When you’re riding in a paceline, you have time to think. You can ponder the big questions in life. You can think back and review how you’ve lived. You can think about changes you’d like to make in your life.
It was on just such a ride a few days ago, my eyes unavoidably on the back and butt of the cyclist ahead of me, that I had an extremely deep thought. The thought is as follows:
“Most bike jerseys are really, really ugly.”
I don’t plan to justify my position that most bike jerseys are ugly, because I think this statement is not debatable. I simply do not believe there’s a reasonable counterargument to be made.
However, we can ask ourselves why bike jerseys tend to be so ugly.
I have theories.
Blame it on the Pros
The most obvious reason we have such ugly jerseys is because we’re used to seeing ugly jerseys. The pro teams out there are beholden to whoever their sponsor is at the moment, which really means that they’re beholden to the disgruntled designer/would-be-artist at the outsourced marketing company their sponsor is currently using.
And what is the designer’s job? Simple: make the jersey into a billboard.
They do a fine job of this. And the pro cyclists, since they get paid to wear the billboard — even if the billboard is advertising a home pregnancy test, and the color of the jersey is what you get when the result is positive — don’t put up a fuss.
The weird thing is, though, we normal people don’t get paid to wear the billboard, but we do anyway. This can be explained with the following perfectly logical reason: we are sheep. Colorblind sheep. Colorblind, aesthetically blinkered sheep.
Though I bet there are very few men or women out there in the universe willing to spend their own money on wearing a jersey advertising a home pregnancy test.
Here’s the thing about those event jerseys: they’re designed by the guy on the event committee who wasn’t there to devolunteer himself on the day they chose an event jersey designer.
There’s an upside to those ugly event jerseys, though. Since you didn’t pay for them, you don’t have to feel even remotely guilty for “customizing” them. Here, for example, is my jersey for the 2003 Brian Head Epic 100. (I tell you that, because the text on the jersey itself is nigh unto illegible, and it’s worse in real life). I transformed it into a sleeveless jersey in the middle of a ride a couple weeks ago, using nothing but my teeth to take out a couple stitches, and then using my patented super ripping technique.
I had an intriguing tan pattern by the end of the ride.
Actually, that last idea is quite awesome.
The problem with comedy-based jerseys is that punchlines are only funny for three seconds. Scientific fact. But if you’re wearing a comedic jersey, you’re wearing it for the entire ride. The timeline of your riding companions’ impression of your funny jersey is as follows:
- Seconds 0 – 3: Hey, that’s funny! A jersey with Grover on it! That’s both clever and whimsical!
- Seconds 4 – 10: But why is it the “Super Grover” character? And why is he flying? That’s not all that funny anymore.
- Seconds 11 – 20: What kind of person wears an image of a bumbling muppet? Why would anyone pay money to wear an image of a bumbling muppet on a bike ride? And it’s not like this is the only time he’s going to wear it, either. I’ll bet he wears that same stupid jersey next ride, too.
- Seconds 21 – Forever: I need to figure out a way to either kill this rider, tell him I’m never riding with him again, or — at the very least — destroy that moronic jersey.
In short, comedic jerseys aren’t just ugly. They’re potentially lethal. Wear at your own risk.
Design May Be Larger Than It Appears
Back in Winter, a local cycling team — Team DNA (Dirt ‘n Asphalt, get it?) — had a clever idea: make their team jersey look like it’s made of carbon fiber. The mockup looked pretty cool. I would have bought the jersey in fact, if I weren’t so lazy.
Dug and Rick Sunderlage — neither quite as lazy — succumbed to the coolness of the idea of a carbon-fiber-looking jersey and signed up.
And then the jerseys (and accompanying shorts) arrived.
Here’s Dug, modeling the ensemble. First, front:
And now the shorts.
Before I go any further, I think I have the same question the rest of you have: what’s with the hand placement, Dug?
The problem with the mockup is that it didn’t show what the “carbon fiber” part would look like when it’s actual size, which I will hereby demonstrate:
Yes, that’s right. You can play checkers on team DNA’s race kit. Or, if you stare at it long enough, you will either wreck (likely) or begin to see a 3D depiction of Grover. Flying.
I have, at times, worn astoundingly ugly jerseys intentionally, reasoning that a garish jersey is more likely to draw the attention of drivers. I don’t think that a brightly-colored jersey has to be ugly, however, so I’m rejecting that idea.
The Ugly Jersey Contest
I believe that everyone has at least one ugly jersey. And I believe it’s time to have a contest to determine: who has the ugliest jersey of all?
Let’s introduce the contest with a new cartoon from my son:
How Do You Enter?
If you’ve got an ugly jersey — or know someone else with an ugly jersey — get a picture of it and contribute it to the brand new Flickr Ugly Jerseys group I created.
Whether youâ€™re going to submit a photo or just want to see what others are entering, youâ€™re going to need to register with Flickr. Also, to see all the photos, youâ€™ve got to join the Ugly Jerseys Group. Luckily, thatâ€™s relatively painless. Just do this:
- First, to www.flickr.com/signup and follow the standard signup rigamarole to get registered. Luckily, itâ€™s free.
- This step is important. If you donâ€™t do this, you wonâ€™t be able to see all the photos: Once youâ€™ve registered with Flickr, you need to join the Ugly Jerseys group. Thatâ€™s easy: Just go to www.flickr.com/groups/uglyjerseys/ and click Join this Group. Now you can see the photos for the photo contest at www.flickr.com/groups/uglyjerseys/pool/.
How it Works
If you know how to use Flickr, you can skip this part. If you’re new to Flickr, hereâ€™s how you upload a picture.
- Go to the Flickr Upload page: www.flickr.com/photos/upload.
- Browse for your photo(s) â€“ you can enter up to three photos in this contest. Photos are automatically resized, so donâ€™t stress about having it be a particular size before you upload it.
- Click the Upload button at the bottom of the screen.
- Enter captions for each of your photos. Be interesting and descriptive. If you canâ€™t be both, be one or the other.
- Click the Save button at the bottom of the page.
- Now youâ€™ve got to make your photo part of the Ugly Jerseys group. To do that, from your â€œYour Photosâ€ page (you should be there already) click your picture. You should see options of what you can do with that photo above the picture now.
- Click â€œSend to Groupâ€ to make a menu drop down. From that menu, choose Ugly Jerseys.
- OK, thatâ€™s it.
Your photos should be added to the gallery pretty much immediately.
When and What You’ll Win
You have through Monday (because I’m going to be out of town for a few days) to get your ugly jerseys photographed and uploaded. I’ll then choose a winner and announce it on Tuesday. So you have plenty of time to enter.
And what can you win? Well, first prize gets a cool Fat Cyclist Special Edition Banjo Brothers Commuter Backpack.
And second prize? You get this ugly jersey, kindly donated by Julie.
Hey, I’ve seen worse.
If you want your jersey to be one of the prizes for this contest (and are willing to pay for the shipping), indicate that on your entry, and we’ll throw that into the Ugly Jersey prize pot. I’m happy to give away as many ugly jerseys as you’re willing to contribute.
PS to Team DNA: Actually, your jersey is super-sexy. I’d still wear one, except it gives me a terrible headache to look at. Please don’t kill me.