Fran ranted about bicycle culture a while ago. I wanted to chime in, but frankly, earlier drafts were mired in analyzing and commenting on every sentence. This a compliment to Fran’s depth of writing. I’ve moved a ton o’ my drive-by prose to the great Unauthorized/Unpublished blog storage depot in the Cayman Islands. Instead, I’ll focus on one comment she had:
The human body should not be sausaged into that loud shirt and skin-tight, shiny black shorts with the padded crotch.
First, some background. Contrary to what Blogshares may think, I am not a racer. Doug is a racer. To emphasize this point:
About half my mileage comes from bike commuting to work, currently three times a week. The rest comes from the occasional weekend warrior events I participate in as motivational candy – for example, the Lilac Century Surprise or a populaire.) I do a broad range of biking. Now, let’s talk clothing…
- Padded bike shorts prevent chafing and rash… assuming you’re not so daft as to also wear them with cotton underwear. Seriously, wear them with nothing underneath. Once you get past the weird feeling, you’ll be much more comfortable. Because good-quality padded bike shorts are kind of expensive, I “go civilian” (shorts and a T-shirt) on my commute and family rides. These last less than an hour and always have a quick change of clothes afterwards.While I want to flaunt my nice legs (over, say, the two-liter), I prefer black shorts for reasons that may not initially be obvious. (Possibly borderline for for viewing at work!)Bike shorts won’t help with perineal numbness. That kind of discomfort is likely caused by an incorrect seat adjustment. If your seat’s too high, you’ll shift from side to side as you pedal, rubbing things that ought not to be rubbed that way. Improper seat pitch will also cause problems. Too much rearward tilt, and your crotch will hurt or go numb. Too much forward tilt manifests itself in your arms.
- Tights are for warmth in cooler weather. As I write this, I’m chuckling at the notes I had from rides I did as a graduate student in Houston where less than 50°F was considered “too cold to bike.” Unfortunately, now that I’ve acclimated, weather over 75°F feels uncomfortable. I have a few pairs of unpadded, form-fitting — and black — variety I put on top of whatever I’m wearing. I’ve tried biking with jeans, but my pants flop around in the wind and, sometimes, the cuffs catch the chain ring. I haven’t figured out how the “chain ring tattoo” happens, or how to remove it from clothing.
- Loud jerseys provide a combination comfort, functionality and style.On my commute, I wear a T-shirt. It gets soaked, even on a short ride. I couldn’t stand having damp and clammy rags touching my skin for anything longer than an hour. So, I have a few jerseys. They’re all made of some polyester variant and purport to “wick” moisture away. The funny thing about all the polyesters is despite the fancy naming, the technology hasn’t really changed that much since I collected the summary back in 1990. If I won lottery, I’d prefer the very functional wool wear for the wascly weather. Fran is absolutely right about how much the polyester can stink.
Each jersey has a set of pockets in the back, where they don’t interfere with anything. I use these to carry food, batteries, camera, map, and other essentials that I need quick, on-the-bike access to. (A handlebar bag is also useful for these items.)
Since I ride so darn slow and on a freaky bike, most of my jerseys are mono-color, with relatively inconspicuous manufacturer logos. That being said, I’m willing to be a marketing whore and shill a sponsor’s logo for a modest fee. Operators are standing by!
My fifth jersey is my favorite, acquired after finishing my first RSVP (see picture above). The corporate sponsor logos are tastefully small and on the sleeve. It’s purty. There’s also a 3/4 length zipper for ventilation on long climbs. Try not to visualize this in too much detail.
- Socks — Most of the time I wear the 1/4 height, cotton socks you find at Costco. If it’s going to rain or I’m doing a century, I’ll wear wool socks. As Lena Horne used to say, “Wool keeps you warm.” If it’s rainy and cold, I’ll do the socks plus neoprene booties. It looks weird, but my feet stay warm and dry. (The fenders also help.)
- Shoes are kind of a strange thing. back in 1990, I used extremely hard-soled shoes with clips. I switched to the Look-style clipless pedals because I was riding a lot faster then. The problem with them is you can’t comfortably walk. Worse still is on a slick floor like in a grocery store, they’re dangerous. I used to carry rubber covers for that particular use case.After buying my third set of ARC (red) cleats in one season, I decided to switch to the more practical SPD pedal. These are nice because the mountain bike shoes have the cleat recessed so you can walk in them. Better still, the cleats are metal and last as long as the shoes.5,500 miles later, my shoes were cracking at the heels. I picked up a replacement pair with slightly stickier rubber bottoms. However, after Fran posted her diatribe, I thought about why I still wear clipless pedals. Honestly, I don’t have a good reason. It’s not like I stand up out of the saddle to power up a hill or am especially efficient.
- Gloves have two purposes, both equally important. The first is providing additional cushioning of my palms. The other is to wipe my nose. I know there’s a latin name for the symptom, but my nose fills up a lot from the cool morning weather. After I purge it, I need to wipe.
- Eye protection is essential, even in the gloomy northwest. In the spring, there are a lot of bugs flying about, and it’s not fun having one fly into one’s eye.