There is a division amongst the cycling community about many issues, the most controversial of which is whether to wear a helmet. (Don't get me started on that one! Another blog maybe?) But the second one is about wearing proper cycling clothing AKA lycra. Never has a sport been so ridiculed as is cycling for its correct apparel. Why is this, I wondered?
Now a hipster cycling along Stoke Newington High Street in their skinny jeans, one leg rolled up chain-side, does probably not need to wear lycra even if they had the remotest desire to do so. A quick hop between a bar and a cafe just does not require a change of clothes. Nor the commuter cycling between Brixton and the City on the Cycle Superhighway, or the middle class shopper popping to the shops with a basket on the front of their Pashley.
But I would argue that for the serious cyclist, and I don't just mean roadies, wearing the 'proper' clothing is pretty much essential. And for me a pair of trendy jeans with roll up reflective parts or a suit jacket with reversible reflective lapels just does not do the job! They may look cool but they must be really uncomfortable, at least for a serious distance (say an 8-10 mile commute or a recreational ride of a similar or longer distance).
So let's work on the basis here that I am talking about padded shorts or bib shorts and a proper cycling jersey (either merino wool or most probably lycra). What is so wrong about these items of clothing that cause so much mirth amongst non-cyclist office workers and so much hatred from white van drivers? (BTW I am the first to admit that I chuckle every time I put on a pair of bib shorts and see myself in the mirror looking like a 1970s wrestler!) Why should I not be allowed to wear the correct clothing for my sport of choice? Why do cycling trendies hate lycra so much? Well I don't know the answer to these questions, but here's why you should wear lycra and be proud!
Once you have done the walk of shame from the loo/ changing room to your desk, collected your possessions and walked out to the bike rack, once you get on your bike this clothing is the most comfortable and practical for the task at hand. No seams to chafe, no lumps or bumps, no flys, no buttons, just smooth lycra! Nothing loose to flap in the wind, nothing to get caught in your chain. What's not to like?
Cycling clothing is made to cycle in, just like running clothing is made to run in. They are ergonomically designed, e.g. long at the back, and made of technical fabrics. When you sweat the sweat comes to the surface and dries, keeping you warm. If it rains the fabric dries quickly. If you do get soaked on the way to work they are easier to dry before your commute home. I see too many people cycling in a sopping wet cotton tee shirt and wonder how they ever get that dry. It is so much more hygienic and as long as you are clean and so is your clothing you will not smell.
Now padded shorts take a while (like 5 minutes!) to get used to. When you first put them on it feels a bit like a nappy. But when you sit on your saddle and ride it just makes sense. All of your vital areas are protected. I personally cannot see how people cannot wear them for cycling any real distance, no matter how good their saddle. And no, padded shorts don't have to mean camel toe!
You can wash your lycra overnight and it will be dry for the morning. Because it is so lightweight, you can easily carry a spare set of clothing if you are going to get wet and won't have the chance to dry out.
Makes you go faster
Wearing lycra makes you go faster. Now I can't prove this but I know it! Not only are you more aerodynamic, but there is something psychological about it! Because you are wearing sporty clothing you cycle faster. After all you would not want the hipster, the shopper or the commuter in a suit to overtake you would you!!