Road cycling is a beautiful and beguiling sport, and it’s one with a seemingly endless list of arcane rules and customs. This minefield of tradition and convention can be rather off-putting for new riders, so here are five roadie rules we’re entirely happy for you to ignore.
1. Sock etiquette
Roadies love talking about socks, comparing “sock game” and hashtag sockdoping. Left to their own devices, they’ll post pictures of their unprotected socks all over Instagram.
With this weird obsession comes a host of arbitrary rules about sock length and colour; they can’t be too long or too short lest you be mistaken for a runner or a triathlete, they can’t be black lest you be mistaken for Lance Armstrong. And so on.
We at BikeRadar believe you should wear the socks that feel right for you. Whatever you choose, we’re sure you’ll look fabulous.
2. Slam that stem
If there’s a consistent theme among pro bikes, it’s a long and low riding position.
Pros are genetic outliers whose freaky physiology makes them good at riding bikes. That tends to mean long limbs and great flexibility, so a lot of them ride ridiculously aggressive setups, sometimes sizing down and fitting stupidly long minus 17 degree stems, slammed right down on the headset with no spacers.
It looks cool and it’s certainly aero, but it only makes sense if your body can actually take it.
A big old stack of spacers under your stem may not be aesthetically pleasing, but if it means you’re comfortable then you are better off living with it. If spacers truly offend, look for an endurance-focused bike with a nice tall head tube.
3. If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen
Actually it did. You were there, you rode your bike, you made the memories. Strava is a fantastic tool for training and a really convenient way to log your rides, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of cycling.
An unhealthy obsession with Strava can ruin your rides if it means you’re constantly fretting about segments rather than appreciating the simple pleasures of watching the scenery race by, and the feeling of the wind in your hair.
On a leisurely group ride it’s downright antisocial to be constantly tearing off — don’t be that rider.
4. No MTB pedals on road bikes
Road pedals are for road bikes and mountain bike pedals are for mountain bikes, right? Not necessarily.
Although a proper road clipless pedal is the best option for fast, competitive riding, SPD-style pedals are brilliant if you need to walk around in your cycling shoes at all, or for stop-start commuting where you’re clipping in and out a lot.
SPDs are cheap, reliable and easy to use. If you just want the best value clipless setup, they’re the obvious choice no matter what kind of bike you’re riding.
5. Don’t use a saddle bag
Which do you think is a better look? Very slightly altering the visual harmony of your bike with a small saddle bag, or filling your jersey pockets to bursting point because a list on the internet said that attaching accessories to your bike isn’t acceptable.
Saddles bags aren’t “pro” because pros in races have full-time mechanical support and don’t need to lug a load of crap around with them. Pros training alone from their homes carry exactly the same spares that you do, and they aren’t averse to a saddle bag of dignified proportions, preferably just big enough to hold a tube and a tyre lever or two.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re doing road cycling wrong — do what works for you.