No matter what your personal views are on the subject, if you’re going to wear lycra when you’re out for a cycle, people are probably going to laugh in your face.
Just because you don’t care about that fact doesn’t mean that you should ignore the rules of road cycling fashion though. Of which, there are many. Of course, it's good to do whatever the hell you want, and at the end of the day you should be comfortable, but most people will want to look good on the bike, and for a lot of people, looking good on the bike means feeling good on the bike too. You can fit in that many more turns when you know you're looking stylish while you do it.
So how exactly do you do that? Well for one, don't let whoever the hell designed the Colombian cycling team's outfit above design your kit. Or else it'll end up looking like - well, we all know what it looks like.
Moving swiftly on.
These are rules that you can only learn through time spent in the two-wheeled community, or by getting on first-name terms with the staff at the local bike shop of course.
If you’ve still not managed to master the fashion faux pas of the bike world though, fear not, because here’s our crash course in what not to wear when you’re out on two wheels. It could just save you from losing your dignity...
1) Complete Mismatch Between Team Kit and Bike
The recent rise in cycling has been driven by the MAMILs (middle-aged men in Lycra), who seem to have decided that cycling is the new golf.
These guys are going out and buying the first shiny bike they set their eyes on. That usually means something in carbon fibre with a four-figure price tag.
Next, the MAMIL tends to go home and start watching the Classics and Grand Tours on TV, subsequently deciding that they must find a way to let everyone know they’ve been cheering for Bradley Wiggins or Mark Cavendish.
To do this, the MAMIL will purchase the appropriate full team issue kit. Unfortunately, Wiggo and the rest of Team Sky ride Pinarello bikes, while our hapless wannabes ride anything but. They won’t be aware of this, but regular roadies will scorn them for such a crass mismatching of bike and kit.
2) Wearing Underwear Under Lycra
This is the one that every newbie road rider is guilty of. When people first take up road cycling, there seems to be a real reluctance to embrace the culture and go commando.
It could be modesty, it could be the belief that the extra layer of fabric will mean increased comfort, or it could simply be down to ignorance or utter fear. Telling someone to get their pants off is not the sort of thing you can easily say to a stranger after all.
The thing is that this is not simply a style issue either, even though the visible outline of a pair of saggy Y-fronts under Lycra shorts is undeniably offensive. Ditching the pants and wearing well-designed shorts with a good padded insert will make a word of difference to on-bike comfort.
3) Wearing Shorts Over Leggings
I’m really not sure where this started. It could be memories of Superman wearing his pants over tights or it could be down to footballers wearing shorts over leggings in training, but whatever the origin, it’s simply unacceptable when you’re riding a bike.
Let’s be serious for a minute, wearing shorts over your leggings makes you look like you’re not capable of properly dressing yourself.
It’s not just the look of it that bothers us either. The same facts apply here as they do to those who wear cycling shorts over pants. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise us if some people wear pants, leggings and then cycling shorts. Forgetting fashion for one brief moment – that’s just a saddle sore waiting to happen.
4) Wearing Baggies On A Road Bike
We’re now coming to the subject of mountain bike riders who cross over to the road and bring their kit with them. It opens up a whole minefield of road cycling fashion crimes.
While baggy shorts are perfectly acceptable for off-road riding, in fact, they’re more common than lycra these days, the exact opposite is true for road riding.
If a bike has drop bars then you really do need to embrace the embarrassment of figure-hugging kit. Well, it’s either that or get some particularly strange looks when you stop mid-way through a ride for a brew and a slice of cake at the local road tea stop.
5) Off-Road Shoes On A Road Bike
The theme of off-road/road cross-overs naturally brings up the subject of footwear. I’ll put my hand up here and admit that when I got my first road bike, I ran it with a set of clipless MTB pedals and used matching mountain bike shoes.
My excuse for such crass behaviour was that having bought the bike, I didn’t have money left for suitable pedals and shoes. However, once I could make the change I did, and there’s good reason for doing so.
With proper road pedals, there’s a much bigger surface area that means you can get the power down more easily, and there’s also less chance of getting uncomfortable pressure hot spots.
Of course, it also means you won’t get laughed at by all the 'real roadies' who pass you as well.
6) Wearing Long Socks
This is a recent and most worrying trend. For as long as I can remember, cyclists of all kinds have worn short socks. And why not? If you’ve got well-defined calf muscles, from lots of cycling, then why not wear short socks so you can show them off?
The other point is that it’s easier to get oil from the bike’s chain off your leg than it is to get it out of some socks. Short socks will also give you an opportunity to display your cycling related calf-tattoo in a non-ironic way... but more on that later.
7) Arm Warmers And Leg Warmers... Bunched Up
Now don’t get me wrong, I think both arm warmers and leg warmers are a great idea, especially for spring and autumn riding.
The great thing about them is that they make summer riding kit much more versatile too. So why is it that when people go out riding in them and the weather warms up, they push them down, leaving them all bunched up?
This may be acceptable if you’re a pro rider racing along the road, with every second counting and your rivals chasing behind. For a Sunday morning leisure ride though, how difficult is it to stop, take the things off and stuff ‘em in your jersey pocket? Not very difficult. Not very difficult at all.
8) Un-shaven legs
It could be argued that people are using leg warmers or long socks to hide just how hirsute they are. Well, there’s a simple answer to that; buy a razor.
If you’re going to ride on the road and you’ve taken to figure hugging lycra as an acceptable form of dress, you may as well go the whole way and emulate the pros with the hairless look.
You see, the thing is it’s got nothing to do with aerodynamics, and while it does help with post ride massages, the lack of hair makes it much easier to clean the gravel out from under your skin after you’ve crashed as well!
Hey, it also means your toned and tanned muscles are shown off to full effect too. If you’re in to that kind of thing.
9) Chainring Leg Tattoos
Shaved legs can also be used to show off your ill-advised chainring tattoo. Why the first person to have a section of chainring tattooed onto their calf thought it was a good idea is completely beyond us, and even more confounding is the fact that the concept has clearly caught on as well.
How can people possibly think it’s not cool to have a tattoo that looks like you’ve pressed your leg against an oily chainring, we hear you ask. By all means get a tattoo – get multiple tattoos and all related to bikes if you really want – but please, put a bit of thought into the design first.
10) Wearing Cycling Kit As Casual Gear
This is a one of those trends in fashions that keeps going away and then for one reason or another, keeps coming back again.
I first remember seeing people wearing cycling tops as everyday clothing in the mod revival of the late ’70s, and then it started to happen again with rave culture. This is bad because most team trade tops appear to have been designed by someone with access to too many crayons. Understated and tasteful they most certainly are not.
Secondly, unless you’ve got a washboard stomach, the cut of the average cycling jersey is less than flattering. If you want to let the world know you’re a cyclist when you’re off the bike, there are plenty of T-shirts that you can wear to proclaim your allegiance, and if you want to go upmarket, there’s a vast choice of casual cycling kit from the likes of Rapha and Paul Smith too.
This is definitely one of those times where less (logos) really is more.