Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hmmm, hmmm...

Rarely do I come across anything written complimentary about lycra-clad roadies these days, a group I have considered myself a member of since the mid-1980s. As cycle-chic and other like-minded blogs extolling the virtues of everyday dress for everyday cycling, utility cycling, slow bike commuting, el al, have proliferated over the past couple of years, the lycra wearers have become more objects of scorn, subject to derision as law breakers, road hogs and wannabe's in clown outfits. And so I took special pleasure in reading this, and will quote in full:

"You can today recognize these sport cyclists by their very toned calves, their bent headed determination and their pointy helmets, as well as the stray pieces of cycling kit they may still wear as they speed their way to and from their places of employ. We owe these men and women a debt of gratitude for helping to stake out a piece of the street for cycles."

That's right, gratitude. I figure 25 years or so of riding, training, racing, commuting and errand running, almost always clad head to toe in the latest team kit (maybe an occasional older one) qualifies me for that group of unsung heroes. You can post up your thanks here. I think I will ride home with my head held a little higher today; but not so high that I would look down on all the cycle chic late-comers.


  1. Interesting Michael. I am a cycle chic blogger but hardly a late-comer. I have about 20 years of experience in the saddle riding in "team gear" and everyday clothing, but you're missing the point of "cycle chic"

    "Cycle Chic" is demystifying the bike so everybody and everyday folks, regardless of your level of fitness, ride their bicycles. It's turning the bicycle in what it was originally designed for "a mode of transport" and an enjoyable one I might add.

    I will invite you to try riding to the next errand in just whatever your wearing. Be it shorts and your flip flops or just another lycra moment and do not assume that others are new comers.

    And let's be frank, lycra, regardless of what you're doing, is hardly a very forgiving piece of clothing. ;D


  2. Oh, don't read too much into what I wrote about the cycle chic movement, that part was completely tongue in cheek. I fully believe that cycle chic has and will continue to be a great motivating factor in "normalizing" cycling and convincing more people to ride. That is evident in how quickly it has proliferated and how many non-lycra wearers I see each day doing the simple errands that bikes are perfect for. I was just enthused to see that line of credit being given, I can not recall having ever seeing it before.

  3. How funny! But I'm in your camp, dude. I never get on the bike without some form of lycra. For me, cycling chic is just not practical in spite of what the internet says. Too much sweat, even in the shortest rides!

    Lycra rocks!

  4. I gotta agree. The cycle chic look is fine for people who ride slower and for shorter distances. But those of us who are focused on speed and distance need something that's going to wick sweat, reduce wind resistance and prevent chafing.

    I rode in street clothes for my first few years on the bike, and I'm never going back.

  5. I think the fundamental difference is between cycling for transport vs for sport. Unless you live far away from work, and the city as I know Springfield Cyclist does, a huge number of people can do most of their errands within 2 miles, a perfect distance to hop on a bike instead of getting in car, and see kitting up as a hindrance.

    If you're thinking of biking as a sport, and your goal is training and improving your times and efforts, sure, Lycra is necessary equipment. So is a heart monitor, a cycle computer, waterbottles and gloves.

    If you're thinking of stopping to pick up the drycleaning on the way home in November, a rack, fenders, lights are necessary equipment.

    The right tools for the job.

    But before you get too excited about being "first" and these "latecomers" take a look at pictures from the 30's 40's and 50's of people riding in their normal clothes. I don't think cycle chic is new so much as circling back to the days before cycling was thought about as "mainly" a sport.

  6. I believe you can go even further back in time for pictures of cyclists in everyday clothing. At the same time riders in the earliest road clubs of the same era were wearing cycling specific clothing; too early for lycra, but definitely its precursor. I used to work at a place that had some of those old photos, they are great documents of a past era. I can't picture myself riding any kind of distance (my 11 mile one way commute for instance) in anything other than lycra. Even for shorter errand runs, concerts in the park, etc, I will tend to wear mountain bike baggies with a jersey rather than civies, though t-shirts or Hawaiian shirts will sometimes make the mix. That is one of the great things about cycling though, so much diversity, but a common passion.


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