In 1994 I bought my first decent mountain bike. I fell in love with it. While other kids my age were buying cars, I was upgrading to SPD pedals and new suspension. But there was one thing that I could not get behind. That was lycra/spandex/tights. While I had no problems with people like Ned Overend and Tinker Juarez wearing lycra/spandex/tights, I couldn’t. I think that was my aversion to road biking. While I could get away with baggies and a t-shirt mountain biking, I couldn’t with road biking. In fact, there is only one thing worse then lycra/spandex/tights, and that is people riding road bikes in baggies.
Several years later I got a job at a coffee shop, it was the best job I have ever had. While working the evening shift, a gentleman would come in for post road ride coffee. I looked forward to him coming in each evening during the summer; he rode fine Italian steel with Campagnolo and gorgeous lug work. To me, this made up for the fact that he wore lycra/spandex/tights.
We would talk at great length about bicycles, he was somewhat fascinated with mountain bikes and I was intrigued with his road bikes. I was always amazed that he would regularly ride up McDonald Pass, with an impressive 2000+ feet of elevation gain. Then, one day he showed up in his old Toyota pickup (my kind of guy, his bike was worth more than his car) and a cast on his arm. He had crashed on the pass and tore several tendons in his hand. It was at that point that I came to the realization, that road biking and lycra/spandex/tights had a serious element of risk and may not have been that bad.
Several years later, he and my mother-in-law began seeing each other and were married. What a great story. I digress, back to the discussion of lycra/spandex/tights. When I bought my cyclocross bike, I planned on using it on the road for longer distances. At that point I realized that it would be necessary for me to don lycra/spandex/tights because I did not want to be that guy riding long distances in baggies. I have overcome my issues with wearing tight clothing, at least on the road.
A year ago, I took a bunch of Boy Scouts out to work on their Bicycling Merit Badge. A friend knew that I was a bike enthusiast and thought it would be fun. It was hell. Plain and simple hell, nothing like riding 20 miles with a bunch of people with rusty bikes from Wal-mart....50 lb bikes. Not that I am prejudice, I just learned that the condition of a person's bike is a direct correlation to their abilities to ride long distances. didn't We planned a ride that would take place in Northern Virginia and West Virginia. I put on my tights and I was ready for the 20 mile ride. Of course the 15 boy scouts started snickering. I stated that if any of them beat me, they could make fun. During that ride as I cranking away in rural West Virginia, a pitbull ran out from a house and cut me off. There I was all alone, using my bike as barrier between me and the dog, wearing tights. I may have screamed which got the attention of the redneck who lived in the house. I think I heard a banjo in the distance. I briefly thought, "why did I wear tights." I was so far ahead that none of the boys witnessed this event. No one said a word at the end of the day about the tights, but I am sure the boys and a redneck were all snickering.
Here is the dilemma, I am in the Army. The Army is not the most open minded organization, especially when it comes to men wearing tights. I have been to combat; I have fought insurgents, hit by roadside bombs, shot at, mortared…..you would think that no one would judge me for wearing tights. You would think!
As stated before, I have come to terms with my lycra/spandex/tights; I just wish the people I work with could. It would be nice if I could go for a morning ride and come in to shower without a ton of catcalls.