The Rules in the 1980’s

The Rules in the 1980’s

Member PETER ROBINSON gives his account of past times.



The prophet (Merckx) and the apostle (De Vlaeminck) forge the foundation of The Rules 

Many of you will be conversant with ethe rules espoused by Velominati, #5 – if you don’t know what that is look it up – well how did these rules apply in the early to mid 80’s?

I’d always found cycling fascinating, the odd snippet of the Tour on the TV Joop Zoetemelk, Bernard Hinault, Sean Kelly, the bright coloured jerseys, other than when I was at my Gramps he only had black and white, the crowds and the French countryside, World of Sport on a Saturday afternoon occasionally had the highlights from a Spring Classic – 1982 Jan Raas riding for Raleigh winning in Roubaix was enough to convince me that this was a sport that I wanted to be part of – but how was this possible when you didn’t know anyone who owned a decent racing bike let alone race.

All this was to change when I started ‘A’ Levels at Banbury college – Andy in my Geography class had a Raleigh Gran Sport – red, yellow and black with Campag – tubs as well – Clement Ritmos – first time I went out with him on my Raleigh Magnum (Walls followed and produced an ice cream in the same colours) with 27 x 1 ¼ wheels, pannier rack and brakes which had secondary levers you could reach when sat on the tops!!! My Dad told me it might be the last bike I would get – little did he know what lay ahead.

It was the week before Christmas 1982 we’d done 90 miles and I remember the route today – I loved it I was hooked – I joined the Star the following January and filled out a form to get a Road Race license – I didn’t even have a racing bike but that would soon change…. that is for another blog…at the Star AGM I met three lads who raced, sadly two are no longer with us, Simon Smith’s life cut tragically short in a vehicle accident when just 23 and Henry Duckett from cancer when in his early 40’s, the third rider Steve would have a huge influence on my cycling in those early days, he would disappear from the scene in the mid to late 80’s.

So to the rules as they applied in 1983….well those that could apply…

Rule #4 – It’s all about the bike – it was – no cross training or core work – just ride the bike – Winter rides consisted of 3 to 4 hours on a Saturday meeting outside the Dog and Gun at 9.30 , the most that ever came out was 5 – Sunday we met at 9.00 and would do between four and five hours – Simon would ride in from Woodford Halse and ride home. Lawrie Allet and Eric Messnger would meet later for a social ride.

Rule #5 – harden the f*** up – Winter clothing consisted of woollen Campitello ribbed tights, or Santini Nyon fronted tights with braces bought from the local Burtons – mine had previously served for the purpose of keeping my Sta Press up #2tone. The top was a Bean bag or Nico sport woollen top, again you could have a nylon front. Gloves were either woollen ones from Millets or Laswiss fur lined mittens – Overshoes blue Sidi – a classic woollen Belgium hat kept your head warm. When it rained everything sagged!!!! Knees turned blue and frost settled on the gloves.

Rule #8 Bars, saddle and tyres should match – well bars and saddle – tyres were black with a yellowish side wall – unless you rode Wolber Renforce – they were black had no traction and lasted for ever  – yellow Benotto tape – think coloured sellotape!!! And you could get either a yellow Selle Turbo saddle to match or a nylon saddle cover which fitted snuggly over the saddle.

Rule #9 If you are out in bad weather it means you are a bad ass – snow, ice, rain all added to the fun or pain – cold everything – getting home with blue hands and feet, frozen gloves and lumps of ice on your tights. Mudguards – not a chance – there wasn’t enough clearance.

Rule #11 Family does not come first, the bike does – training meant Sunday lunch now became Sunday supper, Mum and Dad were about to be exposed to a whole new world, a tour of the Village Halls in the Midlands – many of the circuits sadly lost as a result of traffic furniture, but particular favourites were, Ullenhall, Portway, Wing, Cold Ash, Penn and Inkberrow in those early days.

Rule # 12 The correct number of bikes was n + 1, the best you could hope for was two bikes, one for the Winter, a Holdsworth Elan with Weinmann 500 brakes – they seized on most rides and would only spring back open with a helping hand…the summer bike a team Raleigh, steel Reynolds 531, my first proper bike, bought from a warehouse in Manchester – £325 with full Campag Record and Mavic GP4 wheels. It did everything, training, road racing and time trials, with just the wheels being changed.

Rule #13 Wear it upside down – more frequently the #13 was omitted from the start sheet – oh yes race entries – you had to complete an entry form stating your best 6 results in the past twelve months – with 6 points for a win and 1 for 6th it was amazing how many riders finished 7th in races – just outside the points but it made your entry look good.

Rule #14 Shorts must be black – Shorts were always black, bib shorts were not readily available and once again braces became an essential part of the wardrobe. Assos were simply the best, Descente and Castelli made good shorts by the mid 80’s others generally rode up your leg. Claud Criquielion (the clue is in the last bit of his surname) introduced us all to a coloured seam in 1984 to compliment his uber cool Hitachi top – Criq was my hero – a real hardman – see Rule #5

Rule #17 Team kit – Everyone wanted to look like Kelly – the classic red and white striped SEM/SKIL jersey – most jerseys were copies getting original team jerseys was not easy – buying gear any gear meant looking in the ‘comic’ or having a catalogue and sending an order form or ringing up – then wait 28 days – alternatively a drive to Steve Thornhills in Birmingham, Dorridge Cycles or Dauphin Sport on Box Hill. Banbury Stars kit consisted of a white and blue half and half jersey – eventually lycra jerseys become the norm – ill-fitting and uncomfortable

Rule #18 Know what to wear – More of a case of what you could find.

Rule #19 Introduce yourself – there was no one to introduce yourself to – four of us out on a Saturday and Sunday and Steve and myself on Wednesday afternoon – we might occasionally see the Milton Keynes lads or Coventry Olympic/Rugby group – others were few and far between other than the odd solo rider – but we always spoke – after all we all knew each other from races – and no one else spoke to us as we were the odd ones who cycled – it just wasn’t cool to ride a bike – poor people who couldn’t afford cars rode bicycles.

Rule #20 Remedies for Pain – just refer to Rule #5. Maybe I should mention embrocation at this point – Musculor, red hot balm or deep heat sealed in with baby oil to make your legs look the business. Olbas oil to help with the breathing.

Rule #21 Save Winter clothes for Winter – well actually Winter clothes meant wearing your Summer kit under your jacket and tights as additional layers

Rule #22 Cycling caps are for cycling – in the Summer you might wear one to soak up the sweat and early Season the real cool kids wore two one on front ways the other backwards under their Rogelli leather crash hat as per Criq (see Rule #14)– these were the days of hair nets.

Rule #23 Escape after reaching escape Velocity – My team Raleigh arrived with a 42 x 52 ring and a 13-21 six up block – everyone rode a 13 x 21 – you got up everything in that. Juniors could ride 52 x 16 max.

Rule #24 What are kilometres – we only rode in time not hours – Greg Lemond introduced the Avocet computer in the mid 80’s – you could work out how far you had gone with a piece of string and a map!!!

Rule #25 Cars on top should be worth more than the bike – not when you had to rely on Dad’s taxis to get to and from races.

Rule #26 Make your bike photogenic – always remove dust covers from the end of crank arms. Never use valve covers or locking nuts. Chrome forks and rear triangles were really cool – if you wanted this done cheaply then Mick in Hansworth would dip them for you in between Cortina bumpers and Suzuki exhausts.

Rule #28 Socks can be any colour you like – not in the eyes of the British cycling Federation – they had to be white – or none at all if you were a tester – all socks went baggy after a few washes. The real cool socks were Rogelli or Castelli – Socks had a life cycle – New for racing, once they got dirty from rain, embrocation and other crap they dropped to training socks, then their final phase was as shoe covers – pulled over your shoes – with a hole cut in the sole or just let the shoe plate cut the hole.

Rule #30 No frame fitting pump – What – pumps came in sizes according to your frame size – they were at least 18 inches long and would fit either under the cross bar if you ran double bottle cages or down the seat tube – they would fall off when riding on rough roads and the bloke behind you then ran over it. Spares were always tubs and fitted under the saddle with a toe strap – when you punctured you played the game of chance as to whether the spare would stick or not – if it was wet and cold then no chance – which meant the ride home consisted of ride stop centre your tub ride, stop… get the picture

Rule #31 Spare etc. in jersey pockets – what spares – one tub and a pump – and if you put anything in your winter jersey then it would have sagged!!!

Rule #32 Humps are for camels – drink, take a drink – you must be joking – the rules were simple – 5 hours on a Sunday – no drink, no food, no stop – if someone had the misfortune of bonking – which at 17 was a likely occurrence a stop at a Garage for a Mars bar and Coke was all that was allowed – there were no cafes or shops open on a Sunday and the garages that were, were few and far between.

Rule #33 Shave the guns – The joys of a Bic disposable and the cuts behind the knee and at the back of the ankle – using shaving cream and a brush. You shaved all year round – after all in the words of ‘H’ you rode all year round.

Rule #34  – Mountain bikes – what are mountain bikes – some rode road bikes for cross but never a mountain bike!!!

Rule #38 Never leap frog – rules for riding – order was based on strength not etiquette – Steve sat on the front and others did their turns riding alongside him – rode everywhere in 42 x16 in the Winter – the big ring didn’t exist until March and the first race.

Rule #44 Position matters – The saddle was a max of 3 inches out of the frame and stem was between 11 and 13 cms. long. A1 Cinelli was standard in Silver or R1 Cinelli which had a concealed bolt and was available in Silver or Black.

Rule #45 Slam your stem – no spacers on this bike a Cinelli A1 stem which allowed a small amount of movement up and down.

Rule#52 Drink in moderation see Rule #32

Rule#58 Support your local bike shop – There was a bike shop on the Fairway in Banbury, that was fine for basics, but it didn’t stock anything remotely racing – Bob Griffin had a bike shop in Cheltenham, Bob built great wheels. Bob supplied Joey with frames even when Joey rode for ANC Halfords – Joey remains a legend – if you haven’t heard of Joey then you need to start learning about cycling – Joey was Phil’s brother in law and Phil lived in Brookside Liverpool (Home of the 80’s Soap and the famous Anna Friel kiss) Before anyone asks what happened to him (this is a joke for anyone who follows 80’s cycling on Facebook) he now trains horses rather successfully and his knees are fucked (apparently a scouse medical term for aching)

Rule #59 Hold your line – not difficult when there is maximum of four of you out.

Rules #61 Like your guns your saddle should be smooth and hard – saddles were either, Turbo, Rolls or Tornado – they had a journey as well from best bike to Winter bike and then bin

Rule #65 Maintain and cherish your machine – this meant cleaning your bike when you got home – this meant dinner having to be put back another hour. This meant in the Winter regreasing bearings on a regular basis. No concealed cables and the cables regularly frayed in the Winter when the salt and dirt got in. Head sets were open to dirt and the wet – if they weren’t regreased then you could move the headset a notch at a time – useful weight training after 50 miles. Bottom brackets were the same, they would make a cracking noise when they got water in them. Fag (yes really they were called Fag) produced a plastic sealed BB – No adjustment and a bugger to remove when they became worn

Rule # 67 Do you time in the wind – nowhere to hide with only four of you!!!

Rule # 68 Rides are to be measured in quality not quantity – read as rides were measured in hours in the saddle – always brisk and every village sign was a sprint every hill a race.

Rule #69 Cycling shoes are made for riding – shoes were made by Sidi, Duegi and if you were one of the cool kids Adidas – Adidas Merckx – I had three pairs over the years. By the early 80’s things had moved on and soles were drilled for plates to fit, in the 70’s plates were hammered into the shoe!!!! The plates would wear and create movement against the pedal frame which would then wear and crack. Pedals came a road or track – the road pedal had an extended frame, the track pedal didn’t and allowed for tighter cornering – after a few narrow squeaks with road pedals I started riding Campag record track with a black frame. Leather straps to keep your feet in place – or rather numb your feet. The best straps were Alfredo Binda – Cool lads wore two sets of straps.

Rule #71 Train properly – no just ride – the only training books were, king of sports and Les Woodland training to win. Plus a few British Cycling manuals – Winter training meant long miles – simple as – plus rollers – heart rate, watts etc. were still a long way off – you rode on feel. My diary for the first week of December 1985 shows I rode for 15 hours!!!

Rule #76 Helmets are to be hung from your stem – you only ever wore a helmet/hair net to race – never ever in training

Rule #78 Remove any unnecessary gear – only races over 80 miles warranted two water bottles – bikes rarely came with double bosses so a second one would be attached with clips – races under 35 miles meant no bottle and one bottle for anything in between.

Rule #79 Fight for the town signs – not just town but every village even in Winter!!!

Rule #82 Close the gap – I make no apologies for a rant. There is no reason with today’s clothing that you should be cold, there is now way that anyone should be wearing shorts in November and December – we might be facing global warming but it’s Winter – wrap up – your body will thank you. Rant over – In the 80’s a gap was still not excusable – your jersey had to be long enough in the back and your tights high enough to avoid your back getting cold – stirrups ensured legs didn’t ride up – a gap between gloves and sleeve was also not acceptable – Assos produced a brilliant thermal top in red, blue or yellow – it hand a thumb loop – this was a right pain so after spending £80 on the jacket you took a pair of scissors to it!!!!

Rule # 87 – the ride starts on time – that meant 9 on a Sunday and 9.30 on a Saturday – no mobile phones and no agreed routes – if Henry hadn’t arrived, being the only one with a family this was acceptable, we would ride up the Oxford Road to see if he was delayed – if we hadn’t met him by his house we carried on. The routes were epic and a few should go down in Star folklore – I will detail these in a future missive.


Rule # 90 Never get out of the big ring – should read never get in the big ring in the winter – it was not uncommon for the front changer to have seized through lack of use!!!

Rule #91 No food on rides under four hours see Rule #32 Has anyone heard of ‘Yes’ bars – now if a stop for bonk was necessary these were a real get out of jail card.

Rule #93 Use the correct tools for the job – tools required were, headset spanners crank spanners, freewheel lock nut, a couple of Allen keys and a few spanners and a spoke key – everyone could do their own mechanics.

So there you go Velominati rules as they applied in the 80’s and before you ask the answer is yes to the following –

  1. I had a Rogelli crash hat.
  2. I wore two hats underneath early season
  3. I had Rogelli socks
  4. I had Merckx Adidas shoes
  5. I rode track pedals with double straps.


The full rules on the internet can be found here