The Worst, Wackiest, and Stupidest Rules Cyclists Have Actually Followed

A steak in your shorts, lettuce on your head, and rum in your breakfast smoothie; Ripleys wouldn’t even believe some of this!

By Riley Missel |

Cycling has a deep tradition of rules to ride by, lore passed down through the decades intended to make you faster, safer, and more comfortable. Sometimes the rules are totally ridiculous in hindsight—like wearing a cabbage leaf under your cap to cool off.

But some rules require research to dispel or prove—are base miles just a waste of time?! Bicycling asked the experts to examine five cycling wisdoms riders have long (too long) held up as gospel.



Then: This is one of our favourite old rules: Combat saddle sores by riding with raw steak in your shorts (1930s Tour de France solution)

Now: Religious chamois cream application

Expert Take:  “There is definitely a risk of infection from sitting on raw meat—at the very least, that would be messy! Friction causes more damage than lack of cushion when you’re riding—the rubbing is what causes dryness and discomfort. Chamois cream is more effective because it’s moisturizing, so skin slips and doesn’t get irritated.” —Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., OB/GYN

READ MORE 7 Chamois Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Ride



Then: Soak a cabbage leaf in water overnight and wear it underneath your “hairnet” helmet. (Six-day racers in the early 1900s)

Now: Helmet designs that keep your head cooler than riding without one

Expert Take: Once dry, the cabbage would hinder cooling by blocking airflow to the skin. Modern helmets optimize airflow through the helmet and over the scalp, which helps sweat evaporate quickly and consistently. —Eric Richter, senior brand and business development manager for Giro



Then: “A solid foundation built on a base of easy miles is necessary before the finish work—intervals, hill repeats, and fast group rides—is added.” (The Cyclist’s Training Bible, 2003)

Now: You can get the same fitness from harder, shorter workouts, followed by recovery.

Expert Take: “Athletes benefit greatly from high-intensity interval workouts that generate substantial training stress as long as they have ample recovery.”—Jim Rutberg, CTS Coach and coauthor of The Time-Crunched Cyclist



Then: Pro-level rules: Don’t shave the day before a race because healing the micro-cuts and regrowing hair will cost you precious energy. (Belgian cycling lore, 1900s)

Now: Shave as close to Go Time as possible. #aeroiseverything

Expert Take: “Hair will grow at the same rate regardless of when the shave takes place. And unless you haven’t changed your razor blade in months, there won’t be any substantial cuts to heal.”—Claudette Lajam, M.D.

READ MORE 6 Things To Avoid When Shaving Your Legs



Then: “A little rum and milk, with an egg beaten up in it.” (Bicycling 1874: A Textbook for Early Riders)

Now: A carb- and nutrient-packed smoothie

Expert Take: “As a general rule, carbohydrates are the focus of the preride meal, as they are the main energy source for performance. Fat and protein should make up a small portion to promote satiety.”—Lori Nedescu, R.D., founder of The Cadence Kitchen

READ MORE ON: cycling folklore nutrition rules

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