“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.

It also comes from some of the best coaches in cycling, and from parents who have already raised happy, successful riders.

Maybe these Rules will help children to enjoy their cycling and be the best that they can be.

Bikes and Equipment

Rule #1

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.

Rule #2

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…

Rule #3

Learn how your bike works. If there’s a problem in a race you’ll have a better chance of putting it right yourself.

Rule #4

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.

Rule #5

But if you’re a member of a club, do wear your club kit and wear it with pride.

Attitude and Respect

Rule #6

Respect your opponents. Rip each other’s legs off during the race, of course, but shake hands afterwards.

Rule #7

See that rider who got lapped? They’re trying just as hard as you are.

Rule #8

No tantrums please when something hasn’t gone your way. That’s not how things are done in cycling.

Rule #9

The top youth riders still fit their training and racing around school or college – not the other way round.

Rule #10

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.

Rule #11

You’re probably a role model to younger riders without knowing it. Set the best example to them that you can.

Rule #12

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.

Rule #13

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.

Rule #14

Races and coaching sessions are a privilege. Every now and again remember to thank the organiser, marshals, the people serving in the tea-hut…

Rule #15

Not all teenagers “get” cycling. If friends always give you hassle about your cycling then maybe they’re not such good friends.

Rule #16

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.

Rule #17

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.

Rule #18

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.

Rule #19

The desire to train and race needs to come from you, not from your parents.

Rule #20

It’s normal to doubt yourself sometimes – even Olympic champions do it.

Rule #21

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.

Rule #22

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

Rule #23

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.

Rule #24

Just because another kid keeps winning doesn’t mean they’re unbeatable. With hard work your time will come.

Rule #25

Just because you keep winning doesn’t mean you’re unbeatable. Other kids will be working hard to beat you.

Rule #26

Forget about race points and the National Youth Rankings – they honestly don’t matter to anyone.

Rule #27

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.

Rule #28

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.

Rule #29

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.

Rule #30

Your race performance isn’t defined by your result. Focus on doing the best performance you can and not worrying about the outcome.

Rule #31

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.

Rule #32

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.

Rule #33

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!

Rule #34

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.

Rule #35

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.

Rule #36

Keep doing other sports as well as cycling. And do as many different disciplines of cycling as you can. Don’t specialise too early.

Rule #37

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.

Rule #38

Sometimes just go for a ride for the fun of it. Not every ride should be a training session or a race.



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33 responses to:

“The Rules” – rewritten for young racing cyclists

  1. April 1, 2015

    Fantastic. I realised I was nodding along to every one of these. Things I have told my children, and youth riders I coach.

  2. Chris Macleod
    April 1, 2015

    Compulsory reading for all youth riders and, especially, their parents. Thanks YCS 🙂

  3. Steve Crapper
    April 1, 2015

    Would make a brilliant little handbook to give out at coaching sessions

  4. linda cantelo
    April 1, 2015

    These rules make good sense, I hate to see kids crying lap after lap. One other rule, skills, skills, skills, if you have to practice that dismount or bunny hop or start 100 times to get it right, keep practising, you’ll get it right eventually and it will be the best feeling ever. Even better than winning.

  5. Jonathan Abra
    April 1, 2015

    Print them on the back of your membership forms! Tape a copy to the clubhouse door! Email them to all members! Great.

  6. April 1, 2015

    Superbly written guide for all. I did not expect to read this and agree with it all, but I did. A must read for all, especially those who are new to the sport. Well done!

  7. M Longchamp
    April 1, 2015

    Forgot the most important rule:
    HAVE FUN if you do you will never lose

  8. Peter Metalli
    April 2, 2015

    I would certainly have to hold my hands up to a couple (caught up with the whole “they’ve got carbon so we’ll better get carbon” thing and points chasing) and most (honest) parents would also have to admit to doing the same.

    All very good points in theory but one problem is how to STOP them from wanting to race at every opportunity when the roads are so unsafe for youngsters!

    The other thing is I have also seen some very senior BC coaches guilty of some of the others. (“Talent Team not important” and then not talking to/acknowledging you if you don’t make – the same with national rankings – not important if your kid is at the top but if they are it’s a different ball-game)

    The worst however was being told by a senior club coach that your child will not make it unless they give up all other sports at age 11 and when we wouldn’t do so, the “help” at the club stopped! Many years on, we are now involved in a completely different sport!

    As a nation we are very successful at producing world-class riders but an awful lot of other potential club riders get dumped on the way never to return.

  9. Graeme Gow
    April 2, 2015

    Totally agree with Peter Metalli’s comments. I now travel 120 miles at weekends to ride with a club that encourages all ages and abilities. I have instilled all the above in my lad. It has made him a far more appreciative and grounded rider. He has also turned out to be a very pleasant young man, due to his socialising with peers and elders on club rides.

  10. Rik Van Looy
    April 2, 2015

    The rules are so valid, can’t believe the final picture has a young fella from my former club, Colchester Rovers CC, they have done huge work in encouraging youngsters in the sport. It’s all about the legs and passion, not equipment or wealth or parents. I raced for many years on ‘average’ equipment and let the motivation from within and legs do the talking (current Colchester Rovers record holder for 10, 25, and 50 mile tt’s, now residing in New Zealand)

  11. Samuel Asker
    April 2, 2015

    Thanks for posting this because it has shown me a lot as a young youth rider

  12. Peter Richardson
    April 2, 2015

    All completely valid – good job! And with some editing could be applied to just about every other sport kids get involved in.

  13. April 2, 2015

    This is totally awesome, I have posted on our club page for ALL our members!

  14. Sue McHugh
    April 3, 2015

    Wow, definitely been put together by time served cyclists and coaches! I have never read anything like this aimed at youngsters.. this is gold dust and very welcome! I am book marking this now for my son and daughter to read!

  15. James M
    April 3, 2015

    Other sports like running and swimming can help a lot.
    1) Creates a more rounded athlete.
    2) More opportunity for social interaction with other groups of kids and adults.
    3) More opportunity to hear other ideas about training and fun.
    4) Good for keeping fitness and training when unable to bike because of injury, weather , location, etc.
    5) May turn out to be a triathlete. Lance Amstrong was a kid who raced triathlons.
    6) When one sport hits a temporary plateau, or kid gets bored, the 3 way training provides other outlets until they swing back to biking hard again.
    7) Tris have traffic. Instead of the strongest leading and the weakest getting dropped or lapped, the wave starts combined with three skills means people are passing you and you are passing them all the time.
    8) With a tri there is a lot of technical and tactical stuff going on all the time, not just in each discipline, but the transitions too. Very difficult for kid to get bored.
    9) The bike section in most tris have no drafting, so no one is browned off by a kid who drafts all the way to sprint at the end.
    10) Running can be done any time, even lunch time, no need for much special equipment or transport to track or velodrome.
    10) Swimming, biking and running gets kids into the big outdoors, and makes for a well rounded and confident kid.
    11) With a triathlon you don’t have to be the best at one discipline, just try hard at each and try not to waist time in transition. They teach focus and energy management.

  16. April 3, 2015

    Fantastic principles for all riders to live by. Good on you

  17. Paul Miller
    April 4, 2015

    The biggest killer of childhood dreams are usually parents… From lack of support or being ‘over supportive’… As an ex-skateboarder where there was no pressure other than loving what you do and taking the hard knocks to learn, being around cycling clubs and the parents involved has been a real eye opener. Luckily Nicola Juniper’s coaching is geared towards fun fun fun with parents politely told to stay out of the equation with no preferential treatment i.e Development Teams etc etc Pretty much all of the above in one way or another is informed to the kids as standard…. Female head coaches rock as she knows how to strike a balance having been there and still doing it…

  18. April 6, 2015

    Spot on guys, we need to spread the word about this – especially re equipment and bikes – it’s like an arms race out there at some events – if only we could have kids riding ‘formula’ bikes as well as restricting their gears – i.e. 531 frame, no deep section wheels… And parents who’ve never raced as a youth, please remember it has to be fun if you really want your kid to do well long term…

  19. Tony Gray
    April 7, 2015

    A must read for all young riders, coaches, clubs and parents. It is all about the long game – and for our sport that is maintaining a life long love of it.

  20. […] Read it! […]

  21. April 28, 2015

    This is going up in the Cycle Sport Pendle club-house at the earliest opportunity.

  22. David
    April 28, 2015

    #39 Just ride your bike…because it is fun. 😉

  23. Denise Kemp
    April 29, 2015

    Brilliant! I love this. I’m 48, can I use it too? Btw I still ride to impress my parents lol!

  24. John
    April 29, 2015

    I love your rules as does my 11 year old son. He asked for a new bike for Christmas and trained hard over the winter so he was ready to race in closed circuit races. When these started he was told he was breaking the rules and couldn’t use his bike as it has disc brakes. We are now having to try and swap it. But he’ll be back riding soon with the above 38 rules in his head. These have cheered us up!

  25. Youth Cycle Sport
    April 30, 2015

    Thanks John. Sorry to hear about your frustration, and I hope your son doesn’t let it put him off. Cycling can be a very technical sport compared with, say, athletics, and the rules and regulations can be pretty puzzling. Being part of a good youth-orientated club is still one of the best ways to get to grips with all that and to benefit from other parents’ and coaches’ knowledge. If your son isn’t already in a club and might be interested in joining one let us know roughly where you live and we’ll suggest some good clubs.

  26. Håkan
    May 1, 2015

    This i the way how to learn young riders to our sport! This I will spread in Sweden.

  27. Len Woffindin
    May 1, 2015

    Really good summary, I can relate to many of these in the coaching and officiated I get involved with. There is now a post on the CSP website to this page, thanks its excellent.

  28. John Tilley
    May 28, 2015

    Great article ,the truth,

  29. Philip Coleman
    June 17, 2015

    What a super set of great advice. Like many others, I nodded at each and every one of these rules and think they should be institutionalised in every go-ride club.

  30. Gillian wood
    June 28, 2015

    Can we get a copy of this rules rewritten published my daughter would love it

  31. Youth Cycle Sport
    June 29, 2015

    Yes, we’d love to publish The Rules as a booklet, expanded with some explanation supporting each Rule. One or two companies have shown some interest in helping us do that, so we’ll keep you posted.

  32. August 15, 2015

    these are the best set of rules I have ever read,,,,its a must that they are published…… youth cycling coach,,,

  33. Liz Barrett
    January 19, 2017

    These rules are great, and can be applied to everything in life……I a sure kids get this, maybe we now need a set of rules for the screaming parent on the side lines. Well done York Cycle Sport

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