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The Cycling Fashionisto… How Far Should Cycling Fashion be Taken?

April 2015
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I would like to thank Gary at PedalWORKS for the inspiration for this post.

There are more than a dozen Rules, as published by the Velominati, that pertain to cycling fashion.  Just as a quick rundown, #7, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 27, 28, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 41, 44, 45, 46, 48, 50, 51, 53, 54, 57, 60, 61, 62, 65, 66, 69, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, and 80.  In one way or another, all of the listed rules pertain to how one should dress or present themselves on their road bicycle (shaving the guns, etc.).  For the noobs out there, before you get all flustered, they’re very simple rules and most make perfectly good sense.  Some are dictated by region or whether one races or not, such as shaving one’s legs and the use of “European posterior man-satchels” (saddle bag).  For instance, it is considered good form for road cyclists to shave their legs but in my neck of the woods only racers shave except for we Avid Enthusiasts/Aficionados.  For everyone else, it’s pretty much “up to you”.  I backed into the whole leg shaving thing.  I read the Rules in the lead up to my first club ride.  Now, I didn’t start with the beginner’s rides, I was invited to ride with the big dogs right out of the gate so I figured I’d do my best to fit in before lining up.  It was the day after I shaved my legs for the first time that I bothered to talk to the local shop owner who let me in on the reality that only the racers bother shaving their legs locally.  Sure enough, the next day I’m on the line and I was one of the few with gleaming guns.  Ah well.  If that wasn’t funny enough, my wife decided that she actually liked my legs shaved and asked me to continue shaving them.  Well, the rest was history.  The guns have gleamed since.

Most of the other rules are fairly simple:  If you want to look good, make sure your clothing matches, black shorts unless it’s part of a full kit, proper sock length (3″ or 5″ above the ankle for men), etc.. For instance, my bike is black with red racing stripes with a little bit of white in the wheels and stem (to camouflage the aluminum crank and make everything work).  My pedals are red too, which is bonus cool.  I only own black shorts at this point (though I do have a full black, white and red kit coming in shortly) and four jerseys, all black, red, and white…  In other words, I match well (I bought a new helmet since this photo was taken, it’s red and black as well):
IMG_4999I do have exceptions though, I’m starting to pick up some Hi-Viz cold weather gear because Michigan is a pretty gloomy state four months out of the cycling season and it makes a little sense to stick out better during those gray, nasty months.

Now, that said, cycling is not golf.  In golf, the rule is “If you can’t play good, look good” but only because you can hide from everyone in the clubhouse except the three you’re golfing with.  Dressing well for the golfer is like “Shanker Camouflage”.  This doesn’t work in cycling because there’s really nowhere to hide when you’re in a group of 20-40 cyclists.  In cycling it’s more of a “Ride good and look good” thing, but the riding well is much more important than looking good.  If you ride well, others will accept you if you don’t look great; if your shoes are a little ratty or your jersey white is more of an off-white after years of wear…  No one, who isn’t a dick, will care what you wear as long as you show up, ride well and do your share.  I am no more accepted in our group today on my $4,000 Venge with entirely, perfectly matched kit than I was on my thirteen year-old, used Trek 5200 Triple and mismatching kit (it’s a long story).  I was accepted because I would take my turns up front and when I did get dropped I was a horse for others who dropped with me.  In other words, I became a part of the group because of who I am, not what I wore.  That doesn’t work conversely:  It doesn’t matter how good you look, if you ride poorly, others will avoid you like the plague because you are a danger to them.

However, I do much prefer the newer me to the old me.  I am fortunate to be able to have both – the ability to ride well and the money to dress well.  I am a Cycling Fashionisto because I can be and it does look much better than the newbie, disheveled me.  My clothing matches properly, with just enough white to make me visible, my pedals match, my cages match, my computer and stem match, as do my shoes…  My socks match and are the proper length (I like the 3″ in lieu of the more popular 5″)…  No European Posterior Man-Satchel (I had one but it made my bike look like a Ballchinian and I couldn’t take it anymore).  While it can be argued fairly, that all of the perfectly matching pro stuff is unnecessary, it can’t be argued that dressing the part looks better than not.  By the way, for mountain biking, you’ll be looked at as a DB if you look too pro without actually being pro.  All bets are off as far as the rules go.

So, as I pontificate from on high, dress as you choose but ride well no matter what.  Not having the disposable cash to drop on fancy attire does not preclude one from being a cyclist, just from being a Cycling Fashionisto.

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16 Comments

  1. I’m not sure what “matching” means to the bike fashionisto in your neck of the woods but I sometimes wonder if here in Europe people are color blind. The designs of the cycling outfits are sometimes rather flamboyant bordering on ugly but people think it will make them look more racer or even cycle faster. Generally, cycling clothes are designed to look rather unpretty, aren’t they?

    • bgddyjim says:

      Well, there’s a few things there – the flamboyant colors are ridiculous sometimes… Every once in a while it works though. For the pro and racing kit, it is about standing out in a crowd because you want to be able to see where your help is… On the other hand, often we enthusiasts break the rule of no racing/pro kit unless you’re on a team – thereby looking a little foolish.

      Cycling clothes don’t look unflattering on thin, muscular, um well-endowed people… They do on heavier folks, but that’s okay because they’re out there putting the miles in. With a decent diet, they’ll be looking the part in no time. HOWEVER, looks are secondary to cycling clothing. Most important is speed/aerodynamics and comfort. You can’t put in the long miles to lose the weight if your entire ass and nether-region area is one giant chaffing sore.

      Now, we can choose to look obnoxious in obnoxious colors, or we can choose to look awesome… I go for the latter. 😎

  2. I try to match as best as possible but the one thing I do not do is wear the black socks that come up above the ankle. I just wear the very short running sock that you can barely see above the shoe.

  3. In the words of the Pirates of the Caribbean, “The Rules” are more like a guideline. So I call “par-layyyyy….”

  4. Jesse loves his fancy bike jerseys! I have yet to become bike fashionable.

  5. EpicGran says:

    I am with your wife on the shaved legs… nothing better than gleaming guns! LOL.

  6. Chyrel says:

    Haha. I actually enjoyed reading this post. Reminds me of the roadies in my city. Some are dressed to impress and that’s just about it. But some are dressed to impress who can actually back it up.

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