“The Rules” – rewritten for young racing cyclists
31 March 2015
Lots of cyclists quote from “The Rules”, a (hopefully) tongue-in-cheek list of dos and don’ts about what to wear and how to ride. It’s an entertaining read but full of the worst possible advice for young racing cyclists!
Here at Youth Cycle Sport, as coaches, as parents, and as lifelong cyclists we want kids to feel included by our magnificent sport – not excluded because they don’t have the “right” clothing nor an expensive bike.
So this is our version of The Rules, rewritten for young racing cyclists. Some of it is drawn from the advice for children given in our interviews with world-class riders such as Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Lizzie Armitstead, Chris Boardman and Tracy Moseley.
Maybe these Rules will help children to enjoy their cycling and be the best that they can be.
Bikes and Equipment
The best riders don’t care which bike brand they ride or how much their bike is worth – they just make sure it works well, that it fits them properly, and that it’s clean.
You don’t need the best, most expensive equipment to succeed. If you have a steel bike see how many carbon bikes you can beat…
Learn how your bike works. If there’s a problem in a race you’ll have a better chance of putting it right yourself.
Wear whatever you like, whether that’s team replica kit, flappy shorts and a T-shirt, whatever. Anyone who judges your cycling based on what you’re wearing isn’t worth listening to.
But if you’re a member of a club, do wear your club kit and wear it with pride.
Attitude and Respect
Respect your opponents. Rip each other’s legs off during the race, of course, but shake hands afterwards.
See that rider who got lapped? They’re trying just as hard as you are.
No tantrums please when something hasn’t gone your way. That’s not how things are done in cycling.
The top youth riders still fit their training and racing around school or college – not the other way round.
It’s never too early to put something back into the sport. Offer help to younger riders, help to run your club’s race, help out at coaching sessions.
You’re probably a role model to younger riders without knowing it. Set the best example to them that you can.
Always do your best to finish a race even if it has gone badly. It will help build your character for tough moments in the future. And anyway, deciding to DNF voluntarily becomes a habit.
When the weather’s bad and you don’t fancy going out, remember that no-one returns from a bike ride regretting that they had gone out.
Races and coaching sessions are a privilege. Every now and again remember to thank the organiser, marshals, the people serving in the tea-hut…
Not all teenagers “get” cycling. If friends always give you hassle about your cycling then maybe they’re not such good friends.
Spend time with your non-cycling friends & family. See them at parties, go to the cinema together. Yes, commit to cycling but don’t let it take over your life.
If wanting to fit in at school is stopping you from cycling, or if you want to conform a bit more, those things will seem totally insignificant when you are twenty years old. Ride your bike, for yourself. It will be worth it.
Even if you’re not the fastest rider or the most confident person don’t let yourself be given a label early on. Be brave enough to follow your dreams.
The desire to train and race needs to come from you, not from your parents.
It’s normal to doubt yourself sometimes – even Olympic champions do it.
Hard work will always beat talent if talent doesn’t work hard. Don’t be put off racing if you’re not immediately good at it.
Try to be the best you can be. That doesn’t mean always winning – it means working to get the very best out of yourself.
Goals and Achievement
Yes, have big goals and dreams but stay grounded. Even if you don’t get to the highest level you can still enjoy the sport and be very competitive.
Just because another kid keeps winning doesn’t mean they’re unbeatable. With hard work your time will come.
Just because you keep winning doesn’t mean you’re unbeatable. Other kids will be working hard to beat you.
Forget about race points and the National Youth Rankings – they honestly don’t matter to anyone.
Don’t worry if you’re smaller than other riders your age. Cycling is a sport where being small and light can be an advantage.
Don’t worry if you’re bigger than other riders your age. Cycling is a sport where being big and strong can be an advantage.
Be prepared to race against faster people and to ride bigger races. It’s tempting to take the safe option but that won’t help you develop as a rider.
Your race performance isn’t defined by your result. Focus on doing the best performance you can and not worrying about the outcome.
Count your race as a success if: you executed your race plan properly; if you tried your hardest; if you tried something new; if you attacked; if you didn’t get dropped; if you lasted longer in the bunch than last time; or if you crashed but got back on.
Learn from your mistakes – that helps you to improve in the future. Great riders learn far more from their “bad” races than their good ones.
Don’t do every possible race. Sometimes it’s better to go training instead, or go out with friends, or maybe just sleep..? Anyway, your parents need a break from racing too!
If you’ve been unwell, haven’t had enough rest, or if you’ve had a tough week at school or college then you mustn’t expect to be flying at the weekend.
Keep a training diary. Record how well you’ve slept and note down your “feel good factor” each day. Look back at it now and again to begin to understand yourself.
Keep doing other sports as well as cycling. And do as many different disciplines of cycling as you can. Don’t specialise too early.
Don’t focus your ambition entirely on joining British Cycling’s programmes – keep an open mind and don’t be disheartened if you aren’t accepted. There are other opportunities to develop.
Sometimes just go for a ride for the fun of it. Not every ride should be a training session or a race.