At first, I was resistant. Spending more than a thousand dollars on a new road bike seemed to make the eventual purchase of Lycra an inevitability, a foregone conclusion. I have ridden bikes for transportation and recreation since I was in elementary school, but never had I felt the compulsion to don the close-fitting uniform of serious cyclists.
Contributing to my resistance was my wife, Kaisha. First, she has a fashion sense, and if bicycle shorts were put on a continuum between functional on the left side, and fashionable on the right, they would fall right off the left side into a pit occupied by fanny packs and velcro sneakers. Second, I got the feeling that after spending her youth as one of the cool kids, she subconsciously recognized that road cyclists are the ubernerds of the North American sports world.
The nerd status of cyclists, at least those that take themselves seriously, is hard to deny. Even putting aside the obsession with technology, equipment, and, most damning, data, the fact is that a cyclist reaching their ultimate goal will end up with shaved legs, a weak upper body, and skills that have very little use when the cyclist isn’t attached to a pair of pedals. Maybe someday, teen cyclists will walk in gangs down the halls of high schools (drafting as they do, of course), with their muscled legs, and conversely unmuscled arms, drawing fear and admiration from their peers. Maybe that vision would become a reality if, for example, some apocalyptic event wiped all other forms of transportation off the planet, leaving cyclists as the messenger gods of a nascent world culture built around human-powered technologies.
In the meantime, I did eventually muster the courage to overcome both my own reluctance (mostly due to fear of the dreaded male equivalent of the camel-toe, the moose-knuckle) and Kaisha’s light-hearted objections. I left my baggy shorts in the closet, put on the eight-panel shorts, the jersey, even a particularly streamlined pair of socks, and I went for a ride. And it was glorious.