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  1. #1
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    Aug 2013
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    43

    Cool Why do cyclists have to wear all that lycra?

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    You KNOW you've gotten this question. I've been a bit surprised at people's reactions when I tell them that I'm getting into cycling. I know there is a lot of animosity towards bikes in this town. To be honest it's one of the reasons that I haven't done more riding.

    Oh they'll run over a runner too but at least there will be skid marks on the pavement in front of the runner's body.

    Anyway the only response I've come up with is to say that I spent the better part of my childhood and until the knees couldn't take it anymore in the martial arts community wearing a rather silly looking pajama looking outfit. No reason for it, we certainly could have done everything we were doing in yoga pants and t-shirts and yet no one ever said, "uh I don't see why martial artists have to wear those silly pajamas".

    I also don't see these people at the Y saying, "uh why do those yoga people have to wear all that yoga stuff" or "why do those silly basketball players feel the need to wear those mesh shorts".

    So why are cyclists singled out?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
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    Some people are very threatened by the idea of getting from Point A to Point B without burning fossil fuel.

    If someone asks again, why don't you just tell them the truth, that cycling a short distance in street clothes is fine and convenient, but over longer distances (like 15+ miles) it's not only very uncomfortable, but likely to ruin your nice street clothes? I wouldn't feel like I was discouraging them from starting to ride, since a brand new commuter isn't likely to jump right into 15 mile commutes in any case.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Austin, TX
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    203
    No one has ever asked me that question.

    I get plenty of other questions about cycling and bike commuting, but the only clothing-related question I ever seem to field is, "Do you wear a helmet?"

    I agree with you that in our culture we traditionally change clothing for formal sports and exercise. Some people really do need to change due to chafing and/or odor issues, and lots of sports clothing is designed to protect the athlete or enhance performance. And, sometimes we just want to fit in or look like everyone else on the team All good reasons to don Lycra.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Seattle
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    For certain types of riding, sure Lycra makes sense. But I also view it as a barrier to riding. When I was a kid, I never put on special clothes to ride my bike. And now that I spend most of my days chasing an almost-toddler, I don't really have time to change into a separate outfit to ride to the store. I purposely chose my latest bike to be something that I would be comfortable wearing street clothes on. Right now I'm doing mostly city riding, either to go to the store or some other errand, and I'm not doing very long rides. So there's no point in changing clothes. I sit more upright, so I don't need a ton of stretch in the seat, and the bike has a chain guard so I don't have to worry about getting grease on my pants. Pedals are flat so I can wear regular street shoes. This suits me just fine at this stage in my life.

    Someday I'll go back to riding dozens of miles a day, and the Lycra will come out again.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2013
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    25
    I remember taking a nasty fall when I was a kid because my bike didn't have a chain guard and my jeans caught up in the chain. Jeans *choke* & rub the back of my knees when I ride with them. The loudly colored jerseys stand out for drivers to see the biker better. For me it's all about comfort and safety.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
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    I'm sorry to hear that you perceive there is animosity in your town in your cycling garb. Perhaps it's a few glowering folks there? But not everyone?

    There are still ways of dressing for cycling, without wearing much lycra but not truly street clothing on the bike. For example, I bike in walking shorts sometimes. Even for long distances around 50-80 km. ride. But then, I might be weird.

    In cold weather I wear tights, though these tights are not smooth shiny lycra a lot of the times. It's stuff one can wear for other forms of exercise (yoga, aerobics, etc.). Cheap tights that I pay only $25.00 /pr. or less. I am cheap for bike commuting year-round, including winter. I have to be when it's cold, cycling shorter distances yet the weather is yuckier, wet, sloppy, etc. in winter.

    I just prefer not to wear out a $100.00 pr. of jeans by being on the bike a lot. (I found jeans I liked and fit me..after over 3 frickin' years of casual searching around. That's how long it took and that's how fussy I am about jeans fit. Maybe I shouldn't have knowledge of fabric quality, worksmanship, when I used to sew, etc.) As someone else said in another earlier different thread, one disadvantage of wearing same pants or shorts over long period time of cycling often, is that the seat of the pants gets worn out.

    REally.....I don't want to go for yet another frickin' search of 2nd pr. of jeans that I like just because I wore out my lst pr. of jeans on the bike. But walking shorts (with flat seams in the right non-irritating places) work well for me. I have different lengths of walking shorts for cycling. One requirement is that they must have front pockets that hold a set of keys for me when I bike.

    Will I ever bike in a true skirt on the bike (I wear skorts when I bike for something "skirt-like")? No, I gave up wearing long flowing skirts over 15 years ago.

    However I don't like emphasizing to wannabe cyclists or non-cyclists that a person must wear cycling clothing. Instead, wear clothing for exercise comfort and safety. That is a more flexible sounding way and gives people options, creativity to choose a wide selection of clothing that fits their lifestyle, budget, etc. Cycling clothing at the beginning can add up money-wise.

    I actually wear lycra shorts sometimes.....for the days I think it might rain: it's less bulky to wear wind pants over the shorts if I have to suddenly pull them on and I can't find a washroom anywhere while I stop in the middle of my ride during spittin' rain.
    Last edited by shootingstar; 08-27-2013 at 08:07 PM.
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  7. #7
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    Apr 2009
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    Tucson, AZ
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    I've never been asked that question. I have been asked "Do I have to wear Spandex?" a whole lot, though.

    I do agree that it can be a barrier to riding. It's expensive. It looks funny. You can't just go ride your bike. It sets expectations that you need a whole bunch of special gear to ride a bike.

    As to why we get the comments, I think it's two-fold. It's a very visible mark of being "other," those brightly-colored jerseys and Lycra shorts. It's not mainstream like yoga or even martial arts. The other thing is that most people cannot imagine wanting to dress in such form-fitting clothes. I talked to so many people who said "I read that bike shorts help, but I'm not comfortable wearing something that tight."
    At least I don't leave slime trails.
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  8. #8
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    Dec 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by aponi View Post
    I know there is a lot of animosity towards bikes in this town.
    Where do you live (so I'll know to avoid it)?

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  9. #9
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    Feb 2005
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    Concord, MA
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    Am I the only person who never felt weird about putting on bike shorts? Maybe it had to do with 20+ years of wearing tight exercise clothes (gym shorts, bra tops, tights, leotards) before I started riding? Or maybe, because I saw my DS and DH take off and ride in the appropriate cycling clothes, I never assumed I would wear anything different.
    Nobody has ever asked me that question and I've never received any dirty looks about wearing cycling stuff around where I live. The only places this has happened to me have been 1) Stockbridge, MA in the Berkshires, when a group of ladies from NYC stared and made loud comments and 2) in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard, about 10 years ago, when my DH got some very pointed stares and comments when we were going into lunch. He was wearing a loud orange jersey and matching orange flip flops he had changed into from cycling shoes.
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  10. #10
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    Sep 2006
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    Oslo, Norway
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    Well, there's lycra and there's lycra. What I think they're actually asking is not "why do you have to wear bike shorts and a technical wicking shirt with pockets in a visible colour", but "why do I keep seeing these guys whose shoes match their shorts match their jersey match their glasses match their helmets match their bikes, and all of it in horrendous neon colours?"

    I had been cycling for years in more or less suitable athletic gear before I got into road bike riding, training and racing, and I found the entire matching team kit thing rather offputting. People do wear martial arts "pyjamas", but not in public, and men who would never ever wear anything tightfitting or bright-coloured otherwise are suddenly out there wearing what looks like hot pink and orange skin suits with matching shoes, if your team has particularly bad taste. It is a group fashion thing, and can be a bit alienating. Now, of course, I think it looks pretty cool, but it took a while.

    I find the best answer is to compare it to running, or here, to cross country skiing. You CAN run or ski in regular clothing, if you really want to, but almost everybody realizes that if you're running or skiing to get somewhere swiftly, training clothes are practical.
    Winter riding is much less about badassery and much more about bundle-uppery. - malkin

    1995 Kona Cinder Cone commuterFrankenbike/Selle Italia SLR Lady Gel Flow
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  11. #11
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    Sep 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by jobob View Post
    Where do you live (so I'll know to avoid it)?
    I think the better question is where in the USA do YOU live that there ISN'T animosity towards bikes? It must be a rare enclave ... (and I've read plenty of ugly stuff about California drivers and cyclists, so that ain't it ...)
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  12. #12
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    Feb 2008
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    Seattle
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    I think I'm going to ask for this coat for Christmas: Cassandra Cycle Coat
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  13. #13
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    Jul 2012
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    Houston
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    Re: Why do cyclists have to wear all that lycra?

    Quote Originally Posted by OakLeaf View Post
    I think the better question is where in the USA do YOU live that there ISN'T animosity towards bikes? It must be a rare enclave ... (and I've read plenty of ugly stuff about California drivers and cyclists, so that ain't it ...)
    I read an article, and it's true in my personal experience, that cars are friendlier to people in regular clothes not riding road bikes. I know in my sub they are friendlier when I ride the cruiser than my Jamis.
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  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
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    43
    I live in Charlotte home of the (cough) NFL powerhouse Panthers

    This is this one road in particular, Queens Rd West if you happen to be familiar with the city that everyone calls the "tour de Charlotte". It's in a really nice part of town, very near a park and every cyclist, runner, and walker ends up there. Well it seems like it anyway. If you happen to be out there on a Sunday morning you would get the impression that everyone in town rides or runs. Heck a couple of weeks ago I saw a guy on a unicycle going down that road.

    I haven't done any cycling events yet but just about every road race I've run in goes through there. Oh they did have this 24 hours of booty bike event there not too long ago. I do kind of feel sorry for the people who live on that road because they have to get tired of it but I suppose it's the price you pay for living on one of the most beautiful streets in town.

    So I think they get tired of bikes.

    Then there is the East Blvd project. It was a 4 lane road, one of the busiest ones in town. The city turned it into a 2 lane road by sticking big planters in the median and putting in bike lanes. They did it to slow traffic down, it did not go over well with the motoring public. They seem to use bike lanes as a "traffic calming" tactic. It may calm traffic but seeing bikes using them does not seem to calm the drivers.

    People seem to think that just because you happen to be on a bike at that moment, you are not paying your fair share of road taxes and should not be allowed on the roads. The funny thing is that I live IN the city - as in I have a Charlotte address, not Rock Hill, Huntersville, Monroe, Mint Hill... but Charlotte. Most of the time the people I hear complaining about this sort of thing live in the burbs so I'm pretty sure that I'm paying more taxes to support the actual city than they are.

    Then there is the, "you cyclists ride down the middle of the road. I wait until traffic is clear to go around you and then when I'm at a red light you go past me in the gutter" kind of thing.

    Every now and then there is a news story about a cyclist who has been injured or killed and quite frankly the comments on the Charlotte Observer website have shocked me. Things like, "well now there's one less of them".

    The comments on the paper's website are what really scared me off of cycling. When I first headed out I was expecting it to be like riding through a DMZ. Thankfully so far at least people have been very friendly. I did pull a spaz though. My second day on the bike and I wanted to turn left. I'm shinny and new at road cycling and was afraid to look over my shoulder to see if the road was clear, also I'd rather not stop and have to wrestle my shoes back into my toe clips. I solved this by rather abruptly turning right and thinking I would do a U-turn but the car behind me also turned right. I panicked and just stopped. He stopped because obviously some idiot on a bike was acting strangely. I sort of waved and said "sorry its a new bike and I haven't gotten the hang of it." I thought he was going to go off but he just laughed and said "hey I hear it's like riding a bike" (groan). What do you do, you have to laugh at his funny there because heck the guy could have taken me out. I'm just hoping that kind of thing is the norm and the people writing in the paper are just venting trolls.

  15. #15
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    Sep 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by aponi View Post
    I'm just hoping that kind of thing is the norm and the people writing in the paper are just venting trolls.
    For some reason irrational venting about cyclists is socially acceptable to many people. Just yesterday I was at a work seminar, having a relaxed, civilized dinner (on a car- and bike-free island, btw), when a co-worker - a petite little doll of a thing who is cute, and softspoken, and very unaggressive - suddenly started to vent about wanting to run down those awful cyclists all over the place where she lives, who "think they're in the TdF, ride 4 abreast, never let anyone pass" etc etc. Totally unexpected, especially because she must have known that many of us are cyclists. But I don't think she realizes that someone wearing team kit can actually be the same kind of person who rides to work, and works with her.
    She was pretty surprised when we didn't all chime in, but started a careful discussion of what actually is legal, good behaviour, how she could discuss the problem with the local cycling club and so forth.
    Winter riding is much less about badassery and much more about bundle-uppery. - malkin

    1995 Kona Cinder Cone commuterFrankenbike/Selle Italia SLR Lady Gel Flow
    2008 white Nakamura Summit Custom mtb/Terry Falcon X
    2000 Schwinn Fastback Comp road bike/Specialized Jett

 

 

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