At some point, every cyclist must confront the issue of Spandex™. It’s the elephant in the room, so to speak, when anyone discusses cycling.
First, some background. I’m NOT a cyclist. I occasionally ride a bike, but a cyclist is another creature altogether. Perhaps it is the Spandex™ itself that defines the cyclist. That may warrant more investigation.
When I was young, I didn’t need an “outfit” or a “uniform” to ride a bike. My outfit generally consisted of a t-shirt, shorts, and shoes (optional). I felt like I got around quite well, not knowing at the time how ill-equipped I was.
The first time I was forced to face the “Spandex™ question” was in high school. I participated in a 850 mile ride through the Canadian Rockies. I knew that all the other riders would be wearing “biking shorts”, and I knew that they offered many advantages to my plain ole shorts. My solution was to wear biking shorts under my normal shorts. Efficient? No. Comfortable? No. Less humiliating? YES! You see, I’m skinny. Really skinny. Unbeknownst to casual observers, there does exist a minimum weight threshold for Spandex™, in the same way that there exists a maximum weight threshold for Spandex™. (The upper threshold is frequently violated but, just because it is ignored, doesn’t make it less real.) While violations of the minimum weight threshold may be harder to spot, they are no less serious, and the psychological consequences of such violations can last a lifetime.
Now, at 34, I must face my Spandex™ demons once again. In August, I’ll be taking part in the Ride To Cure Diabetes in Whitefish, Montana. Surely, it is a worthy cause. I’m excited by the opportunity to spread the word about diabetes and its effects, and I’m looking forward to raising a bunch of money to support diabetes research. (My son is Type 1, after all) An opportunity such as this, however, comes at a price. I’m afraid that for me, that price may include a public display of Spandex™. As part of a team, each member receives a “uniform”. Adding insult to injury, the uniform includes not only skin tight, have-you-been-circumcised-shorts, but also a are-your-nipples-pierced, skin tight jersey. The HUMANITY!
After receiving several requests for sizing info, I headed down to Velo City Cycles to determine what size kit to order so that I might reduce, if not avoid, public ridicule. After noting that I had a “very long torso”, the gentleman at the shop suggested I try a pair of “bibs”. My freakishly long torso, he explained, gave the impression that I was sporting some sort of belly shirt, even when wearing an extra large cycling jersey. To go up a size in the jersey would leave it hanging on my frame flapping like a windsock. That is not an ideal fit. “Jersey’s gotta be tight”, he said. “Bibs”, explained the sado-masochistic biker man, “will keep your belly from showing if your jersey rides up.” “What are bibs?”, I asked. He pointed to a pair on the rack.
When I regained consciousness, I politely told him that I didn’t think those would work for me; that several forms of medieval torture looked far more appealing to me than the prospect of wearing “bibs” in public.
Despite the problems presented by the team uniform, I remain optimistic about the ride. I plan to train hard this summer, and, when riding alone, I may even wear Spandex™. (Under cover of darkness, of course)