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Dear Frank: the bearded cyclist

Frank Strack
4 Jul 2016

Facial hair is clearly a growth industry, but can beards ever be accepted by the Velominati? Frank Strack is pretty clear on this point.

Dear Frank

Like many men these days, I have an impressively bushy beard, which puts me in contravention of Rule #50 (Facial hair is to be carefully monitored – no full beards; no moustaches). Isn’t it time The Rules were updated to stay in tune with current trends? After all, the pro peloton now has its fair share of beards.

Craig, by email

Dear Craig

You bring up a good point. I think I’m going to rewrite the The Rules and call them The Suggestions and modify them at my whim as modern trends evolve.

As impressed as you appear to be by the bushiness of your own beard, I’d like to make sure I’m understanding your question correctly: you want us to modify The Rules so you can follow a hipster fashion trend without being inconvenienced by a Rules contravention?

Let me think about this for a nanosecond. Oh, hell no!

This is not the first time beards have achieved widespread popularity. Fashion and trends are very cyclical in their nature, and very transient. They reappear throughout history, with slight variations to help us tell the current trend from an earlier incarnation.

Take, for example, the fluoro colours that were popular in the late 1980s and 1990s. They were supposedly the epitome of cool then, yet we shunned them into the shadows until some bright spark decided to wear them again ironically, happened to look the business while doing so, at which point the masses predictably followed. It didn’t hurt that that fellow happened to be Mario Cipollini. Now fluoro is back. It’s cool, it’s hip, and I dare say it looks fantastic. 

For now. In a few years’ time, these dayglo items will be plumping up landfills and second-hand stores around the world, waiting for another score years to pass, at which point someone will invariably try to bring the look back again. Which they will, as certain as the sun will rise again tomorrow.

This isn’t to say that all trends are transient. Some are an evolution, progress. Until the 1980s, cycling jerseys were long and saggy while the shorts were short and scrunchy. Both were made out of wool. As fabric technology and our understanding of aerodynamics evolved, that all changed. Thankfully.

To get to the core of the matter, we the Velominati are the Keepers of the (metaphorical) Cog. The Rules represent the distillation of this canon, put into (currently) 95 Rules. These Rules are carefully curated to avoid trends and fads that appear with metronomic frequency. 

Facial hair in cycling is a trend that has thus far failed to stand the test of time. From a practical point of view, facial hair does not lend itself well to cycling. It is warm, can foul the workings of an otherwise perfect nostril-voiding, snags in helmet straps and is woefully un-aero. Bradley Wiggins, who is surely amongst your referenced group of bearded Pro Cyclists, shaved his Grizzly Adams just prior to making his successful attempt at the World Hour Record. Good lad, that.

In the hundred-year history of our sport, there are exactly three riders who have been able to pull off facial hair and have it form a core filament of their identity: Marco Pantani, Luca Paolini and the Russian guy from American Flyers. The third one isn’t a real rider, so doesn’t count. Also he wore a really rubbish helmet. No one wants to be that guy.

Luca’s bushy beard is very impressive, I have to admit, and he pulls the look off almost as well as he hides his cocaine habit. Impressive stuff, but don’t try this at home, kids. 

Wear your bushy beard if you like. In time, you‘ll shave it off and move on with your life. But we're not about to update The Rules just to satisfy the whims of current trends.

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