The Cyclist or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Spandex

I’ve been copping some flak lately from friends, family and coworkers after a careless Facebook status update revealed my proclivity for wearing spandex cycling shorts to the world. As a result of this I’ve had to endure the harshest of criticisms: my masculinity has been questioned, my package-size scrutinised.

Well, I won’t stand for it any longer.

Someone has to stand up for the bike-shorts wearing population: one of the least mentioned, yet most marginalised groups in our society. A proud people who want nothing more than to be comfortable while they exercise. And just as it’s wrong to judge a man without first having walked a mile in his shoes, so too is it wrong to judge a cyclist without riding a few miles in his lycra.

How dare you judge this man?

You see, I used to be like you. I wouldn’t have given a second thought to giggling at the sight of a man wearing spandex. I always thought spandex was only for the ladies, or for fat people with a grudge against the general public. Oh and superheroes. How could I forget superheroes?

Please, don’t hurt me Wolverine!

But that was the old me; a lot’s changed since then. It all started back in January this year. After many months I finally managed to scrape together the money for my first road bike. It was long overdue; I’d spent the better part of my weekends in 2011 killing myself trying to keep pace with my road biking friends on my dad’s mountain bike. This would all change after I bought my Giant Defy 3:

Picture from the day I bought my bike.

I went about enjoying all the benefits of roadbikedom. The lightweight frame, the high speeds, the comparative effortlessness of pedalling. It was, and is, one of the great joys of my daily life. In some ways it felt like graduating to a higher plane of the cycling world; like taking your training wheels off for the first time. Finally I was rolling with the big boys.

But something was amiss.

You see, while I had all the essential bike accessories (helmet, saddlebag, spare tyre, pump, water bottle, etc) I hadn’t given any thought to changing my attire. While my friends seemed to have the right gear for any occasion (detachable leg and arm warmers anyone?) I continued wearing any old t-shirts and shorts I had lying around. Other cyclists looked at me strangely like I was an imposter. I was shunned; an outcast. This simply wasn’t going to cut it in the cycling world.I realised then that an important part of any hobby is really committing to it by getting all the equipment, or in this case, the attire.

I knew what I had to do.

So it was that I bought my first pair of spandex bike shorts. I unwrapped the plastic packaging and gazed upon them dubiously. I felt the stretch of them in my hands. I prodded the padding that stretched from crotch to crack, and wondered just what I’d gotten myself into. But there was no time for second thoughts now. I had to try them on. I took a deep breath. I knew the next few moments would be the most monumental shift in my nether regions since the great briefs to boxers movement of 1998.

I spent many minutes adjusting and readjusting. I had to stare at myself in the mirror for a while to figure out if I was fit for the eyes of society. But after getting over the initial discomfort, I mounted my bike and set off for a spin around the neighbourhood to see if it had all been worth it.

It was an unusual feeling at first. The heaviness of the padding in the seat of my pants made me feel like I’d perpetually shit myself, and I kept feeling around back there to check if everything was okay. It called to mind the image of wearing a nappy, and perhaps in some bizarre Freudian way, gave me positive feelings of security.

That aside, with each passing moment I felt better and better. The padding in the shorts shielded me from a bike seat arse-raping. In the warmth of the summer sun, I felt cool and dry, instead of being drenched in the crotch sweat that I had previously come to accept as inevitable. I decided to pick up the pace, and as I sprinted I was amazed at the difference in comfort. I stood up in the pedals and felt the wind in my loins, and freedom in my heart. All was right in the world, and it was all thanks to the spandex.

So I won’t stand your criticisms any longer. I don’t care if my junk is on display (it really isn’t visible, and even if it was, who’s gonna see it when you’re sitting down and pedalling past at 30km/hr?). The comfort is worth it. My body thanks me for it. For if we ride, do we not sweat? If we wear underpants, do we not chafe? If we chafe, do we not bleed?

Image 3

The author, rocking the spandex earlier this year in the RAC Freeway Bike Hike.



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