Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Garb

Bike clothing sets us apart from normal people. It may be something as simple as a helmet on top of an otherwise inconspicuous ensemble or a full-on pro cycling outfit.

As both engine and driver, a bicyclist has to accommodate a variety of needs. Our clothing has to protect against the weather, provide visibility and allow the engine to work efficiently.

When I commuted in a town over distances of less than five miles, I wore my work clothes, usually jeans or painter pants, a tee shirt or a flannel shirt, and appropriate jackets or vests in season. I couldn't get myself to forgo cleated shoes, though. I kept a pair of sneakers at the workplace, wherever that might be, so I didn't have to lug a bulky pair of shoes for no good reason.

When I moved out of town and rode six or eight miles each way, over rolling terrain and more open roads, I started wearing shorts or tights as the weather dictated. Having done that it was an easy step to jerseys and cycling jackets. It was more of a ride than bopping through the city had seemed to be.

Now my commute is a genuine ride through the countryside. Bike clothing may not be a necessity, but I certainly prefer the freedom of movement, comfort and protection. But I look like a freak when I get off the bike.

People are getting used to seeing cyclists, so it's not a big deal. But the pants in particular can look a little more revealing than I prefer. Tights may be worse than shorts. To the average onlooker, I have chosen to wear the shrink wrap when I could have worn jeans. Freak!

No trousers in the wardrobe of a normal person provide the free leg movement but trim fit at the ankle desired by cyclists. Okay, women and sufficiently qualified men might wear capris, but for guys they still qualify as a social statement at this time.

For the grocery run today I just wore jeans. It was fun. With the loaded BOB, I wasn't sprinting or cornering hard. I wore a please-don't-kill-me-yellow vest and put the yellow dry bag in the trailer to enhance visibility. That way, when I went into the store nothing betrayed my oddity.

Self-conscious people may be encouraged to see that one does not need to dress up too flamboyantly to take advantage of practical cycling.


Dr. Logan said...

Tomorrow I'm moving to Sacramento, but for the past three years I've lived and commuted in a very conservative (read: red-necky) town north of Sac. I learned quickly that it was better for all parties involved if I commuted in "normal" clothes. If it was too hot, or I was traveling particularly far, I would simply wear bike shorts under light board-short or something similar.

cafiend said...

I used to wear my workday tee shirt for the commute home, but I changed to darker shirts, so now I wear a conservatively-patterned yllow and black jersey. No flashy pseudo-pro outfit. The shorts are lycra, but basic.

When I ride to a meeting (I'm on two town boards) I will wear "normal" shorts over the bike shorts for a summer event. I haven't ridden to a meeting in cold weather yet.

In each of the family cars I have shoes. In my wife's car I have the "car shorts." They're an acceptable pair of hiking shorts so I don't look too outlandish if I meet her for the home leg of the commute and we go to the grocery store.

Yokota Fritz said...

Track pants work well for me, though I also often wear 'manpris'. Track pants are sufficiently baggy but with narrow ankles.

cafiend said...

Sport Hill makes a couple of styles of stretch pant with either a zippered ankle or a tapered one. They're better than shrink wrap, but the tapered ankle still sets them apart from average street wear.

My grocery run in jeans wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Back when I wore tighter jeans, my thighs would pump out from the exertion and the pants would strangle them. It was worth an extra couple of gears' resistance just to fight my pants. Now with a more relaxed fit they're as comfortable as my old painter pants.