Style, Spandex,Helmets, and Stuff
By Roy Jones
Some people are very fashion oriented right at the start of their biking adventure, and some people just let things evolve. I am an evolver.
I am not sure if I have mentioned that my first bike was a $69 hill bike special from Wal-Mart. I know it was a hill bike because I was never able to climb a mountain on the bike so it wasn’t a mountain bike. I just needed something to tag along with Christine as she rode around the neighborhood as part of her exercise routine. So I didn’t need a fancy bike, nor did I need any special equipment. Baseball hat, T-shirt, Bermuda shorts, tennis shoes and white socks was as stylish as I needed. Helmet? I wasn’t going to look like a little league baseball player in front of my neighbors. T-shirt was fine unless we were going to ride across Knickerbocker and into the Bentwood area and then I might put on a polo shirt with a collar to look nice.
But as spring passed and it got warmer (and we could pedal for more than 5 miles) my T-shirt or polo would get sweaty. So one day Chris presented me with a blue (otherwise she knew I wouldn’t wear it) wicking T-shirt. Now, a wicking T-shirt is supposed to wick the sweat away from the skin and put it on the outside of the shirt so that the 8 mph wind could evaporate it. I was so impressed by the manufacturer’s claim that I wore that shirt for months. It didn’t matter that I still sweat, I was stylish.
As soon as we were able to pedal more than 10 miles, my Bermuda shorts were not working out well. (Been there, done that?) Christine of course had the solution. YOU WANT ME TO WEAR WHAT? The only way you will get me into those is if I have a kilt around my waist. But she slipped into a sporting store and bought me one of those things that look like a spandex swim suit. So it was time to wear those rubberized shorts that hug you so tightly that it squeezes all the fat cells up so that it makes the stomach flow over the waist band. The first time I wore them I would ride only in the alley ways in the neighborhood. What if I were seen by someone I know? Then I was forced into the public by joining the club and starting to ride on Mondays at Mary E. Lee Park. Guess what? All the guys and gals had on those black tights. To my relief I just blended in. As soon as we started riding, nobody saw me anyway as I was at the back of the pack.
By the time I was squeezed into some riding shorts, I already had a helmet. As soon as I could go over 10 miles per hour I was willing to protect my head. I had glanced at some of the high-end prices for helmets and fainted. But we were at Wal-Mart one day and they had some reasonably priced helmets. I have mentioned over the past how nice the club members are. All their helmets said things like Giro, Bell, Garneau, Trek or such. Not one person pointed to my head giggling that my helmet had TRAILBLAZER plastered on the side. Thank goodness I never had to test if the crash protection on a Trailblazer was as good as a Giro, etc. I mentioned I was an evolver; I now strut around with Trek plastered on my helmet and still nobody notices (probably too aghast at my squeezed out cellulose hanging over my waist band).
And why can you see my squashed cells? Real jerseys--I had evolved from the blue wicking T-shirt to a real jersey with THREE pockets in the back--are notorious for being small. They are form fitting--cuts wind resistance, don'tcha know. Some of the catalogs warn you that if you think you wear a large, order an X-Large. Well I am a medium so we bought large. Didn’t work. If you see me from a side profile, a large "b" will come to mind. That’s when I wear one of my first real biking shirts—I mean jersey. Being an evolver, I now wear XXX-Large. The chest hangs loosely enough that it blends with my stomach, covering it somewhat. The over-sized shirts will not “wick” as well as the tight shirts, but I still look stylish.
Back to the shorts. A book could be written about shorts, but I will try to keep it to one more paragraph. The first shorts were just plain shorts. That means no padding to speak of. I thought the padding was just for sweat protection, I’m not sure. (OK teckies, the chamois is designed to cover the inside seams of the shorts.) But I do know that for me, my bottom goes to sleep after five miles. So, being an evolver, I wanted a radical evolution and asked for the softest bottom there is. It seems that the bottom thickness is measured in mm. I think my first shorts were 0 mm. And it seems that they can go to 13 mm. So I got a 13 mm and can now go 10 miles before my bottom goes to sleep. Being an evolver, I want a 130 mm bottom and will be first in line when they go on sale.
Why was most of the space dedicated to male clothing and equipment? Women are from a different planet. Christine from the start made sure her jerseys, shorts, socks, and helmet colors coordinated. As she built her wardrobe, some jerseys didn’t go as well with her first helmet color so she bought a different color helmet. Finally she settled on a neutral color helmet that works pretty well. All those helmets--while I was wearing Trailblazer. Oh, did I mention that all the jerseys, helmets, shorts, and socks had to color coordinate with the color of her bike? And this was while I was riding my $69 hill bike.
After all that, to my knowledge, only one person ever noticed. We were riding in the neighborhood one day and stopped at a stop sign. Our neighbor drove up beside us and yelled out “Christine, you look so color coordinated. Sorry Roy, you look…“.
So if folks out there are holding back from riding with us because their uniforms are mis-matched, come ride with me and no one will notice.