As independent as we want to be, let's face it, cyclists are a community. But we only exist as a community if our many unwritten rules that bind our tribe together are followed by the coolest set. That way, the cool kids get to make fun of the dorks not adhering to the rules, the dorks get to figure out the joke and fix their problems, and then the newly cool get to go out and make fun of the other dorks who are simply making the same mistakes the now cool kids once made. Like a Zipp wheel spinning around its carbon body hub, it's the cycling circle of life.
As with any culture, the Bike tribe has many subsets: Roadies, Hipsters, Fatties (Knobbies or Slicks), Social Cruisers, etc., and each subculture has its own set of mores. But, there are some basic codes that transcend through the tribe that everyone should be aware of.
By the way, the second you swing a leg over a top tube and turn the cranks over just once, you are officially indoctrinated into the tribe and begin aspiring to abide by these norms. Sorry.
1. Be nice. Wave at passing cyclists and say hello. If you see a cyclist repairing a flat or working on some other repair, ask if they need help. Build up that good-cyclist karma. You never know when you'll need a karma swing back to you.
2. Do not ever let your chain squeak. A chirping bike chain is the single most annoying sound this side of a morning clock alarm. For $8 you can buy some lube and clean your chain (the smartest and most responsible thing to do). For as little as $20 you can go and buy a whole new chain. Either way, just make it stop! But never - EVER - use WD40 to take care of that problem. It will only come back louder.
3. Don't tuck anything. Do not tuck a jersey into your shorts. Do not tuck a pant leg into your sock. Do not tuck sunglasses under the helmet chinstraps. The only things exempt from the tuck rule are warmers. The tops of arm and/or leg warmers should be tucked under sleeves/shorts, but that is all. And never wear arm warmers with a sleeveless jersey - it defies logic and looks stupid.
4. Dress appropriately. This differentiates significantly based on the cycling subculture. Roadies wear kits, and these kits must be body forming and color coordinated - preferably matching the bike's color scheme. Mountain Bikers wear baggies (that's baggy everything - shorts, jersey, whatever) with no concern for matching anything. Hipsters dress like, well, hipsters, meaning everything needs to be at least one size too tight with colors and patterns hearkening back to either the 50's or the 80's. And again, please be sure to pay attention to rule #3.
Give way. I'm not sure who created this rule or what the logic is behind it, but cyclists are the low folks on the modal totem pole. Just look at the Share the Trail sign adopted by the International Mountain Biking Association. And no one should ever try to take on a car to see who wins. Don't fight it and just enjoy the ride.
6. No wheel sucking. Drafting can be the cyclist's best friend, but doing too much will put you in the doghouse. Share the load up front and don't use this time as an opportunity to show off and crank up the pace. Keep it steady with what the rest of the group has been riding. And don't pull an extensive draft off of a rider you don't know. That's just rude.
7. No half-wheeling. This is when a rider pulls about half way up on another rider, and it's potentially the most dangerous place to be. If either rider swerves and clips the other's wheel, both riders are going down. Ride in front of, behind or next to, but no half-wheeling.
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8. Share your goods. If a fellow member of the tribe is short a spare tube, needs some air, forgot a tool, or is just plain bonking, share what you got. Again, good karma.
Follow these rules and the world's roads, paths and trails are your oyster. And pass along any other rules that the tribe needs to know. It will only make us a better community.
Have a great ride.