Last week I posted some of my opinions on the concept of 'self-support' in ultra-distance bike-packing and gravel events. I mentioned some things about rules, and I stated I'd have some thoughts on those at a later point. Now is that time.
My thoughts on the subject of rules for gravel events, and ultra-distance stuff is informed from my years of doing Trans Iowa, and to a lesser extent, the C.O.G. 100. I also draw some of my conclusions from hosting the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational and the Geezer Rides along with the weekly 3GR gravel group rides I used to put on.
This all comes into play regarding my thoughts on 'the rules'. Of course, the entire concept of having rules in gravel, or bike-packing events comes down to one basic thing- The event operates under its own unique set of rules usually developed by the event director(s).
This happened - originally- as a reaction to the myriads of complicated rules which were part of road racing, criteriums, mountain bike events, and 24hr racing. Gravel and ultra-distance, off-road events typically had very few rules and many were left to the 'rider's honor' to uphold, or even interpret correctly. This went over pretty well at first. The so-called 'like-minded' individuals who partook of the earliest gravel and ultra-distance MTB stuff were all content to abide and live and let live. However; it didn't take long for things to start becoming more complicated and difficult, so rules sprang up to keep things from getting off the rails.
|My entry card for the first Gravel Worlds where the only rule was "Don't Be Lame"
I have seen and have experienced people's unasked for modifications for a certain event they seem bent about, for whatever reasons. To my way of thinking, that is such a rude and unnecessary venture that it borderlines on stupidity. What a waste of everyone's energies. Just don't even bother with it.
I will say, however; that rules stated, and expectations stated, that are not backed up by event directors really chaps my hide. This goes for mid-event changes, which is really not cool. Again- I have had the opportunity to be on both sides of "The Rules" and I have had to do some unsavory things which were made necessary by having expectations and rules set forth ahead of events. I've had to drop out of events due to rules about time cut-offs, I've had to enforce them- even when the rider was one minute late. I have had to DQ riders and I have had to adhere to rules in events which I found silly, but I did it anyway because that's how the event was run.
So, I think I have a somewhat unique viewpoint on 'rules' and enforcement of said rules. Here's where I see a big issue with some events and some promoters- the rules are not upheld, and sometimes, not enforced. Or worse yet- the rules are relaxed or changed during an event. Guess what? That leads to big troubles. Every time.
My thoughts regarding rules are that, unless you have the stomach to enforce them, don't make them, and definitely do not change them during an event! Unless you have the resources to make sure rules are followed- don't expect a clean event. In fact- you should not be putting the event on if that is the case. Thinking along the lines that - somehow- The Spirit of Gravel will keep people on track, or that people will hold to some vague 'code of honor', well, I am not sorry, but that is horse shit. People will- and often do- take advantage of rules, cheat, and don't bat an eyelash when doing so. Again- if you cannot enforce a rule- don't bother with the event. It will just be a huge farce in the end. Same holds true if you change the rules during an event.
|Solstice 100: I got lost, went off course, and so I "DQ'ed" myself since I wasn't following the rules.
Now, that all may seem kind of harsh, but when it comes to rules, you either do them or you do not. And I believe, at any rate, this is what riders want. Predictable, clear, concise boundaries within which they have agreed to participate.
And if a race director upholds all those expectations and rules to the best of their abilities then you will see that event rise in respect and prestige amongst riders. In fact, I respect many events to the point that I self-police my efforts. I have seen people feeling similarly at events I used to put on, being so concerned as to apologize to me for not being able to continue to participate under my format. But I've had to- as I stated- put on the role of being the 'rule enforcer' and sometimes that didn't feel very good. I get it. I've been there, but if you want respect, if you want your rules to mean something- you have to be the one to enforce them when and where necessary.
It seems like this stuff should be pretty obvious, but I keep hearing about issues with rules and I have personally seen things not upheld, which were stated ahead of time, at events I've gone to ride in. Maybe someone thinks some of this stuff is 'no big deal'. Well, if that's the case, why say anything, or make a rule at all. For example- If you say you are going to enforce a rule regarding trash, and then you don't?
Yeah... That's just one example of what I am talking about.
Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions.