Hey, Mr. Spandex Man!

Last night I met for our last formal meeting before the Palmetto Peloton Project’s Challenge to Conquer Cancer teams head out on October 18 to ride from Greenville, South Carolina to Austin, Texas where we will participate in the LiveSTRONG Challenge there.  It was a good meeting and I’m starting to feel a bit more excitement about the trip.  It brought back some good memories of last year… I’m ready to make some more.

Ron (our fearless organizer) handed me my jerseys that I will be wearing during the ride.  A couple of t-shirts were included along with some arm warmers and a windbreaker vest.  Laying it all out on my bed brought a radio show I heard recently to my mind.

It was a conversation between some morning show guys about cyclists.  They were mentioning the normal complaints about cyclists.  Then they started going off on cyclists about what we wear.

Their impression is that we wear our spandex outfits because we want people to see how “fit” we are.  In their words, “Okay, I get it.  You’re more in shape than I am.  But why do you have to wear all that spandex? Why can’t you just wear regular clothes?  You don’t have to look like a racer.”

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Well, for those of you who do not ride – or only ride on your cruiser, etc., let me explain to you why we wear what we wear.  We’ll start with the shorts.  We don’t wear them to show off our legs.  At least I don’t!  Here are some of the main purposes behind them.

1) The most important part of the shorts is the chammie.  This is a pad made into the shorts that protects your more sensitive areas.  Unlike your typical shorts, there are no seams in that area.  Riding in typical shorts would be extremely uncomfortable on a road bike!  Chaffing, loss of circulation, and blisters would be the result of “wearing regular clothes.”

2) I mentioned there are no seams on the shorts.  Actually, there are, but they are strategically placed so as not to cut into your skin or rub in areas that have lots of movement.  The compression aspect of the spandex also helps with circulation.

3) We don’t like to think of crashing, but it does happen.  It is more likely to happen with racers, but recreational cyclists are not immune to a fall here or there.  Cycling gear helps protect the skin by serving as a second skin as you are sliding across the pavement.  Regular shorts would just slide up exposing more raw flesh for destruction!

What about those jerseys?  Well, for a recreational cyclist it is true a cycling jersey would not be as needful as the shorts, but there are a couple good reasons for them that I would like to mention.  Also, many times they have another sentimental purpose as well.

1) Most cycling jerseys are cut specifically for the positions you hold while riding a road bike.  They are also form fitting.  Go 20 mph down a road with a loose t-shirt on and you will find that doing so for any amount of time will start to beat you up.  The flapping can become quite uncomfortable.  Not to mention the chaffing in some sensitive chest areas!

2) One of the main reasons I use a cycling jersey is for the pockets.  One of the down sides to the shorts is they don’t have pockets — not that you would want something heavy knocking around on your legs while you ride!  A good cycling jersey will have three expandable pockets on the back lower portion.  It is amazing how much you can stuff in there!

3) Many times cycling jerseys represent something important to the rider.  Take my P3C3 jersey that I received last night.  It represents something important to me.  I also treasure my Assault on Mount Mitchell jersey and some of the charity ride jerseys I have.  You probably have that favorite t-shirt.  Well, cyclist often have that jersey.

It is true that some of us ride around in true racing kits.  These are normally outfits where the shorts and jerseys match with logos of sponsors all over them.  I wear my POA Cycling Team kit – or uniform – every time I am on the bike.  It isn’t because I am trying to show off that I am a big time racer either.

Most teams have rules that you are supposed to wear the kit while on the bike.  This is for the purpose of honoring the arrangement with the sponsors who help us enjoy our habit.  Sure, we’re rolling billboards, but it is worth it as a way to show thanks to those supporting us — especially when our kits are as cool as the POA Cycling Team ones!

What can get kind of messy is when you have two competing purposes.  Until the final race of the year, I’m wearing the POA kit… even when doing P3C3 events.  Then when I’m done, I’ll shift over to the P3C3 jersey.  Once I’m back from Austin… I don’t know… maybe I’ll get one of those black and yellow LiveSTRONG kits.