The Noob’s Guide to Cycling Fashion: The Rules; Follow Them, Ignore Them or Find Something In Between. And Why They Aren’t All that Bad.
In cycling, following the fashionable rules as published by Velominati can be pretty damned expensive, in case you haven’t figured that out yet. When I started out cycling, I didn’t have much in the way of money, but I did the best I could with what I had. Today income has improved so it’s a little easier to worry about having the proper length sock, about they type of frame mounted air pump I use, where my spare tube and tire levers should be stored, how I sit on my bike while I’m waiting for a start… The list goes on for a long, long time.
One thing is for certain with all of the rules: Make sure you can ride your bike well before worrying about any of the fashion rules. Bike handling is far and away the most important thing to concentrate on.
First things first, for guys is the shaving of the legs. Believe it or not, this is only done by the hardcore enthusiasts and those who race. Yes, I do, but you won’t necessarily have to. It depends on your region and the group you ride with. If you’re only going to ride solo, don’t even worry about it. That one caught me up and I’ve been paying for it ever since. See, I read on the internet that all guys who are worth a shit on a bike, shave their legs. Come to find out, after I followed suit of course, that this varies by region and in our neck of the woods the practice isn’t adhered to. Of course, that said, I’m glad I do and you’ll see why in a bit…
The majority of the rules, except those like #5 (HTFU – or Harden The F— Up), are simple guides and suggestions for how to look good as a cyclist. For instance, one (or two) of the rules deal strictly with sock length. Not too long, not too short but never the little ankle socks. Now, does it truly matter if one chooses to wear ankle socks? Will it matter a lick to how one rides a bike? Of course not. How about the helmet, should one take care to choose the best color and fit? Well that shouldn’t matter at all! How about wearing pro team kits or national champion kits when you are neither a pro or a national champion? Hey, it’s (hopefully) a free country! What does it matter if everyone sees at you as a poseur (they do, by the way, no matter how good you ride a bike – a buddy of mine had his wheel taco’d by the German National Champion in a local century ride because he was too tired to stop his bike in the parking lot at a rest stop – He was a horse and he did some honorable stints at the front of the group but we still laugh about that to this day, getting taken out of a silly century ride by the German National Champion…)?
How about wearing a shirt, or tennis shoes with platform pedals? Well, now we’re getting somewhere. Tennis shoes on platform pedals destroy efficiency on a road bike. You’d be better off saving that for a mountain bike. While riding with a group can be done with that get-up (I tried it when I forgot my shoes one day – it’s not impossible to keep up, but close to it), the no-shirt part of the deal is just about unforgivable. Don’t worry, I’ve done that too when I didn’t know my butt from a hole in the ground.
And finally, today, fully kitted up proper:
As you can see, in all of those photos, the bike is not the focal point – in any of them. Yet from day one to four years later, I went from complete dufus, to a decent looking cyclist. The problem was, of course, I made a lot of mistakes along the way. No jersey (tennis shoes, ultra large dome protector [first photo]), baggy jersey (second photo), poorly chosen color scheme on the bike (third photo)… It didn’t have to be that way, if I’d have paid attention to some of the rules.
The big difference between year one and today is that I follow most of the rules. I don’t belong any more on a bike today than I did back then, but by going through all of my trials and errors and finally settling on following the rules, I can look at that first photo and laugh, the second photo and shrug, the third photo and say, “Meh” and finally at the end, I’m finally happy with how I look as a cyclist. This isn’t to say I’m right, the rules are right and must be followed…
All I will commit too is that it can’t be argued… I’m pretty funny lookin’ in that first photo, and I got it right in the last one. Do what suits you. If, however, you have a desire to approach cycling like one would golf, following some of the rules is a good place to start. Finally, I use the rules as a guide, not as a bludgeon (I could care less how someone else looks on their bike as long as they ride it well and don’t crash me… and I look good). Dressing as I did in those last two photos is not cheap (actually, it’s really freaking expensive), do your best within your means and let the rest wash out on the road.
Oh, by the way, for mountain biking there pretty much aren’t any rules.