When I first started posting blog entries a couple years ago, there were a lot of rants. I indulged the chance to declare many longtime pet peeves: turn signal misuse, men who wear shorts in wintertime, Dodge’s over-marketing of its “Hemi” engine, deliberately shaved and penciled-in eyebrows, slow drivers in the left lane, leaf blowers. But ultimately I came to believe that ranting alone does not comprise an interesting enough post. So now the bar is higher, with a little introspection a necessary accompaniment to the bitching.
Which brings me to spandex bicycling clothes.
The other day I was driving downtown during morning rush hour. On the Hawthorne Bridge ramp alone I must have seen thirty people on bicycles. I assume a majority were on their way to work, but they were almost universally outfitted in that familiar but-hugging, advertisement-festooned spandex we’ve come to associate with serious cyclists.
Last night I started telling Valarie that I’d never be caught dead in that kind of outfit. I can understand wanting to not get your work clothes all sweaty and therefore having an exercise outfit of some sort. But I’m always shocked that so many people take the step of actually wearing spandex. Am I the only one who doesn’t feel comfortable being shrinkwrapped? I mean, unless you’re Lance Armstrong, to me it looks kind of silly.
To this Valarie replied with an obvious explanation but one I hadn’t sufficiently considered, that these outfits are all about performance. It’s not that cyclists collectively decided spandex was the fashion statement they wanted to make per se. It’s that when riding, the more aerodynamic you can make yourself, the easier your ride will be.
What this all tells me is that I must be vain. There’s no doubt that I would rather be burdened by an inferior wind coefficient due to instisting on clothes that don’t make me feel silly than to ride scores of miles, however more aerodynamic, clad in the same material they use for leotards and tutus (not to mention many a headbanging rocker's costume).
Nevertheless, I must confess that fashion is largely about the context of what culture, sub culture or pursuit (such as cycling) you happen to be associated with. I suppose the cyclists with the Discovery Channel logo hugging their asses don’t think they look silly at all. They probably believe that, besides choosing their clothing based on performance considerations, the message world from cyling gear is that its wearers are devoted to what they're doing. And they're above all that prudery about revealing the body, just as female tennis players long ago stopped wearing skirts that go all the way to the ground.
Ironically, however much I may sound touchy about clothes that hug the body, aside from my spandex bycyclist rant I actually think most men dress way too baggy. (Ever heard of tapering, fellas? That shirt needn't look like a gunny sack.) But that’s another conversation.
The point is that I have to acknowledge my take on cycling attire isn’t an indestructible argument. Spandex apparently has its place beyond the Tour de France, even if it looks like you had to jump off a building to get into it. Not everybody is as much of a couch potato as me, content in sweats and tee-shirt on those rare occasions working out; for many, exercise is a passionate, even spiritual pursuit. And these people are admittedly a lot healthier than yours truly.
I rant, therefore I am? Nah, more like I rant, and therefore I reveal – perhaps even more than the cyclists.