Lycra

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.

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