The Rules of Cycling

Has cycling always been governed by rules and regulations?

In the early days, there was no single organisation to oversee cycling in Britain. Such rules and regulations as did exist were often borrowed from amateur athletics and, on occasion, other sports. No centralised records were held of rules, competitions or clubs involved in the sport.

The situation improved somewhat with the formation of the Bicycle Union in 1878. In 1882, this organisation merged with the Tricycle Association and was relaunched as the National Cyclists’ Union (NCU). In 1890, the NCU prohibited all forms of cycle racing on public roads. This led to the formation of the British League of Racing Cyclists in 1942 – the NCU’s arch-enemies. The two organisations eventually reached an agreement and, in 1959, merged to become the British Cycling Federation. This was the predecessor of today’s British Cycling, the body which administers the sport in the UK in the disciplines of BMX, Cycle Speedway, Cyclo-Cross, Mountain Bike, Road and Track.

Who decides on the regulations and writes new rules?

There are well over one hundred National Federations, responsible for the regulation of cycling in their geographical region. In the case of the UK, the body is British Cycling. The International Union of Cycling (UCI) is responsible for the regulation of cycling at international level. At a national level, committees or governing bodies for particular disciplines also exist, and may advise national federations on discipline-specific rules and competitions.

In addition to official cycling regulations, most disciplines have a code of conduct and a set of courtesy rules. Whether written or unwritten, these codes are designed to facilitate access to trails, circuits and other areas where cycling takes place. Etiquette is especially important where facilities are limited and/or used by non-cyclists, such as forestry tracks which mountain bikers must share with hikers, not to mention wildlife!

Where can I find the full rules for each cycling discipline?

The cycling rulebook for each discipline is a meaty affair. There are regulations governing the format of a race/competition, the nature of the course, the length and/or duration of an event, the bicycle which may be ridden, the type of clothing which must/must not be worn, safety provision, marshalling…the list goes on. To read the full rulebook for the cycling discipline you are interested in, download it as a .pdf file from the British Cycling website. There may be slight differences in the cycling rules in different countries. The UCI also makes rulebooks available to the public online.