There are certain things someone who lives with a cyclist takes for granted but which may raise the eyebrows of people who live in non-cycling households.
Cycling apparel and in particular bib shorts, is as good a place to start as any. Google image ‘bib shorts’ and if you are not sniggering but checking out the price, label, as well as attempting to assess the quality of chamois inserts then you either are a cyclist or you live with one.
This is because decent bib shorts, as every cyclist knows, are an essential part of a rider’s kit. To the untrained eye the often black, stretchy lycra shorts are just that; skin tight and rather revealing. Embarrassing even; if worn by a parent who has peddled home and straight to sports day without getting changed first;
‘Please Dad, yes, of course I’m glad you came to watch, just don’t get off the bike.’
To a cyclist, the right cycling gear makes a difference. Well-fitting shorts protect the wearer from soreness and keeps the cyclist comfortable and dry, within reason, however long they ride. Another fact which may escape the non-cyclists among us is that modern bib shorts are designed to be worn without underwear for maximum comfort or worn as undergarments themselves. Baggy boxers underneath reveal a cyclist’s amateur status faster than their speed on the bike.
The kit worn on bikes has evolved and so too has the appearance of cyclists. Early specialist cycling clothes were made in Milan for five-time Giro d’Italia winner Alfredo Binda in 1910 and when Armando Castelli acquired the tailor shop in 1939 he began to design kit especially for iconic cyclists of the time. Fausto Coppi challenged Castelli to produce light clothing to lessen weight while he rode and allow him to race up Alp d’Huez and in 1940 at the age of 20 Coppi won his first Giro d’Italia. A silk jersey had replaced a woollen one.
Of course modern designs of clothing have come a long way since the 1950’s. Bib shorts are no longer knitted black wool with a leather chamois patch; spandex is all the rage with a synthetic chamois, in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit every rider. Hems are lined with silicone or elastic to keep the shorts in the right position. Cycling jerseys, cut long at the back to accommodate the bent-over position and equipped with a long zipper for ventilation fit the rider snuggly to reduce air resistance and are made of material designed to wick moisture from the skin to keep the cyclist cool and comfortable.
All this, cyclist’s take for granted. While the choice of clothing style, whether retro or kit worn by a current cycling hero or team is another consideration, it is functionality that reigns supreme.
This is because a cyclist is more than a casual rider, more than someone who has a bike in their shed but who rarely allows it to see daylight.
Cycling becomes part of your lifestyle and so if you live with a cyclist you know about it.
It’s interesting to think about it from a non-cycling partner’s perspective for a moment. From the person who rolls over in bed (and would roll their eyes too if they were open) as the alarm goes off at the weekend sometimes even earlier than during the week and causes the cyclist to jump out of bed far quicker.
The perspective of the partner waiting at home unsure whether the cyclist will return feeling elated as their legs felt good and ravenously hungry; able to eat as they deserve to reward their body for its performance. Or will the non-cycling partner welcome home a cyclist exhausted and beaten? A rider made to feel like the whipping boy for hours as their cycling companions have punished them up and down hills. Or do you live with a rider who’s battled on their own against their body’s reluctance to ride as they think it should? Or triumphed and ridden a new personal best? Will the cyclist collapse and feel dizzy and sick having pushed themselves too hard or will there be energy left to do ‘normal’ things at the weekend. Will they want to take the kids out for some lunch or have they already had a cycling café stop?
But if you live with a cyclist then you know that they do not think that they are the ones out of kilter. They do not think it odd for the male of the house to be giving the teenage daughters tips on shaving their legs or the best ways to keep their weight down. They do not think a couple of hours out of the house are indicative of a long ride and they would not swap their dedication and devotion to the bike for pretty much anything, unless really pushed!
It is interesting to think of the perspective of a non-cyclist but really only if you are a non-cyclist.
As Desmond Tutu once said ‘Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring.’
If you live with a cyclist they will agree but probably ask what Desmond Tutu knows about cycling anyway.
A true cyclist, whilst able to concede that their passion for riding the bike may be likened to a love affair or obsession, is probably more interested in their next ride or latest bike gear.
If you live with a cyclist and you don’t join them as far as their need to peddle is concerned, especially after that one terrifying time on a tandem when you were so frightened going down a hill at a ‘reasonable’ speed you swore you would never sit in a saddle again, you may not want to be a cyclist too, but you certainly admire the sport.