Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Unavoidable Question Of Spandex™

Here is something that I posted on my blog today. It's a question that I've been wrestling with for some time. As fellow riders, I thought a few of you might be able to relate.

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)


did said...

Insomnia Attack!

Thing to remember - once we're all out there, it won't be a few normal people from West Michigan and a bunch of People Who Look Good In Lycra. It'll be a whole mess of normal people. Nobody will single anybody out.

That said, I understand the concern. My analogue is dancing. Everyone looks like a dork when dancing. For some reason, my brain refuses to accept that, and forces me to curl up in a little metaphorical ball that leaves me sitting on the sidelines holding my wife's purse. That's where, to my horror, I actually DO stand out!

Oh well. As long as nothing chafes, you're golden.

And I can definitely advise you on a diet that'll bulk you up. Mmmmm, donuts...

Katie said...


I personally like the belly hanging over the skin-tight shorts myself. Does a lot for body image. The creator of bike shorts never had a baby, I can tell you that!

Did - what the heck? 3:00a?

did said...

Yeah, pretty whack, huh? I woke up at 2:45 trying to figure out how to do something work related. I feel like I should get paid for that time or something. Next time that happens I'm emailing my boss (in addition to checkin' my RSS feeds).

I've learned to avoid mirrors when I'm girded for riding - makes it much easier to maintain my totally reality-free body image.

club-velo said...

Brothers and is time to EMBRACE THE LYCRA! I mean....c'mon boys and girls, let's get real here.....If I can prance around Zabrieske Point in bright blue plaid bibshorts you can stuff your stuff into a schweet JDRF "kit" for the Big Day, no? ("Kit" is bike-geek-speak for "outfit". Sounds all Euro-n-crap, huh?) I like DiD's dancing analogy...except for the "dorks' comment. (Speak for yourself big Boy!)
One thing is for sure.....once you get used to riding in the right stuff it's hard to go back!
Chad.....I trust you'll forgive Derek, myself and any of your other ...shall we say....more gladiator-esque team mates if we seem to have trouble mustering up the proper amount of sympathy for your "I'm too skinny for spandex" complaint.

Tom and Mary Scheidel said...

As a person who has always been at the top of the height chart, while at the same time weighing as much as a jockey, I understand the spandex problem. However, it's not just bike clothes. When I get a shirt that is long enough in the arms and torso there is enough extra material around the middle to hide a small child.
I concur with Derek. Eat lots. Protien bars will help put some weight on, but only if you eat about 3 a day.