awesome. No idea who the SCIC rider is.

  2. @wiscot
    I think that’s Eddy, not Moser, in the rainbows. The SCIC rider is on a Colnago, which SCIC rode in ’75, and RDV was on Brooklyn then.

  3. @Buck Rogers
    It certainly is a great story – not sure whether it would even register as news in the States, but we had another Afghan National Army soldier open fire on Aussie troops over night, wounding 3. Only a fortnight after one of them killed 3 soldiers on parade. Cannot imagine how difficult it must be over there…

  4. @Marcus

    @Buck Rogers
    It certainly is a great story – not sure whether it would even register as news in the States, but we had another Afghan National Army soldier open fire on Aussie troops over night, wounding 3. Only a fortnight after one of them killed 3 soldiers on parade. Cannot imagine how difficult it must be over there…

    I had not heard. Man, sending prayers their way. Crazy place and crazy times.

  5. @Nate

    I think that’s Eddy, not Moser, in the rainbows. The SCIC rider is on a Colnago, which SCIC rode in ’75, and RDV was on Brooklyn then.

    I think I have to agree with you. I truly wondered if that was Merckx, and even now I am not sure, but it all seems to be more ’75 to me. But, I could be all wrong.

    Great photo nonetheless.

  6. @Buck Rogers


    That’s so odd. I have no idea why the photo reversed, and even less why I didn’t register that it had!!

    1977 World Champion Francesco Moser follows his Italian rival Guiseppe Saronni during that years Tour of Lombardy, held just a week after he had won the rainbow jersey in Venezuela. Belgian teammates Johan de Muynck and Roger de Vlaeminck follow, with eventual race winner Gibi Baronchelli just visible tucked in behind Moser. Known as “The Race of the Falling Leaves”, due to it’s autumnal place in the racing calendar, this edition was run in typically foul conditions.

  7. @Oli
    Good call to Wiscot, and Nate as well. All I knew was that it was RDV. Great photo anyway you look at it!

  8. @Oli
    Thanks guys. I went home last night and did some research and figured out that couldn’t be the 78 Giro as Brooklyn was defunct by then. Lombardy 77 makes everything much more logical. Looks like RdV is in a world of pain.

    Interesting that Baronchelli won – he did it again in 86 after what can only be described as a lucky win as Kelly and Anderson apparently had a few “issues” going on, allowing Gibi to sneak away for the win. I heard a couple of versions: one, that Kelly had a chat with Ernesto Colnago (Baronchelli rode a Colnago) and two, that Anderson owed Kelly a favor and wasn’t willing to repay. Knowing Kelly’s reticence to talk about such things, I doubt we’ll ever know!

  9. @Nate

    @Buck RogersRight or wrong, these are lots of fun to try to figure out.

    Exactly. We need more of these, except that with you, Oli and wiscot, it’d be only a moment before the answer was posted! :)

  10. Holy bitchcakes I got rained on this arvo on the way home from work. Sooooooo rained on. After two minutes I was as wet as I was going to get. Singapore rain lets you know you’re getting rained on. Seriously like a shower.
    Not really Rule #9 stuff in terms of temperature, as it was like a warm bath, but I really couldn’t see anything, with or without the yellow shades on. Worse, I’m pretty sure traffic, of which there’s lots, couldn’t see me too well, despite the lights still on the bike from the pre-dawn ride in..
    So I’m riding when it starts thinking “yep, hardman weather. I am a badarse.” This lasted thirty seconds of proper rain. Close to zero visibility. Uturn and carefully did the 10 kay home. Hardmen have closed roads. Still hardmen, tho’.

  11. @Oli

    What a great photo! Amazingly great. @Nate

    @Buck Rogers
    Right or wrong, these are lots of fun to try to figure out.

    Amen to that – I missed the fun, but I love theorizing on shit I know nothing about. Favorite pass time, actually.

  12. @scaler911

    Time for the Rule #9 photo of the day:

    Vino and Cuddles get ‘er done!

    Such an awesome photo. Cuddles REALLY grew a pair after he won the WC. That attack has redefined his whole career. I wonder if he would have won the Tour this year if he had not attacked then.

  13. Cold, wet, rainy ride today. I love all those things, but one thing I can’t stand is wind. Its like riding with the moralezizer at zero and the brakes on full. She started out clean today; I’m into full-on daily scrubbing of the machine so long as these leaves are all over the road.

  14. @frank
    A moralezizer?? Definitely a Rule #74 infraction. For shame!

    I hear you on the wind, though. We were supposed to be at 0c with winds at 35kph this morning. Temp was right, but no sign of wind. Got in a quick up and down and up and down ride and was home before the wind picked up. Although a couple of weeks ago, I was gearing down into the wind while going downhill. Talk about demoralizing.

  15. @frank
    I see the rose pedals that you rightly toss at the feet of the faithful steed in appreciation of another successful ride. Where are these leaves you speak of?

    I never conceived that there was that much seat post available. It’s like a magician pulling handkerchiefs out of his sleeve.

  16. There is something magical about riding your bike during a snow fall, is it the very essence of #rule 9, is the serenity of the moment before the chaos sets in or is the ease at which to justify the extra tins of beer? Whatever it is, I highly recommend it.

  17. @itburns

    I see the rose pedals that you rightly toss at the feet of the faithful steed in appreciation of another successful ride. Where are these leaves you speak of?


    One of my favorite days to ride is coming up: American Thanksgiving. Despite it being known as a “traveling holiday”, traffic is much lighter, plus it’s a holiday so it feels like a bonus day of sorts. Last year was below freezing if I remember right, and I cut my ride short because I didn’t have the right gear and I was soooooo cold, but this year should be more mild with just some rain.

    Do a ride, then go drink and fry a turkey. Insert Team America theme song here.

  18. @Dr C

    Huzzah! Just got my new Pearl Izumi Lobster’s Claw Wind Mitt – they really are the Crab’s Nippers
    Violated a Rule, but got them for 60% off via Cyclestore Direct.com – Booo!! (You can’t blame me for that)

    How’re the lobster claw gloves going? What’s the padding to the palms like?

    Short of opting for ski gloves that would have left little feel for the bike at all, I ended going out yesterday in a pair of downhill mtb gloves because they were the only full finger gloves I could find. Hideous mistake, not only were my fingers freezing cold before I was 10 minutes down the road but by 3/4 of the way round my hands were so numb I could barely hold on, they’ve got no padding in the palms at all. Time for an upgrade and the Cyclestore Direct price is a no brainer.

  19. Snow for tomorrow, so one last ride. 30k in wind, rain, 48 degrees. Bare legs and WHITE socks covered with mud and smelly farm stuff (this is Wisconsin). One of the best rides of the year.

  20. @Kyle
    Good man! I’m in WI too and got a nice little 80kms in to reach my annual goal on Thanksgiving. I can’t say it was a fab ride as there was a sense of obligation to it and my back gave me some bother. I was happy to finish.

    Friday was much nicer and I skipped out of work a bit early to do my standard 50kms loop in nice sunshine and (relative) warmth.

    Saturday was kinda pissy but warm (50 degrees) so I headed out again rather than pace around my place looking out the window. Broke a bit of a rule and wore a OJA but I have an excuse, I ride in areas much populated by deer and there were beaucoup guys in blaze orange out for their last chance to shoot bambi. I heard lots of gunfire but arrived home unscathed. Alas, the rain really started in at the 32kms point and I was soaked through at the end – even though bike #4 has the race blades permanently on it. (1989 Trek 1200 with 36 spoke wheels, 40 tooth single chainring, 7-speed bock and SIS shifters. Just the job when the weather’s crap and Bikes #1,2,3 all cower in the corner at the thought of going out – a true winter bike). Despite the shitty weather, there was a strong “pride in perversity” factor in play as I slogged through the rain. I’m sure more than one driver thought I was mad.

    While all rides have their merits, from here on, all rides between now and March are gravy.

  21. @wiscot
    I’ve been riding a road bike for just over a year and never considered riding in the rain and cold. Was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Did get some looks from passing cars.

  22. I’ve recently taken to applying some embrocation for longer rides now that the weather has started drop. 5°C days excluding any wind chill.

    Rapha’s Mt. Ventoux is the one I’ve started with. It feels fantastic, gives the guns a warming glow and keeps the chill at bay. Smells go too, like sports did when I was younger. The only problem is that in the post ride shower, it burns like a bastard unless the water is pretty chilly. Obviously after a long Rule #9 session, you don’t want to be hoping into a cold shower, or at least I don’t, I hold no delusions that I’m that hard.

    Is that normal? The rides have been between 3 and 7.5 hours – the burn is the same regardless of duration. I haven’t been putting too much on.

  23. Thanks @Oli, What’s the best solution, a good scrub with cold water and soap before hitting the shower?

  24. Get some baby wipes and give the oily old gams a quick wipe, but it’s just circulation so really you just have to grin and Rule V it.

  25. @Chris Is it an oil or more of a cream ?

    I use Morgan Blue warm up oil but I’ve never had a post-ride effect, even when I soak in a warm bath.

    And hey, we get (relatively) cold out here too you know.

  26. @ChrisO

    It gets (relatively) warm here in the winter as well! Not sure what SPF the embrocation is.

    It’s more like Vaseline, oil based but not quite as thick. Even after a few hours, there’s a good bit of it left, not much of it seems to absorb in the same way that a cream does.


    I am obviously not man enough, holding my legs under water of any temperature of water verges on the unbearable with this stuff no matter how much I repeat a mantra of “HTFU wimp”. Must be all those years of wearing 501s.

  27. Speaking of Rule #9 and the need to HTFU, I was driving my daughter to school the other day, it was cold and windy with a stinging rain. I said “I’ll bet your glad it’s not cross country this afternoon” Her reply “Nah, it’s cool, I know the others hate it more than I do!”

    I was so proud, she’s eleven.

  28. @Steampunk

    Her school is about half way round my 90km loop but while her average speed is good for her age and the pseudo mountain bike that she has, we’d be getting up early enough to do most of the route in the dark and I’m not a fan of the idea of that route in the dark during the week when it’s pretty busy.

    In a couple of years time, if she’s into it and has the right bike, absolutely. She’d need V-kit though.

  29. @Chris
    Baby wipes as @Oli mentioned, then when in the shower wash the guns with dish soap. But really the burn when the water hits the residual embro in the post ride shower is all part of the package, isn’t it?

  30. @ph
    Braggart whore? BR brags without charging a cent, just like we all do here without ill intent.
    You however are just a couple of letters short of being a phuckphace.

  31. ph, I find your comment a bit acerbic. :)

    As for a braggart karma whore, well, I’ll take all the karma I can get and the whores, well, I’ll leave that one untouched.

    Braggart, though, … perhaps, but my point was that I have seen some crazy ass Aussies and love working with them in crazy ass situations. Too much fun. They totally take life one day at a time and do not take anything to seriously, in any situation, in my experience. Makes it all that much easier.

    Now calm the fuck down and go ride your bike (reminds me of the “Good Morning Vietnam” line from Robin Williams about the guy being the man in most need of a blow job).

  32. @all
    In response to a question I noticed on Twitter:

    @velominati Dear Keepers, at what temperature does Rule #9 kick in. Its 40 in SC, does it count?

    This is always a good question and just in case its still ambiguous: Rule #9 conditions are different from each climate, but in a generic sense Rule #9 conditions are any conditions where the weather makes the ride appreciably more difficult and under which someone with better judgement wouldn’t venture out on their bike…be it hot, cold, wet, icy, or windy.

    That said, I don’t think there is an environment outside of the desert where 40 degrees F in dry weather is a Rule #9 condition – you need rain in such weather to make it meet the limits!

  33. Good rule of thumb, if people, including other cyclists, don’t think you are fucking crazy riding in said weather then the Rule #9 threshold has not been met.

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