Editor’s note: Beardo the Weirdo is our resident spiritual advisor and greasy wrench expert. You can usually find him in the pages of Bicycle Times but sometimes he fires up the dial-up modem and logs in here. Ask him anything at firstname.lastname@example.org—ANYTHING—and he’ll answer you. Be forewarned.
I’ve begun riding my bike more often for fun, not just to and from work. Is it time to buy some Lycra? I want to ride more with other people, and that seems to be the acceptable norm.
Clothing makes the man, right? Or woman? Or womyn? Considering the t-shirt and shorts uniform that has taken over the tech world, maybe not so much anymore. In fact, it makes it hard to keep things straight about who is who anymore. Which is the way it should be. Best to open that book up before judging the cover.
The idea of keeping things straight might be the main reason so many serious recreational cyclists wear lycra. Much like the pairing of vintage goggles with cast-off high school band uniforms and fur makes the wearer recognizable as a Burner (or steampunk? I get confused); Lycra, no matter how ill-advised, says the wearer is serious about cycling.
So should you dip your toe in the Lycra waters? Are you racing at a high level? Since you’re asking a puppet with at cardboard head for advice on how to dress, I’m going to guess you aren’t standing on podiums anytime soon, so there’s no need for aerodynamic clothing on your rides.
The other reason claimed for the full Lycra suit is comfort, one which I find suspect, but whatever; you want to wrap yourself up like a sausage? Have at it! But going on group rides without some form of ‘kit’ to fit might leave you looking like the black sheep from the cover of Minor Threat’s “Out of Step”.
But much like that sheep—while you might look different—you are at the core still a sheep. Or cyclist. Or whatever. Sometimes it seems my metaphors start to break down too quickly. Maybe it’s because my attention span is shorter than the average Minor Threat song? Maybe listening to more opera would help.
Remember that some of the issues we have with the cagers is due to the ‘Us vs Them’ mentality that Lycra creates. Lycra superheroes are “the other”, making it easy to hate on cyclists as a generic, homogenized group. It seems the only thing the populace loves more the self-righteous indignation is a good ol’ polarized ‘Us vs The Commie Bad Guys’ showdown.
Anyway, wear what you want, but remember that millions of miles are ridden every year in all kind of weather in clothes that don’t look ridiculous off the bike. Hell, some of the toughest riders I know manage to survive riding all winter in jeans, a cotton hoodie and wool gloves. And contrary to the opinion I read recently online, Lycra isn’t earned, it’s something anyone can buy, and I wish less people would.
Portrait of Yours Truly by Stephen Haynes