10 fashion disasters that every true cyclist should avoid

Looking slick on the roads? Err, maybe not...

No matter what your personal views are on the subject, if you’re going to wear Lycra when you’re out for a cycle, people are probably going to laugh in your face.

Just because you don’t care about that fact doesn’t mean that you should ignore the rules of road cycling fashion, though. These are rules that you can only learn through time spent in the two-wheeled community, or by getting on first-name terms with the staff at the local bike shop of course.

If you’ve still not managed to master the fashion faux pas of the bike world, though, fear not, because here’s our crash course in what not to wear when you’re out on two wheels. It could just save you from losing your dignity…

Mis-matched team kit and bike

The recent rise in cycling has been driven by MAMILs (middle-aged men in Lycra), who seem to have decided that cycling is the new golf. These guys are going out and buying the first bike that appeals to them. That usually means something in carbon fibre with a four-figure price tag. Then they go home and start watching the Classics and Grand Tours on the TV and suddenly decide that they want to show their support for the likes of Wiggins and Cavendish. To do this, they purchase the appropriate full team issue kit. Unfortunately, Wiggo and the rest of Team Sky ride Pinarello bikes but our hapless wannabes will be on anything but. They won’t be aware of this, but regular roadies will scorn them for such a crass mismatching of bike and kit.

Pants under Lycra

This is the one that every newbie road rider does. When people first take up road cycling there seems to be a real reluctance to fully embrace the culture and go commando. It could be modesty, it could be the belief that the extra layer of fabric will mean increased comfort or it could simply and more likely be ignorance. I mean, telling someone to get their pants off is not the sort of thing you can easily say to a stranger. The thing is it’s not simply a style issue, even though the visible outline of a pair of saggy Y-fronts under Lycra shorts is offensive on so many levels. Ditching the pants and wearing well-designed shorts with a good padded insert will make a world of difference to on-bike comfort.

Shorts over leggings

I’m really not sure where this started. It could be memories of Superman wearing his pants over his superhero tights, or it could be the way footballers wear their shorts over leggings when training, but whatever the origin it’s simply unacceptable on a bicycle. I mean, it makes you look like you’re not even capable of dressing yourself properly. It’s not just the look of it that bothers me, but the fact that the same points as wearing cycle shorts over pants are relevant here. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some people wear pants, leggings and then cycling shorts. That’s just saddle sores waiting to happen.

Baggies on a road bike

Coming to the subject of mtb riders crossing over to the road and bringing their kit with them opens up a whole minefield of road cycling fashion crimes. While baggy shorts are perfectly acceptable for off-road riding - in fact, more common than Lycra these days - the exact opposite is true of road riding. If a bike has drop bars then you really do need to embrace the embarrassment of figure hugging kit. Well, it’s either that or get stared at when you stop mid-way through a ride at the local road tea stop for a brew and a slice of cake.

Off-road shoes on a road bike

Staying with the theme of off-road/road cross-over brings up the subject of footwear. I’ll put my hand up here and admit that when I got my first road bike I ran it with a set of mtb clipless pedals and used my matching mountain bike shoes. My excuse for such crass behaviour was that having bought the bike, I didn’t have money left for suitable pedals and shoes. However, once I could make the change I did and there’s good reason for doing so. With proper road pedals, there’s a much bigger surface area that means you can get the power down more easily and there’s also less chance of getting uncomfortable pressure hot spots. It also means you won’t get laughed at by real roadies

Long socks

This is a recent and most worrying trend. For as long as I can remember, cyclists of all kinds have worn short socks. And why not? If you’ve got well-defined calf muscles from lots of cycling, then why not wear short socks so you can show them off? The other point is it’s easier to get oil from the bike’s chain off your leg than it is to get it out of a pair of long socks. Short socks will also give you an opportunity to display your cycling related tattoo on your calf in a non-ironic way, but more on that subject later.

Arm warmers and leg warmers rolled down

Now don’t get me wrong, I think both arm warmers and leg warmers are a great idea, especially for spring and autumn riding. The great thing about them is that they make summer riding kit much more versatile. So why is it that when people go out riding in them and the weather warms up do they simply just push them down, leaving them all bunched up. While this may be acceptable if you’re a pro rider on the road where every second counts in a race, for a Sunday morning leisure ride how difficult is it to stop and take them off and stuff ‘em in your jersey pocket?

Unshaved legs

It could be argued that people are using leg warmers or long socks to hide just how hirsute they are. Well, there’s a simple answer to that: buy a razor. If you’re going to ride on the road and you’ve taken to figure-hugging Lycra as an acceptable form of dress, you may as well go the whole way and emulate the pros with the hairless look. You see the thing is, it’s got nothing to do with aerodynamics, and while it does help with post ride massages, the lack of hair makes it much easier to clean the gravel out from under your skin after you’ve crashed. Nice. Hey, it also means your toned and tanned muscles are shown off to full effect.

Chainring leg tattoos

Shaved legs can also be used to show off your ill-advised chainring tattoo. Why the first person to have a section of chainring tattooed onto their calf thought it was a good idea is beyond me, and even more confounding is that others have copied the idea. How can people possibly think it’s cool to have a tattoo that looks like you pressed your leg against an oily chainring? Oh, by all means, get a tattoo, get multiple tattoos, but put a bit of thought into the design first.

Cycling kit as casual wear

This is one of those trends in fashion that keeps going away and then coming back again for whatever reason. I first remember seeing people wearing cycling tops as everyday clothing in the mod revival of the late ’70s, and then it started to happen again with rave culture. This is bad because most team trade tops appear to have been designed by someone with access to too many crayons; understated and tasteful they are not. Secondly, unless you’ve got a washboard stomach, the cut of the average cycling jersey is less than flattering. If you want to let the world know you’re a cyclist when you’re off the bike there are plenty of T-shirts that you can wear that proclaim your allegiance, and if you want to go upmarket there’s a vast choice of casual cycling kit from the likes of Rapha and Paul Smith. This really is one of those time where less (logos) is more.


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