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What Happens When a Woman Rewrites the Velominati Rules?

By Megan Flottorp

In cycling, as in life, there are all sorts of rules we have to navigate. Humans crave order and, generally speaking, rules help us stay safe, know what to expect, and cohabit peacefully. That being said, as a society, we’ve come to see that not all the rules we’ve invented serve the interests of everyone they affect. The same goes for the world of cycling.

Take the Velominati Rules, for example. Despite being admired by many for their verve and humour, these rules leave much to be desired. Since being put forth by Frank Strack and Brett Kennedy in 2009, they’ve worked their way into the collective cycling conscious and have largely contributed to the exclusionary attitude many perceive the cycling community to have.

In addition to being overly prescriptive in terms of riding style and what to wear, the Rules have also come under much fire for the aggressive mentality they put forth. Take the most (in)famous of which is Rule Number 5: Harden the F*** Up. Very macho and not exactly helpful. Worse, it is this kind of instruction that encourages the aggressive and exclusionary behaviour that exists within a certain type of cyclist, mostly but not exclusively of the male variety.

Tessa McInnes enjoying her MTB

You’ll often hear people out on rides or see commentators referring to The Rules on cycling forums, although this is done mostly in jest —sometimes it’s not. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way in 10 years, and as the cycling community becomes more representative, others have stepped in to show that rules were made to be broken.

Tessa McInnes has been a cyclist her whole life. She got her first bike at age 5, cycled to prom in her ballgown, and now combines her love of both road and mountain biking as part of a healthy lifestyle. She is also committed to promoting cycling as a source of liberation, confidence, achievement, camaraderie, and joy, for women in particular. Sick of hearing references to a set of rules she felt didn’t serve her, along with some help from other women in her cycling community, she came up with what we think are some pretty awesome alternatives.

Here they are:

1. Thou Shalt Clean & Lube Thy Bike frequently
2. Thou Shalt Learn To Change An Inner Tube, Yea, Even On The Back Wheel
3. Thou Shalt Not Counsel Perfection To Thyself or To Others
4. Thou Shalt Be A Positive Role Model To Every Girl That Sees Thee On Thy Bike
5. Thou Shalt Invest In the Best Kit Thy Can Afford;
5a. Thou Mayst wear no-show socks & vests & Scorn the Farmer’s Tan
6. Thou Shalt Never Say “I’m So Slow/rubbish/stupid”
7. Thou Knowst There is a Special Place in Hell for Women Who Do Not Help Other Women
8. Thou Knowst that sometimes, Sufficient Unto the Day is Just Showing Up
9. Thou Knowst Thou Art A Super Fox
10. Thou Biketh for Thyself Alone
11. Thou Shalt Not Compare Thyself With Others. Thou knowest not their lives
12. Thou Shalt Celebrate Thy PBs
13. Thou Shalt Support Thy Fellow Riders Up Hills
13. Thou Mayst Biketh Off and On Road
14. Thou Shalt Always Wear a Helmet; & Use Lights When Needful
15. Thou Shalt Embrace The Wet & Muddy But Fear The Ice
16. Thou Shalt Have Thy Cake. Yea, & Eat It Too

Like the Velominati rules, this list provides some reliable advice with a bit of tongue in cheek humour. What it doesn’t do is present any exclusionary scoffs that give justification for judging people who ride differently. As Tessa’s rules prove, the solution is pretty simple—when it comes to cycling, just do your thing and don’t tell anyone they’re doing it wrong.

Of course, if you want to mimic the pros and abstain from wearing camo bibs or using spacers in your everyday riding, you’re free to do that too. One of the greatest things about cycling culture is just how much depth and nuance there is to be found in its traditions. Let’s hope we continue to see creative expressions of the fact that you don’t have to conform to a secret code to be a proper cyclist. As long as you’re safe and having fun, you’re in the club.