RCUK's Cycling Style Guidance Notes

Stylists to a man

Sobriety of dress

It has come to the notice of RCUK that there is something called the ‘Euro Cyclist’ movement, with its spiritual home residing on Facebook at a page called OREC: The Official Rules of the Euro Cyclist.

Reading through these so-called rules it quickly becomes apparent that a monstrous double bluff operation has been put into action in order to entrap the easily-led, who may find themselves slavishly following said rules and thereby become a laughing stock amongst truly style-conscious road cyclists.

In order to counteract the pernicious influence of self-styled cycling style gurus, RCUK offers an alternative series of what we feel are no more than guidance notes aimed at steering the novice around the pitfalls that litter the path to looking good on a bike. They are, for sure, not especially onerous, which may be perceived as a failing by those whose greatest desire is to be told what to do.

Here we will give few indicators concerning what to avoid. Otherwise these notes are intended merely as suggestions. Pick and choose or ignore: the choice is yours.

1: A well-dialled riding position and efficient pedalling style take precedence over all other considerations. Long after exertion, road dirt and the many afflictions showered on the cyclist by long hours in the saddle have taken their toll of the looks of clothing, shoes and machine, good position and pedalling technique shine through. 

2: Adopt a friendly attitude to other pedal-powered road users, even those who clearly wish not to be friendly in return. Remember that, just because you might be wearing expensive eyewear and a sub-200g helmet and are therefore virtually anonymous, riding with a an air of absolute superiority still makes you a tool and you will be regarded as such, albeit unidentified, rather than as the Road God you believe yourself to be. Besides, waving annoys the aloof.

3: Do not wear baggy or ill-fitting clothing and especially avoid overshoes with too many straps, zips or reflective bands. There is a particular danger with tights, which have a tendency to fall down the legs and wrinkle around the knees while sagging under the crotch, often low enough to snag the nose of the saddle when sitting back down after a session of honking. The resulting antics can be embarrasing.

4: Carry the lightest, simplest waterproof you can find. Pockets and pouches in such a garment signal a willingness to carry superfluous weight, which is a fundamental mistake.

5: Carry a frame-fitting pump, also known as a ‘second top tube’, or at least a pump capable of getting 100psi into a tyre. Few situations in road cycling are as ludicrous and humiliating for the victim as being obliged to ask a companion for assistance having spent the previous 10 minutes in a frenzied but ultimately fruitless attempt to get more air into a tyre than is let out by the minimalist, suggestively-sized piece of pipe work sold as a pump that you packed on the assumption that it looked good when not in use.

6: Fit a saddle pack and put useful stuff inside it. This may include such unmentionables as a piece of old tubular tyre for booting a cut sidewall. Remember that relying on a mobile phone in the event of a breakdown means relying on the willingness of a Significant Other to come and pick you up. Nothing epic about that.

7: Don’t be afraid to mix and match jerseys, shorts and other pro team logo-encrusted items of cycle wear. Only genuine team riders look confident riding in nothing but their sponsor’s colours; better, if you must wear team kit, is to wear it with complete insouciance. Remember, however, that the universal rules of colour co-ordination apply to cycling as much as to interior decoration.

8: Don’t be afraid to eschew team kit in favour of subdued clothing. Black shorts, white socks and a plain(ish) jersey and cap are the Little Black Dress of road cycling. Why do you think Rapha do so well?

9: Stick with black or plain, unassuming shoes if you feel deep inside that white ones are Not Quite You. Brazening it out will only reduce your riding enjoyment. On the other hand, don’t allow feelings of self-consciousness to deter you if white or similarly bling shoes are what you really want.

10: Tubular tyres are for racing.

11: Assuming you are of British nationality, avoid the temptation to emulate the ways of the Continent. Remember that such impulses date back to the time when British cyclists were the poor relations of Europe, with few successes at the highest level of competition to give us credibility. Today, British cycling sits at the top of the pile. Straight riding holds sway – and that includes saddlebags, hub gears and Greenspot Nomad jackets, if only they were still made.

12: Wash your bike more often if you don’t have mudguards. A dirty mudguard-equipped bike looks like it is being used for something; a dirty road bike without them looks uncared-for. More important than worrying about precise details of clothing, shoes, bike brand (marque for the really effete) and componentry is to give the impression of caring about how you and your machine look. Exactly what that means is surely up to you.

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