Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin

Cyclist - - The Rules -

Dear Frank

Like many men these days, I have an im­pres­sively bushy beard, which puts me in con­tra­ven­tion of Rule #50 (Fa­cial hair is to be care­fully mon­i­tored – no full beards; no mous­taches). Isn’t it time The Rules were up­dated to stay in tune with cur­rent trends? Af­ter all, the pro pelo­ton now has its fair share of beards. Craig, by email

Dear Craig

You bring up a good point. I think I’m go­ing to re­write the The Rules and call them The Sug­ges­tions and mod­ify them at my whim as modern trends evolve.

As im­pressed as you ap­pear to be by the bushi­ness of your own beard, I’d like to make sure I’m un­der­stand­ing your ques­tion cor­rectly: you want us to mod­ify The Rules so you can fol­low a hip­ster fash­ion trend with­out be­ing in­con­ve­nienced by a Rules con­tra­ven­tion?

Let me think about this for a nanosec­ond. Oh, hell no!

This is not the first time beards have achieved wide­spread pop­u­lar­ity. Fash­ion and trends are very cycli­cal in their na­ture, and very tran­sient. They reap­pear through­out his­tory, with slight vari­a­tions to help us tell the cur­rent trend from an ear­lier in­car­na­tion.

Take, for ex­am­ple, the flu­oro colours that were pop­u­lar in the late 1980s and 1990s. They were sup­pos­edly the epit­ome of cool then, yet we shunned them into the shad­ows un­til some bright spark de­cided to wear them again iron­i­cally, hap­pened to look the busi­ness while do­ing so, at which point the masses pre­dictably fol­lowed. It didn’t hurt that that fel­low hap­pened to be Mario Cipollini. Now flu­oro is back. It’s cool, it’s hip, and I dare say it Looks Fan­tas­tic.

For now. In a few years’ time, these day­glo items will be plump­ing up land­fills and sec­ond­hand stores around the world, wait­ing for another score years to pass, at which point some­one will in­vari­ably try to bring the look back again. Which they will, as cer­tain as the sun will rise again to­mor­row.

This isn’t to say that all trends are tran­sient. Some are an evo­lu­tion, progress. Un­til the 1980s, cy­cling jer­seys were long and saggy while the shorts were short and scrunchy. Both were made out of wool. As fabric tech­nol­ogy and our un­der­stand­ing of aero­dy­nam­ics evolved, that all changed. Thank­fully.

To get to the core of the mat­ter, we the Velom­i­nati are the Keep­ers of the (metaphor­i­cal) Cog. The Rules rep­re­sent the dis­til­la­tion of this canon, put into (cur­rently) 95 Rules. These Rules are care­fully cu­rated to avoid trends and fads that ap­pear with metro­nomic fre­quency.

Fa­cial hair in cy­cling is a trend that has thus far failed to stand the test of time. From a prac­ti­cal point of view, fa­cial hair does not lend it­self well to cy­cling. It is warm, can foul the work­ings of an oth­er­wise per­fect nos­tril­void­ing, snags in hel­met straps and is woe­fully un-aero. Bradley Wig­gins, who is surely amongst your ref­er­enced group of bearded Pro Cy­clists, shaved his Griz­zly Adams just prior to mak­ing his suc­cess­ful at­tempt at the World Hour Record. Good lad, that.

In the hun­dred-year his­tory of our sport, there are ex­actly three rid­ers who have been able to pull off fa­cial hair and have it form a core fil­a­ment of their iden­tity: Marco Pan­tani, Luca Paolini and the Rus­sian guy from Amer­i­can Fly­ers. The third one isn’t a real rider, so doesn’t count. Also he wore a re­ally rub­bish hel­met. No one wants to be that guy.

Luca’s bushy beard is very im­pres­sive, I have to ad­mit, and he pulls the look off al­most as well as he hides his co­caine habit. Im­pres­sive stuff, but don’t try this at home, kids.

Wear your bushy beard if you like. In time, you‘ll shave it off and move on with your life. But we're not about to up­date The Rules just to sat­isfy the whims of cur­rent trends.

Fa­cial hair is clearly a growth in­dus­try, but can beards ever be ac­cepted by the Velom­i­nati? Frank Strack is pretty clear on this point

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