the rules: the way of the cycling disciple. velominati. sceptre books hardback. 278pp illus. £12.99

the rules

'we are cyclists. the rest of the world merely rides a bike'

nostalgia is one of those emotions that carries the supreme ability to tint historical events and times with a warm glow. no matter the technological and societal developments of contemporary times, those of a bygone era are stripped of their disadvantages, leaving only historical positives. this is a state of affairs that invades pretty much all walks of life, apart possibly, from astro and nuclear physics.

though rapha can be seen as responsible for bringing the warmth of wool jerseys to the pelotonese, the mighty dave t has brought the sixties and seventies to life by describing just how awful the jerseys of those years truly were. it might be no exaggeration that three full back pockets in the rain would have soaking wool dragging on the rear tyre. it's difficult to see how a sense of style could be maintained under such circumstances.

rule 80: always be casually deliberate.

what is beyond redemption and argument is that the riders of yesteryear participated in a substantially larger number of races than seems currently to be the case. should evidence be required, you need look no further than last year's velopress release 'merckx 525', the numerical part of the title referring to eddy's career victories. you will search in vain to find any of the contemporary riders who look even to be approaching such a total. it is, therefore, no real wonder that a sizeable portion of the cycling cognoscenti have deified eddy merckx. even the uci, with their athlete's hour record, have effectively set the belgian as the bona-fide standard of all that is good, great and probably unachievable in modern cycling.

bluntly put, riders such as merckx, de vlaeminck, kelly and bernard hinault, wear the mantle of 'hardman' and as such can be seen as progenitors of the commandments of cycling, codified here by the velominati as the rules. surely each and every one of us has a desire to imitate our heroes? even those with little cognisance or exposure to the rules can surely not have failed to have been berated by rule number five: harden the f**k up? and at the time of this book's printing, it was accompanied by a further 89 rules pertaining to pretty much every aspect of cycling activity.

'The Rules serve as an induction into the fundamental principles of living life as a Cyclist. While some seem to fixate on the arbitrary and others on the aesthetic, all are steeped in history and culture and are intended for one purpose only: to inspire people to ride their bikes more often and love them more deeply than they do now.'

rule 65: maintain and respect your machine.

in order to produce a more thematic volume than simply list each in numerical order (though such a list is present at the back of the book), the chapters deal with cycling specifics: The Disciple, The Ride, The Bike, The Aesthete and The Hardmen. i confess i'd have been a touch happier had numerical order been respected, but that said, i can see no real disadvantage to the way the rules have been here portrayed.

of course, were these really the rules to which it was necessary to adhere before clipping into a pair of road bike pedals (or toeclips and straps), most of us would be in real trouble. i doubt there are many to whom rule number five does not at some time apply. i hold my hand up to that one almost everytime i venture out. and i'm also rather dismayed by number 56: 'espresso or macchiato only'. this is disappointingly qualified by "if the word soy/skim latte is heard to be used by a membr wearing Cycling apparel, then that person must be ceremonially beaten with CO2 canisters or mini-pumps by others within the community"

rules are meant to be broken, so the saying goes; i'll continue to break that one.

however, in a way that often seems not reflected by other sports, the velominatus seem well-disposed to have their tongues firmly planted in at least one cheek. the rules are intended to celebrate the cyclist's estrangement from the rest of society, not by apologising for it, but by acknowledging such eccentricities with a wry grin. though many a foreword by a respected figure from within cycling's greater circle seems mostly a device to draw attention to the book's cover, followed only by several platitudinal paragraphs inside, in this case, william fotheringham's words are to be much heeded.

"It was snowing the other day, and I wanted to take my daughter outside. She wasn't in the mood. Well, I said, you know how we roll. Rule #5, she replied. She has never ridden a bike in anger."

it pretty much goes without saying that the rules in book form is as compulsory a purchase as a bicycle. no matter your level of ability or experience within the realm of cycling, i'd like to propose a 95th rule stating that a copy of this book should be maintained on each and every cyclist's bookshelf. though the contents are easily available on the website, there is true inspiration to be drawn from holding this perfectly formed volume in either hand.

brandish it with pride

"This book will assume nothing but passion - whether it be dormant or vibrant. We will not give history lessons, we will not explain what a quick-release skewer is."

tuesday 9th july 2013