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Dear Frank: Spreading the word

Frank Strack
28 Mar 2016

Passing on your knowledge and application of The Rules can be a tricky business, but don’t lose faith, says Frank Strack

Dear Frank

As a disciple of the Velominati, I try to observe Rule #3 – ‘Guide the uninitiated’ – but I’ve noticed that fellow riders don’t take kindly to me pointing out their sartorial or behavioral misgivings. What’s my best course of action? Greg, by email.


Dear Greg,

The Rules are numbered in the order in which they entered the canon, not necessarily by their importance. This is largely because we never ‘wrote’ or ‘invented’ The Rules. They were merely documented by us, the Keepers of the Cog, observed from the large body of history, culture and etiquette that is our beautiful sport. 

I myself have always taken an enormous amount of pleasure in emulating my heroes, whether it was copying the way they sat upon and pedalled their bikes or how they dressed. Every last detail was paid close attention to: how did their pockets bulge under their race numbers? How did they wait at the start line? How did they pedal flat out? How did they pedal at a casual pace? How did they hold their bodies when avoiding an obstacle or moving in and out of the pace line? All these things have a lifetime of meaning hidden within them, and I have always found it a fascinating prospect to decode the mystery. 

I obey The Rules mostly because they help me feel closer to the sport. They help keep the fire alive even now, more than 30 years after I first started pedalling a bike in earnest. This gift is something I personally feel hugely privileged to have been able to share on a larger scale through Velominati, and I know the other Keepers feel this way too.

It hasn’t come without criticism. People assume us an elitist group, bent on holding our code piously above those who do not follow it. Roadies have this reputation already, and I can understand why someone might misinterpret our intent. But we aim purely to help others find the same love for the sport as we have. If it doesn’t work for someone and they have another means of finding a passion for riding a bike, I look forward to riding with them soon and sharing in the pleasure of riding a bicycle. 

Providing unsolicited but well-intentioned feedback is tricky, mostly because however well-intentioned the advice may be, the fact that it is unsolicited automatically makes you sound pompous. Yet, when our life’s path joins with another’s who has yet to be indoctrinated into La Vie Velominatus, we feel compelled to lead them towards enlightenment. 

The art of not being considered pious when giving advice comes down to the application of two additional Rules in combination with #3. Firstly, we have Rule #2 (Lead by example). This has nothing to do with providing coaching or input to another rider – it has to do with inspiring others to adopt your practices. Leading from the front and demonstrating an impeccable sense of style and technique is the most effective tool we have at our disposal when it comes to bringing others along this path of enlightenment. According to the Austin Powers Principle (men want to be him, women want to be with him), it’s much easier to take advice from someone in whose footsteps you’d like to follow than a dishevelled clown with a bounce in their stroke. 

Secondly, I can’t stress Rule #43 enough (Don’t be a jackass. But if you absolutely must be a jackass, at least be a funny jackass). Sometimes, when the contravention is egregious enough, there simply is no keeping our mouths shut. But when a difficult message needs to be delivered, doing so with a sense of humour and without judgement can make its acceptance that much more palatable.

In closing, I recommend that you begin by leading by example and taking the rider in question under your wing. Then, provide feedback when asked, and if something cannot go unsaid, be lighthearted and funny about it.

No one takes advice from a jackass, after all.

Frank Strack is the founder of velominati.com

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