There comes a time when you should sit back and take stock of things, ideally before you are so crotchety that the future is the color of death, the present feels miserable, and past shimmers out of reach, perfect in every way.
Over the next two weeks I’m going to be offering up a few reflections. I became a sporty rider in 1982, a SERIOUS RACER in 1984, and a leaky prostate masters #fakeracer in 2007. This past October, or maybe it was this November, marked the 36th anniversary of my first sporty bicycle purchase.
I’ve been sporty ever since, which is hardly the longest pedigree out there, but as I look around there aren’t many who, over four decades, started sporty, stayed sporty, and are still sporty. Now is as good a time as any to reflect.
Clothes make the man and woman, except when you were a cyclist way back when. Bike clothes in 1982 were made of wool. They stank when you sweated on them but they stayed cool in the heat and warm in the cold. They were generally quite pretty but garish for the times. They weren’t skin tight, just snug.
The jerseys were long in back and front; the rears hung down over your rear. The rear pockets had buttons and the fronts were not full-zip, just two or three inches to let the air flow.
You generally wore all your clothes for a long time because they didn’t really wear out, especially the jerseys. There were a few kinds of shoes, but they all worked the same way: They laced up and they fit on a Campy pedal inside a metal cage.
Socks were white and short, shorts were black and short. Neither had lettering. Gloves were leather on the palm, mesh on the back of your hand. They smelled bad and were always covered with dried snot. When you were riding, the snot was often freshly harvested.
People who couldn’t see wore eyeglasses, the same ones they wore to work or school. No one wore sun glasses, so stuff got in your eyes and it hurt. You teared up a lot on descents and in the wind and as water/mud got sprayed in your face when sitting on a wheel.
No one had very many clothes so you often wore dirty shorts. Sometimes they had skid marks, often they had crusted blood on the chamois. The chamois, by the way, was made of chamois. Bad saddle sores were common, and they often came gift wrapped with an infection if you kept riding in the dirty shorts, which you always did.
When it rained you got wet or you put on a plastic cape which didn’t breathe and got you wet on the inside anyway. When it was cold you wore a heavy wool jacket and big thick gloves and a thick wool cap. No one had shoe covers so your feet froze solid, always. If you had tights (hardly anyone did) you held them up with suspenders. There were no bib shorts.
Most importantly, though, clothes were almost never a statement, except to the extent that they said “I am a weirdo bicyclist.” When people rode together, which they almost always did, it was a motley crew. Even teams had random stuff. The visual effect was mix and match.
How it has changed
Now it is very common for people to coordinate all their clothing items, and to coordinate them with the bicycle isn’t odd at all. In those days it was unthinkable unless you were a pro or an elite amateur team. Ordinary wankers back then looked like it; today ordinary wankers often look like they rolled off the back of the Pro Tour.
Clothing today is better made, certainly with respect to the shorts, but lasts less time because people purchase the latest design and/or it doesn’t match with something or other. The biggest villain is the club, which changes its whole design every year, making your whole closet obsolete.
I don’t know what it’s like in other places, but in L.A. many people will totally judge you based on what you wear and how you wear it. Why is it so important to criticize cyclists for their clothes? I doubt this happens in mountain biking or other disciplines, but maybe it does.
As with many other things, it’s now very easy to “look” experienced even though you aren’t. Used to be, you would gradually acquire a nice bike wardrobe as you progressed. You got better, and you dressed better. But now you can walk into the Concept Store, get the Concept Bike, walk into Rapha, get the Concept Kit, and from Day One look absolutely stunning.
Until, that is, you actually turn the pedals.
Dress for success, but don’t forget to train. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!