People who know me will know that I am, basically, obsessed with cycling. I don’t go for ‘training’ or all that, I am just not competitive in that way (I only get competitive about things I can win, generally,) I just like bashing about on my bikes, using them as the most fun and amazing form of transport known to humanity.
Anyway, this isn’t a post about how amazing riding bikes is – that would need a whole blog of its own. No, this post is about rules.
I was forwarded a copy of these rules recently and it sparked loads of different, very interesting and insightful conversations, Twitter chats and emails to-ing and fro-ing.
These rules are a mixture of sensible, petty, weird and obsessive, and downright obscure. Of course, there is a tongue somewhere in someone’s cheek there but to all intents and purposes these rules help to paint a picture of the cycling subculture, help us to understand
ourselves people on the bike spectrum better. Although I also really enjoyed reading Bike Snob’s guide to cycling tribes (which is also funny and true,) I think the rules are much more interesting from an anthropological, human behaviour perspective.
The bike rules sparked off a whole load of conversations about other subcultures’ rules.
Skateboarders told me about theirs – there’s a whole lot about what colour tape you use, whether screws or allen key screw things look better on a truck, what tricks are beyond the pale, what you wear for different situations and so on. They figured that their list of rules could be as long as the bike one.
I also thought back to another obsession of mine – dance – and there are a lot of rules there too. What you can wear to show that you have been doing it for ages, how to stand when you aren’t actually dancing, how to sew the ribbons on your shoes, whether to wear pink tights or black (footless black tights are OK, ones with feet are not,) when legwarmers are appropriate, and so on.
A lot of them (like in skateboarding) are related to helping you not bump into each other.
Usually subcultures’ rules are unwritten – and often unspoken – so you have to pick them up for yourself. The thing I thought was really interesting is that these are the rules people stick to. It’s probably because they make them up as they go along, there’s a consensus somewhere about which rules to adhere to, which rules will help you belong.
When you want to understand people better, look for the rules they follow.