real life cycling

A unified theory of cycling

Commuters, roadies, mountain bikers, fixie fanatics, helmet wearers, non-helmet wearers, MAMIL’s, skinny kids, veterans, fans of The Rules, haters of The Rules; all cyclists, all governed by different laws of behaviour.

Physicists have long grappled with the search for a “Theory of Everything”: a mythical framework to explain and link all physical aspects of the universe. It’s a big job.

Albert Einstein spent many futile years on his own version of this.

It’s what Brian Cox is thinking about (along with the tricky chord structure for the third verse of the long awaited follow-up to Things Can Only Get Better) as he poses for wistful, far-gazing promo shots for his latest BBC documentary.

But neither Cox, nor Einstein, ever took on this task within cycling. “Too hard,” they agreed, and moved on to easier things. Black holes and stuff. Dark matter. That kind of thing.

This is the problem:

Commuters, roadies, mountain bikers, fixie fanatics, helmet wearers, non-helmet wearers, MAMIL’s, skinny kids, veterans, fans of The Rules, haters of The Rules; all cyclists, all governed by different laws of behaviour.

How to bring together this disparate group?

I’ve done the research – placebos, double blind tests, the lot – and I’m ready to summarise my findings in a convenient internet-friendly list format, add a couple of glossy generic images, and wander off quietly in the hope that no-one takes offence.


This, below, is my five-point unified theory of cycling:

1. Wear a helmet

This is non-negotiable. Unless you’re a grown up and capable of making decisions about your own safety, in which case don’t wear one. Or still do. Or wear a cotton cap with the peak-turned up and the name of an esoteric French amateur team emblazoned across it. Make your own mind up.

2. Do Strava

Or just Instagram your ride. Or jot it down in a dog-eared notebook. Or go for a ride and commit it to memory. Unless it was a terrible ride and you want to forget it, in which case visit your post-ride hypnotist and have it erased. What do you mean you haven’t got a post-ride hypnotist? What are you…a Mormon?

3. Seat colour must match handlebar tape

Unless you’ve got a pair of fabulous brown and orange 70’s curtains at home that really hit the spot, in which case match it to those. Or mismatch it to those. Or stick with black. Or visit Etsy and find whichever crafty handmade type has cornered the market in cutesy bespoke saddle decoration.

4. Shave your legs

Or don’t shave your legs. Or shave one leg. Or maybe the other. Or just shave your knees and ankles and leave the bits in between. But don’t tell me it’s for aerodynamic gain or improved massage. Are you Geraint Thomas? No. You just like shaving (or not shaving) your legs. That is all.

5. Harden the f**k up

Or soften the f**k down. Or retain whichever level of intermolecular bonding you currently have and don’t worry about it too much. I mean, there might be something deeper going on here. Did you suffer trauma as a child? Attachment issues? You seem to have a lot to prove. Are you a people pleaser? I know I am…

And that’s it.

A five point plan.

And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this is confusing. That you’re busy, and also indecisive, and you like the certainty of a set of rules – black and white – to follow.

To which I reply: what do you think this is?




(Images: via

16 comments on “A unified theory of cycling

  1. I love this! I’m so glad I found your blog … have just been chortling over The Rules too. Katie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gary (@velomoon)

    Only 5 rules!!! Doncha realise what a complicated bunch of individuals we are, whose anarchistic free spirited nature is only tempered by our love nay slavish following of historical/traditional/anochronistic rules that have little foundation in our modern lives & yet make us stand up tall to be respected/belittled by those who have yet to hear the calling, I know it’s Christmas sir but that doesn’t excuse slacking on your part, I hope you consider this in the respectful manner of advice it was given & now I’m off for a glass of eggnog.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome post as usual, man. I always chuckle about shaving the legs, even though I do every morning before I ride (that’s also against the rules if you race. I think)… if you truly shaved the guns to be “more aero”, you would leave the BACKS of the legs hairy, to keep the air from slamming together at the back of your legs. I’ve been waiting to see if an engineer shows up to a club ride like that. Anyway, nicely done. 👍

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The Rules are always good for a laugh, but there are only two rules worth remembering – and they’re not really rules, anyway:

    1. Ride your bike – wherever, whenever and however it suits you.
    2. We’re all in it together – for me, this means acknowledging other cyclists, and stopping to help if you see a fellow cyclist in need.

    Everything else is just details.
    Thanks for bringing a smile to my face, as always.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Nick Phelps

    This post is pure gold 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’d probably be more aero if I shaved my stomach – it has more surface area than my legs. Although, given it’s normally hidden under a corset and jersey, maybe not.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Very glad to find this article before I embark on my first cycling trip! Thanks 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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