The Death of Lycra

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So last week the Wall Street Journal published a piece on the death of Lycra cycling clothing. As if the use of man-made fibers, clipless pedals and shaved legs was one elaborate fad. Or fraud. The Journal doesn’t mind wooing controversy, and this was one of those occasions. The piece, “Cycling’s Spandez Coup d’Etat,” is a piece of work I honestly would have thought  was beneath the publication. Why? Well, it confuses correlation with causation in that there has been an increase of riders not wearing Lycra and Lance Armstrong has fallen from grace. However, Armstrong’s fall did not cause people to huck their Lycra in the trash can anymore than he caused the rise of the hipsters. Then there’s the fact that while the writer cites Rapha as one of the brands selling clothing that subscribes to this new ethos. Nevermind the fact that most of what Rapha sells is, uh, Lycra. Pesky details. Similarly, Giro’s New Road line is an intriguing take on what cycling clothing can be. But it hasn’t exactly achieved the sort of penetration that merits the suggestion that Lycra is on its way out. Ditto for Levi’s.

While Giro’s new line has taken some flack, it’s truly an innovative take on what cycling clothing can be. Will it replace my RKP kit? Um, no. Do I think I could find a place for it in my wardrobe? Absolutely. It’s the sort of stuff I could see me wearing for a coffee ride or for running a bunch of errands by bike, or when heading out for a ride with my son.

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The reader relatively unfamiliar with cycling will probably miss the fact that the only magazine editor quoted—Mia Kohut of Momentum—works for a lovely but tiny publication well out of the mainstream of cycling. Why not talk to Bill Strickland or Peter Flax of Bicycling? Similarly, my friend Josh Horowitz of Broken Bones Bicycle Co. was quoted, rather than anyone from Trek, Specialized or Giant. Josh is a good guy and has a fun take on the bike biz, but if you want to talk to someone who is actually influencing the industry, you’d be well-served to talk to John Burke.

Let me be ultra-clear about this: Using the shallow end of the bell curve as a bellwether for a new norm is just shoddy journalism.

Did Armstrong’s fall make it less fashionable to wear Lycra cycling clothing? Well that begs the question of whether or not it was ever fashionable, to which I have to answer only maybe. There’s no doubt, though, that the water has receded from whatever high-water mark wearing cycling clothing reached in relative hipitude. But what reporter Kevin Helliker misses is the simple fact that for 90 percent of us, Armstrong was never the reason we wore Lycra. We wear it because it works. What would have served both cycling and the reader better is if he’d chased the real story, not the sensationalist BS of projecting the demise of Lycra (which he prefers to refer to as Spandex).

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There is a real story here in how cycling’s numbers are growing, thanks almost entirely to the hipster fixie movement. And it is a movement; we can no longer call it a fad. I’ll admit that you’ll never find me riding a fixed-gear bike in traffic. Why? I want to survive a while yet. You’ll never find me wearing skinny jeans. Why? I’m not skinny. You’ll also never find me growing facial hair for ironic reasons. Why? I’m not funny enough.

That said, I dig anything that gets more of us—and by “us” I don’t mean the us of cyclists, but the us of homo sapiens—out there. And that’s really the bottom line: More cyclists is better for anyone who rides a bike. An increased presence means more facilities, greater awareness on the part of drivers (at least, the ones who aren’t drunk), and more cyclists mean more livable communities. So while Giro has taken some heat for their New Road line, I honestly welcome it. People will ride more and longer if they are comfortable. For new cyclists, the idea that the price of admission means looking like a shrink-wrapped pro bass fisherman is too high for most people who self-select as normal. What Giro is doing has the ability to gradually integrate less-casual cyclists into die-hards of the sport.

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And while we’re on the subject of Giro taking heat, last week also saw the arrival of a new ad campaign by the folks who brought back the lace-up shoe. In response to criticisms that the new Air Attack helmet looks like a skateboard helmet, they went to a skatepark with a road bike, a photographer and, well, let’s call him an acrobat. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t think it does anything to further the stated mission of the helmet—improved aerodynamic performance while still protecting your head—but it shows that they have a sense of humor and can laugh at themselves. Far too many people and companies in the bike industry lack this ability, and while there’s no requirement that you need to laugh at yourself, Giro’s perspective is refreshing. This ability to sit back and look at something critically, objectively is at the heart of the New Road line of clothing. Little wonder that they are responsible for both.

I’ve yet to wear the new helmet, but I’ve been wearing a few of the New Road pieces, a Merino top and the bib shorts and baggy-ish outer short. The fit is good and it’s comfortable. How much more than that is necessary is up for discussion. I’ve had a fair number of friends who understood adventure and a good time, but they’d never ride a bike because in their minds putting on Lycra meant surrendering their manhood at the garage door. I wish stuff like this had been available 20 years ago. It would have made my job at bike shops more interesting, more successful. Had there been a middle ground clothing-wise, I think we could have turned more bike buyers into committed cyclists.

Ultimately, my willingness to welcome Giro’s New Road line, or Club Ride or any of the other forays into this territory comes back to a point I made earlier. Even if they never wear Lycra, more cyclists on the road is good for those of us who choose to wear it. We’re less “other” once we’re both cyclists. More cyclists means better awareness that we’re out there and more acceptance that we have a right to be out there.

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50 comments

  1. Richard Wharton

    That article in the NYT kind of pissed me off. I mean, what’s wrong with MAMIL’s? They’ve been THE economic engine for the sport for the last 15-20 years, and what everyone keeps forgetting is that the US is still the current Big Market for road cycling. Hipsters? Seriously – go ask the guys at SBS how many times they’ve tried to import ‘New’ fixies for the public market, only to have them sit in warehouses until they’re sold off at a firesale. Cyclo-Cross? It has taken YEARS for that sport to register. Someone should do a longitudinal study on Hipsters, their buying habits, and their longevity with regard to transportation and hobbies. My bet is that they get married (or shack up), have kids below the regular fertility rate, and most still move to the ‘burbs. The whole fixie-single-speed phenom is just another skateboard fad with willing civic segregation witnessed through Portlandia-style municipal bankruptcy efforts to fund bike lanes and boxes and segregated pathways. Go read the latest comments in DailyBeast about Suburbanism and its’ tenacity. The Wu is the Wei, folks. Long Live MAMIL’S.

  2. cormw

    Great piece!

    I personally loved the comment “shrink-wrapped pro bass fisherman”! I am still laughing at that!

    This hits home on a discussion within my family as I consider myself a roadie and subscribe to the wearing of Lycra clothing on almost a daily basis, where as my older brother is a hipster (if a 40 year old can be a hipster) who only prefers to ride a fixie. I have the utmost respect for his version of cycling, since he’s actually riding a bike and being active, but it’s not my cup of tea. While he does not respect my version of cycling in the same manner, I think the two styles can coexist to further develop the cycling culture. This is exactly why companies like Giro will continue to push the envelope on styles/product lines to generate a broader market appeal to the entire cycling culture, since they are in the business to make money.

    As for the media’s reporting on cycling, they are just trying to generate sales with sensationalism, which in my opinion, further erodes my reliance on large media outlets for accurate/factual information.

  3. The_D

    If by the death of lycra, they just mean the death of ill-fitting charity, beer and novelty jerseys, then fine. Good riddance. But good luck prying away the hard-found kit that fits just “so” on many a roadie.

    The MAMIL cult’s only getting larger. In fact, I’ve noticed more folks from a Crossfit and bootcamp background getting into the tri and roadie scene. Those new fast guys with the big arms? That’s who they are. Good for them. Good for us.

    So, if you’re favorite thing about being a roadie was being “elegantly misunderstood” by the masses, then, fine wool, mustache wax and a fixie for you. However, if like a lot of us, if you’ve learned that cycling hard is the closest that exists to a fountain of youth, then you’re fine being sentenced to many years in lycra. The more advanced and excuse-addressing the better.

  4. Lewis Moon

    “Let me be ultra-clear about this: Using the shallow end of the bell curve as a bellwether for a new norm is just shoddy journalism.”

    I’m gonna steal that.

    Great points on the new growth trajectory of cycling. Cycling needs to be a normal part of everyday life, as well as a hobby, sport and/or obcession. I just wish that the community planners out there would embrace a more walking/cycling friendly ethos. I live in a “cul de sac” community; 300+ homes, one way in, one way out, only an intrastate highway to get to the nearest grocery store, three miles away. My fault for moving there. We “drove until we qualified”.
    However, the road and mountain biking are wonderful. So you’ll have that…I hust can’t (practically) ride to the store.

  5. Steve O

    Every now and then, you read something that is just so “forehead smacking obvious” that it sticks with you forever, and becomes a touchstone for all subsequent discussions.

    And the Australian business magazine that ran a piece on what’s wrong with American cycling service that function for me.

    We cannot talk about what to wear and what not to wear without looking at it through the prism of American bike culture. And while the rest of the world sees the bike as equal parts transportation, recreation, and exercise, Americans only see it as the latter.

    The Marino wooll and baggy pants movement is nothing but an acknowledgment that you can ride your bike without necessarily being obsessed about heart rate and cadence and wattage.

    Which, like you said, can only be good for the industry

  6. Peter lin

    The WSJ article is poorly researched, poorly written and reads like trash. If I were to turn that into my english professors back in college, it would get an F. Just goes to show for every well written article, there’s two dozen poorly written pieces of junk newspapers calls “news”.

    I may be in the minority, but I don’t care what others think of my brightly colored kits. I just want to make sure drivers see me and don’t turn into a human pancake. I do own mountain bike style cycling clothes, but it’s way too much wind resistance.

    If someone hates brightly colored clothing, that’s their problem not mine. It’s not like that reaction is rational, logic or beneficial to anyone. It’s a Pavlovian response.

  7. Lewis Moon

    @Peter Lin
    My daughter refers to my regular rotation of kit as “Technicolor Lycra Barf”. It’s as if I’be been hurled on by the entire cast of “My Little Pony”.

  8. Ben

    “Using the shallow end…” IS how you make predictions about future trends. It’s classic : a small group tries something new, some small “boutique” companies serve them, and then, gradually, IF AND ONLY IF the thing in question moves to the mainstream, more and bigger and more consumers and companies sell that type of thing.

    I think that the WSJ falls flat not infusing a small, nice sample, but in totally failing to understand the why the lycra is being worn in the first place and in misunderstanding exactly what the new trend is. Lycra is still being used — just smarter and less skinsuity (Rapha, Outlier, etc — and I’m using the word Lycra to mean “tech fabric”). Both points which are touched on previously here.

  9. Peter lin

    @Lewis

    I find that hilarious. Just think, if it’s totally Barftastic, there’s no way a driver is going to NOT see you. Though making the driver actually barf might cause an accident. I’m not aware of any documented cases where bright colors triggers barf outside of pregnant women during the first trimester and second trimester.

  10. Carlos

    OK, I am a MAMIL. But being in the sad end of the 50s I can still wear spandex with pride. I have low body fat, almost no “tummy” sticking out and this clothing is the most comfortable when riding. I wish the WSJ worried LESS about about what we wear while staying fit into our sunsets and more about those who have to wear baggies because, well, we know why. And then there is my good old friend George, who in the sorry end of his 70s can wear spandex and still look awesome on and off the bike!

  11. Full Monte

    Recently watched the movie This Is 40. In it, some pretty deep cuts are made to the middle-aged cycling set. The group ride consisting of chubby dads. The beer kit. The race kit. The LiveStrong kit. Post ride coffee — in kit. The undercurrent: lameness.

    Or take the Audi commercial where the little girl says, “My dad is an alien.” Cue dad who walks through the shot wearing lycra, helmet, sunglasses.

    I get it. Men of a certain age still riding around on bikes make easy social targets. Add the bright colors, logos, and to many: trying too hard.

    Also, the darn kids. The fixie set. As is always the case, the younger generation digs what we do (bikes) just not how the old guys do it.

    In the end, it’s fashion. Sure, sports fashion, yet fashion nonetheless. Fashion exists for change. Change is what the fuels the fire of any/every fashion industry.

    I’m all for it, this new, subdued kit. As a man of a certain age who rides a bike and has the remains of a paunch, I find black very slimming.

  12. MB

    Using Armstrong was clumsy but for years cycling clothes were either “race” style black spandex shorts or fluo yellow “safety” clothing.

    Now people are making cycle-specific clothing so you can walk right into the office without getting asked when you’re going to ride the Tour de France or people mocking your 1991 style outfit.

    We see companies trying to fill this gap, from new guys like British brand Vulpine to Giro and even Levis are getting in on the market. When you think about it, the market has got to be bigger than everything the likes of Castelli, Assos etc can dream of.

  13. christopheru

    I admit it. I find this whole debate hilarious. I have been wearing skin tight lycra since it started – back when bikes shorts were wool. I love the things. They are comfortable and serve a purpose. I would never go on a long ride without them. Fundamentally though, they are just clothing.

    I have shut more than a few people up over the years who have felt it necessary to comment on my clothing in a snide manner by simply stating, “Well, at least I have the legs for it…”. Works every time.

    I also love the new tougher good looking casual stuff that is being made now. There are times when pockets are useful, when I don’t want the lycra. The advent of tough clothing that does not wear out so fast and likely won’t suffer “ass failure” is a good thing if you ask me.

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  15. Jonathan

    @Richard Wharton: Don’t be so quick to dismiss the fixie scene.
    I’m a moderator on a fixed gear forum here in Australia, and the evidence is clear that fixed gears are a gateway drug to other kinds of cycling. The guys who used to do 20km Wednesday night pub crawls are now the guys who are up at 6 on a weekday to do hill repeats on fancy crabon roadies. The 20 year old guy who organises the Friday night fixie ride then backs up on Saturday with 120km of hills. Australia’s first cyclocross series (now in its 4th year) was started by a bunch of guys off the forum.
    Me? I hung up the fixed gear, moved to the suburbs and now do a 65km round trip commute on weekdays, and spend the weekends all lycra-d up and riding the beautiful roads of rural western Sydney. I’m a MAMIL and proud of it.
    Don’t go writing off fixed gears as some sort of soon-to-die-in-the-arse fad: these kids on the shitty track bikes will be handing you some hurt on your local group ride sooner or later.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I’ve loved all the comment in conjunction with this, but Jonathan, your comment most especially helped illustrate a larger point. Thanks everyone, but doubly for Jonathan. I hear that the post was forwarded to an editor at the WSJ and on to the author. This makes me chuckle.

      I’d like to say I’m not one to write a response piece, but I’ve done it in the past. And I’ve done two this week. I’m sure I’ll do more in the future. The second one I wrote this week will run at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat on Saturday. Expect fireworks in town.

  16. producifer

    Tight-fitting clothing, helmets, sunglasses, shoes- these are just tools of the trade. The more I got into biking, the more these items made sense. I don’t have time to reveal the logic of a bibshort to anyone and I don’t care what anyone- including my daughters- thinks of me when I leave the house for a ride. At least it’s functional. Besides, the fashion crimes I witness daily make my eyes sear. The day that grown men stop wearing flip flops in restaurants or airplanes is the day that I’ll cover up and wear that saggy baggy new Giro stuff.

  17. Scott G.

    Sounds like the WSJ found an old Rivendell Reader in the loo.
    Seersucker is the new lycra. Soon cars will start sporting 1200K stickers
    instead on 140.6. PrimalWear is coming out with a tweed line.

  18. todd k

    I actually like the new Giro line and other similar apparel. If for no other reason than it is nice to not constantly be a billboard when I ride. More so, if I am paying full price for what I am wearing. Apparel that is more understated is A-ok by me. It also encourages diversity and that is a good thing for broadening cycling’s inclusiveness.

    Not every article of clothing in the line works best for every aspect of cycling I partake. But that is ok. If I separate out the racing specific events I do on occasion, and loosen up on the “uniform” I wear when training and the ”uniform” I wear on “fun rides and events ” the clothing works as well as a lycra kit for what I would require from it. It wouldn’t ruin any of my rides at any rate. (Sadly, probably not even the races if I were honest.)

    Most of my gripes with clothing are functional issues for which I have yet to find permanent solutions- lycra or otherwise.

  19. blacksocks

    On a personal note, I’ve never been more excited to be a rider in America. There are so many options and so many things pointing the right way…

    A decade of infrastructure improvements, high gas prices, modest economic growth, generational shifts in values and aspirations – all of it has brought us to a point where bikes are not necessarily seen as a toy, but part of a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle more people are choosing to enjoy on their own terms, with more points of inspiration to draw on than ever before. What’s great about this is that there’s an real appreciation for the differences between riders now that doesn’t feel like it always existed…the “threshold” between core and kook, roadie or dirty MTB’er, etc is dissolving.

    For a century, bikes have been primarily promoted through the lens of racing or performance. But the top of the market is expanding with the influence of a broader base, reaching new riders who didn’t grow up aspiring to race or ride a century. They just want to ride, and feel comfortable and now they have more choices that are relevant to their own style. With that comes a refreshing benefit for everyone…you don’t have to squeeze into lycra or a paceline to be accepted as a rider or legitimate bike shop customer today. People can just roll along and savor the feeling of freedom that made so many of us love the ride in the first place.

    Amen to that.

  20. LesB

    I used to think that the WSJ was an intellectual newspaper, beyond sensationalism, but not so. The New York Times, it is not.

    Never heard the term “MAMIL”. Being as I’m 69, I guess I’m a OGIL (Old Geezer). Irregardless, I do have the legs for it.

    Among its qualities that make Lycra an ideal cycling fabric is that it’s sooo comfortable. I wouldn’t mind having some of the new casual style bike clothing, but with finite financial resources, I will stick with buying the stuff I really need. Like another bib.

    Jonathan: Not to dismiss the fixie scene, but I think it’s the fixies who are most given to dismissing of other cycling life forms.

  21. Jonathan

    Padraig: thanks!

    LesB: yeh, fixie kids can be pretty dismissing, but get talking to them and a lot of them are just bike nerds like the rest of us. It doesn’t take much to swing them over to the dark side of lycra and derailleurs.

  22. KR

    The other problem with the shoddy WSJ piece is the claim that “appearance conformism” and associated harassment, an insistence that participants follow an elaborate standard, is the norm. No doubt there are such individuals and groups, but, on balance, this is poorly informed bullshit. Anyone feeling that sort of pressure is hanging out with the wrong set of cyclists (road or otherwise), and anyone reporting that sort of behavior as representative is incompetent.

    I’ll stick my neck out and say that 40 years on the road in wool and spandex/Lycra qualifies me to generalize: cyclists are an odd bunch, and by and large they’re perfectly happy to live and let live, whatever you feel like wearing to the party. Nothing new there. And it’s not to say that there isn’t such a thing as looking good on a bike.

    Function and what’s available on the market tend to establish the range of options (for racers and non-racers alike), but that would only suggest “fascism” to someone pressed to generate a story, or, as Patrick points out, someone fooled by the tail end of the bell curve. You’d think the editors would know better.

  23. Jason Lee

    I agree with the larger picture, where this will allow more people to get into cycling.
    Too many Americans think cycling = gearing up. They don’t want to “gear up”, therefore, they will not cycle.

    But I don’t know why Giro’s clothing line brought this up. Chrome, MW, Swrve, etc have been doing this for a while now. Levi’s has a commuter cycling line.

    By the way, I love these types of clothes. It’s liberating and actually makes me bike more.

    I save the lycra for training and racing. For everything else, the “intermediate” clothing is awesome.

  24. Tim Lane

    The worst aspect of this article was its reach; a few non-cycling friends referred me to the NYT article recently. Their main take-away was that ‘cyclists are divided into sects, roadies are the elitist snobs about to get dissed and that cycling in general isn’t the accessible activity/mode of transport they remember from their youth’. It took time with my friends to refute the printed word; that the cruiser fanatics I’ve worked with have been in awe at aero TT bikes, Olympic athletes have loved fixies, etc… I’m disappointed that this article made it past the editor and that it likely won’t get refuted on as widely viewed a stage.

  25. LesB

    Jonathan: “Bike nerds” sounds good to me! It’s maybe a generational thing. I remember being quite dismissive of existing culture when I was of the age.

    These youngsters are skilled at what they do and that deserves respect.

  26. MCH

    While I’m all for making cycling clothes fashionable, I’d observe that regardless of the material, cut, or color, cycling gear is only fashionable within a narrow context – that context being while you’re on the bike. Nothing shouts “dork” more than walking around in lycra cycling kit, particularly when shuffling and clicking in cycling shoes. Just as most would refrain from walking around the local shopping district in fishing waders or other sport-specific gear, I humbly suggest wearing cycling gear in similar venues should be avoided. Whether you’re Mario Weekender or Mario Cipollini, no one looks cool in lycra when they’re off the bike.

  27. Mark

    As the author pointed out we are all just people riding bikes. I think new riders dont understand the utility of performance equipment and may scoff from ignorance. On the other hand this equipment is made for COMPETITIVE CYCLING! Its purpose and function is to give you a speed advantage. What does that have to do with biking for transportation? To often issues surrounding bicycling are seen from the perspective of the dominant MAMIL bike culture. Principals of cycling are considered from a racing mindset in contradiction to an everyday urban users demands. I liken this to a person who goes out for a liesurely ride with friends and cant help racing because hey its their nature. MAMIL’s are that one guy when it comes to bike culture. That’s why the Journal did the story, middle aged racers have the dominant voice in bike culture. As well as a majority of members who actually have journal subscriptions, and probably Barron’s and the FT. The point is that cycling for transportation is a unique personal experience that has little to do with competitive recreational cycling, but these are the very people attempting to define right and wrong ways to do it. At what point do we cyclists who ride everyday wake up and say, hey stop trying to define how we practice if your perspective is primarily throw the bike on the SUV drive out to a race and drive home. Just because you occassionally ride your bike on the street doesnt mean you know the safest most efficient way to do it on the road.

  28. Khal Spencer

    Oh, Lord….as one of those MAMILs, or should I say FILs (i.e., Freds in Lycra) I’ll just sleep through this one.

    Momentum Mag and Streetsblog both promote the idea of riding a bicycle while not being a “bicyclist” or working up a sweat. Bicycling should be done whenever possible, and at low speed on cycletracks while working (harder than George Hincape on a Hors Category climb) to NOT look like one is having a workout. Its the newest fad in new urbanism–Europeanizing the bicycle in the U.S. Cycletracks, street clothing, womyn who look like Lola Granola, etc. There is a whole genre of clothing and accoutrements out there for people who want to ride without looking like a bicyclist.

    Nothing wrong with any of that. I’ve been to the mountaintop and saw the Promised Land: Copenhagen!! Its just that we can’t seem to have our cake and eat it too. Why do bicycles have to belong to one group or the other? Ferchrissakes, I actually like to ride to work in my…gasp…Old Guys jersey, work up a sweat, clean off, change into my Clark Kent suit, and arrive at my desk after a workout.

    As you say, Padraig, the more the merrier. Now, where can I find another vintage Old Guys jersey?

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  30. Gary

    I read the article in WSJ, and like many previous commenters, thought it was stupid. On the other hand, I have to chuckle about the new lines of “crossover” clothing now being marketed to cyclists. For me there’s nothing better than a cotton T-shirt on hot days and a rugby shirt on cooler days. Oh, and regular shorts for casual rides. In other words, no need to buy new stuff. You have everything you need already.

  31. PMAC

    Hellz bellz, I could give half a rat turd for whatever folks want to wear to ride! Just ride!

    I won’t laugh at any hiptards sweating bullets out their butt-cheeks when it’s 90 and humid in the Midwest. Fixie-ing around in low-rider Dickeys and One Direction concert t-shirt; provided they don’t mind if I rock my day-glo spandex Flash Gordon kit with a sizeable potato and Jumbo can of icy brew stuffed down my bibs so the lady folk will go batty-wild about my Tom Jonesesque bike-a-losaurus junktasticalness.

    I’ll do whatsoever required to take it up a notch while I’m tooling down the boulevard on my ’99 Merlin Extralight.

    “You can go your own waaaaaaa-aaaaaaay!”

    -PM

  32. bigwagon

    The non-lycra look may be popular on the hip and trendy coasts, but it definitely has not made its way to the midwest in any significant way. I can count on one hand the number of riders I have seen wearing any Rapha gear here in Wisconsin.

  33. Mike

    I was wondering whether the author was a regular staffer or an intern. The WSJ used to have their interns spend most of their tenure working on one single feature story. If that is still true, I can totally picture this being such an author, living in Williamsburg and taking their cues from the street in front of their apartment.

  34. Mike

    …and looking him up, it’s not an intern. But it is a sports writer, and like the guys at ESPN, has that very narrow view of cycling that really only sees the sport in relation to Armstrong.

  35. Alex TC

    Tight-fitting clothing is the direct result of over a century of evolution, so it will never go away. That´s nonsense. It´s proven, time-tested, it´s comfortable – period. All it takes is ONE (long enough) ride in some good bib-and-jersey kit (WITHOUT underwear for god´sakes – if I got $1 each time I´ve had to explain this…) to convert even the most anti-lycra advocate. One (long enough) ride in regular cotton baggies or (ugh!) jeans reaches the same result, but without the enlightenment. Lycra apparel is not clothing, it´s EQUIPMENT. It´s exclusively functional. Just like an STI, for example.

  36. Ron

    The only thing about Lycra that I’d like to see die is the Koch brothers, who own the fabric.

    If you haven’t heard, fixters are out, randonneurds are in.

    Also, one great thing about cycling is how quickly dabblers are weeded out. Try riding for five hours in triple digits. You’ll quickly see who cares and who is just in it for the short-term.

    Most of the sports I follow are fringe sports – cycling, ice hockey, European futbol, lacrosse. I tend to ignore what the mainstream media says about them, as they only pay attention during controversial times. F’em.

  37. Ron

    Also, Pharmstrong had terrible style, never looked all that good, definitely not great. Frank Vandenbroucke, yes, he had style.

    While I do agree that more cyclists is always a good thing, there are plenty of fixsters putting together $2000 bikes that they ride to the bar or to the show. Yeah, they’re still out there and raising awareness, but if a cyclist rides in the dark with no lights, no helmet, and only for 1.6 miles…do drivers really take notice? Overall it has definitely brought more into the fold, but it is impossible to overlook the Pros/Cons.

    Con – a gal comes into the bike co-op and decides she wants to chop down some drop bars. Hacksaw, headstrong…cut bars…which don’t fit into the bikes stem. I wanted to slap that person.

  38. Wsquared

    The non hard financial reporting side of the WSJ hasn’t been worth a shit since Rupert Murdoch bought it. Given his track record, that’s not surprising.

    When I started cycling there were no Lycra shorts. Enthusiasts & racers wore non bib wool or wool blend, not particulary form fitting shorts. When Lycra shorts came out, after a bit, I gave them a try. All it took was a few long rides in 90+ degree weather & getting wet & then feeling them miraculosly dry out while I was riding to convince me that they are a Really Good Thing. And at first I thought bibs looked kind of dorky, untiI tried them & discovered how they did a much better job of comfortably keeping my shorts up. I’ll wear cargo shorts & such in the neighborhood on a bike, but when the mileage goes up, its about all about comfort and function. (I did wear my lycra bibs yesterday right after a ride to mow the lawn, but fortunately no WSJ reporters were around.)

    I’ve never stopped wearing the occasional wool blend jersey & base layer in cool or cold weather. Wool has some great qualities for that. OTH, I got a thoroughly synthetic Castelli Gabba jersey last Fall and as far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the great inventions of the 21st century. Water & windproof even in a driving rain, comfortably stretchy & form fitting so water rolls off & it doesn’t bunch up at speed like a baggy rain jacket. And best of all it actually “breaths.” Not ad copy breathing, REAL BREATHING. The original promise of Gortex finally fulfilled in a jersey. I wore it with a base layer on everything but really cold days all winter. Yeah, I also like the minimalist “blackness” of the design, but I wear it cuz it works!

  39. GT

    Great post and fun reading all the way through.. but to KR – seriously? The idea that MAMILS are out there wearing just whatever they want ? But then you may not have seen The Rules, published on another discussion site.

  40. MattS

    Nice piece. Picking up on your last comments about what working at a shop might have been like with the middle-ground option on the floor, I immediately thought of XC ski clothing. I worked a winter at North America’s biggest XC ski retailer a while back. We sold a LOT of clothing. We had tonnes of selection, which fell into two cuts: tight, and not-so tight. People who just were not into the really fitted, performance cuts went with the baggier, yet still nice, stuff. Those who wanted the edge went with the tighter stuff. There was something for everyone. I think the analogy holds for cycling, and Giro is now opening doors for those who don’t want to wear mtb shorts and baggy jerseys on a road bike (which has to be pretty much everyone). Death of lycra? Proposterous. Birth of a borader cycling population? Perhaps.

  41. KR

    To GT – Seems to depend on what the meaning of “want” is. Are we out there doing something we presumably want to do (cycling), but wearing something we don’t want to wear? Not sure why someone would choose to maintain that sort of conflict, but I suppose it’s possible. Comes down to a discussion of sub-cultures and motivations. Call the anthropologist.

  42. Pingback: Friday Group Ride #170 : Red Kite Prayer

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