They say that there are huge barriers to entry in the cycling world, and they are correct. But these barriers are not only cost-related. Because even if you have all the money in the world, but lack the correct attire for the correct occasion worn in the correct fashion, you will find yourself cycling single.
My name is Kim, and I am married to a MAMIL. (Yes, there are so many of these Middle Aged Men In Lycra, that Wikipedia lists it as an actual acronym.)
So serious is my MAMIL about cycling that he even has a Bike Cave. And so serious is he about cycling attire, that his bikes all have matching shoes.
Not that my MAMIL claims to be the last word on cycling fashion or etiquette. In fact, after over 20 years in the saddle, he still asks my opinion on his gear.
“Is this too loose,” he says, turning a nasty shade of blue as the lycra prevents his lungs from filling with life-giving oxygen.
“Are these too long?”, pointing at his socks which look to me like they end where socks end.
“Is this too bright?”, sporting a luminous green ensemble, which I immediately give the bigs thumbs up, because I know it will be virtually impossible for drivers to not see him on the roads.
Despite these brief forays into cycling fashion, the harsh reality is that I am not qualified to answer these seemingly innocuous questions. Although they appear simple on the surface, every self-respecting cyclist’s wife knows that there are a host of very strict, and equally arbitrary, rules to cycling kit etiquette.
Thou shalt not wear baggy shorts on a road bike. Although, thou can wear either baggy shorts or traditional cycling shorts on a mountain bike.
Thou shalt not wear sleeveless shirts on a road bike. Only, ever, on a mountain bike. And even then, real cyclists will only humour this attire if your technical skills are such that no one may diss you, for anything.
Thou shalt not wear any kit that can catch a breeze, and thus render you less aerodynamic. All kit shall be at least two sizes too small. If you can’t breathe, that’s about right.
Thou shalt never wear white cycling shorts. For obvious reasons.
Most importantly, thou shalt not ever, ever, display skin between shirt and shorts. This is the ultimate insult to the cyclist riding at your rear. And thus staring at your rear end.
You see, cycling fashion is a serious thing.
Which, for those of us on the outside looking in, is a constant source of amusement. Because, let’s be honest, cycling kit ain’t pretty.
Let me break it down for the MAMILS out there, so that they stop asking their non-cycling better halves for fashion advice:
It is too tight. All of it. All over. There are some things that non-cycling mortals should not have to see. And once seen, it cannot be unseen.
You all look the same in your helmets. It is good that you wear them, but understand that there is nothing fashionable about them, so stop trying. They are a safety device. It’s like trying to make a seatbelt look good. Stop asking if it’s a cool helmet.
When it comes to cycling fashion, I know that Black is the new Black. Every year. But try to remember that you are riding on a road that is black, quite often when it is black all around you. When it comes to safety there is no such thing as ‘too bling’. Wear the lumo shirt. No one cares that you got it for free.
Your socks are fine. It really, really doesn’t matter where on your ankles they end. No one is looking at your sock tan on the beach, because they cannot look away from the shorts tan.
We know that you love your Shimano shoes. But the cleats are noisy. Especially on the bathroom tiles, and especially at 4am. For the love of your wife, put them on outside.
Last, but not least, when it comes to brands, your better, non-cycling halves, do not care. To us, I can assure you that they all look the same. Which is to say: tight. Only a fellow cyclist can spot Assos shorts and Rapha socks at 500m. And only a fellow cyclist would care.
Sorry. I know this stuff is hard to hear. Especially when you spend the equivalent of the GDP of a small nation on kit every year.
Over the years we have all become accustomed to seeing MAMILs on the road, or en masse in their natural leisure habitat (aka the trendy coffee shop), rendering us somewhat immune to the lycra sighting. But there must surely be a reason that the Athleisure trend – which made almost any form of lycra an acceptable pants substitute in 2017 – never featured a single pair of cycling shorts. Assos or otherwise.
Think about it.
Disclaimer: Yes, I know I shouldn’t talk about the matching bikes/shoes, when I (mostly) run in matching shirts/caps. But sometimes I just can’t resist giving my MAMIL gears. He knows I love him 😉
Thanks to the folk at Bicycling Magazine, who saw fit to publish this piece as a column in the mag’s February 2018 issue, under the header Confessions of a MAMIL wife.