So I've decided to start a blog. I only do 2 things adequately, and those are Science and Cycling. Since science is even boring to scientists most of the time, I'm going to blog about cycling. I'm going to start with the unwritten rules of the elite amateur cyclist. That isn't a contradiction. There are plenty of guys that live and breathe cycling and yet aren't paid to do it. Some of them want to be professionals someday, but most of us just want to have fun riding our bikes, beating our friends in races, and keeping a somewhat normal job on the side. Since we do take this so seriously, there are a series of rules to be followed in order to gain acceptance into the larger group. Many of these rules have roots in safety, but those are entirely vestigal by now. The real reason we do what we do is simply "that's the way it is" or "that's what's cool." This seemingly irrational set of guidelines can be confusing, and frustrating to both the cyclists that don't get it, and the cyclists whose acceptance they are trying to gain. I figure that I will be fulfilling my societal duty by stating these rules explicitly so that the newcomer with the $4000 bike can gain the acceptance he is looking for, and I can spend a little less time making fun of the guy the lame $4000 bike who is appearing desperate for entry into the club. Now we can all spend a little more time enjoying ourselves while riding our bikes.
In addition to style tips (of which the ones in Bicycling are occasionally helpful, but mostly useless and Elitist), I'll also throw in any mechanical advice I can. Bike shops are great and all, but I don't trust my bike to any of them, and I wouldn't expect anybody else to either. Unless you have so much money and so little time that paying a good mechanic a lot of money to work on your bike makes sense, you'd be better off doing it yourself. You learn about your machine, you learn what to do if something goes wrong on a ride, and you'll free yourself from having to trust the LBS mechanic who is either an underpaid high school kid doing it for the discount, or an ultra-opinionated old timer, who may know his stuff, but doesn't know (or care) about what is best for you.
I'd like to throw out there that I'm not being snobby or elitist. I'm merely stating the rules as they exist to me. Anybody can choose to follow them or not. If one chooses not to follow them, then they shouldn't expect us to be particularly friendly, or admire their expensive stuff. I can understand the "I do what I like" mentality, but then don't join in my ride, suck my wheel on the path, or make small talk with me at the coffee shop. I don't make small talk with the soccer moms, and I won't enjoy doing it with you, unless you play the game. This is the same as existing rules in any other social group. If someone goes to a party, concert, or similiar social event in an outfit that is inappropriate for the event, they're going to get ostracized. Cycling is our social event, and the collectve "we" hold the keys to the party, I'm just trying to help you get in.