I am not the most stylish person in the world, I admit. I like to think this is because being stylish inherently means that one is materialistic and spends money on clothing and accessories to look cool, while I, on the other hand, recognize that it is what we have on the inside that makes us cool. Well, it turns out that I’m a total hypocrite. What does this have to do with riding bikes? It depends on who you are I suppose, but for me, it means that I try to approach in reality the dreamy vision of myself that I believe others see when I’m out dominating the local trail.
This may not seem like a big difference to some people. It is. Notice the subtle evolution from the bottom picture of a dude who thinks he looks cool shredding that field in his cute ankle socks to the upper picture of a dude who knows he is cool shredding that singletrack somewhere totally rad like Durango in his business casual riding attire. One of the first major lessons I learned when I started mountain biking and cycling in general in Colorado is that you can’t judge a cyclist’s skill level by his outfit or bike. In fact, the more beat up the clothes and bike are, the better the cyclist, generally speaking, especially if they are older. A good example of this is pictured below:
There is no way to know that the guy in the above picture is an Olympic Gold medalist in road racing by looking at him. Sure, he’s in good shape for a 50 year old, but in Colorado all the old dudes look like that. If you have gotten to the point in your cycling hobby where you wear a spandex outfit, then you know the feeling of humiliation when a guy like Alexi soft-pedals past you up a hill in jeans and work boots towing a trailer with lumber, tools and a dog. After this happened to me several times, figuratively not literally, I felt something stirring inside me. I felt like maybe that slick, spandex outfit I wore so proudly did not convey the true vibe of my riding style, nor did it make me faster, nor did I earn it for being a bike racer. You obviously don’t need it to be a great cyclist, in fact, based on appearances, the more business casual one dressed while on the bike the better you were. I kept telling myself that the reason I wore spandex was a comfort thing, but in the back of my mind I knew it was because I felt cooler with spandex on. But here I am seeing the best riders sporting backyard BBQ gear while they leave me in the dust. I finally settled on the mentality that stealth attire was the best approach for me – keep it business on the inside and casual on the outside – so that when one is on a long, hard ride you can have pretty much the same vibe as when you’re grilling out on the deck a la the guy in the first picture up there. You know like “I guess this is hard, but I kinda feel like I’m at the beach so it’s not so bad.” Through much deliberation, humiliation, hypocrisy, riding, shopping and tact, I believe that I have set myself on the right path to business casual riding. I have ridden several rides now in my first pair of baggy riding shorts, and the feeling is superb. It’s like I’m back to the good old days when riding in camouflage cutoffs and sleeveless t-shirts meant you were a hardcore cyclist (maybe it still does, and I’m just out of the loop). Of course I’m still no more stylish than when I was rocking camo or barren spandex, but now I think that you think that I look like a better mountain biker than I am which is what is really important here. Until I can actually let my riding ability do the talking, I’ll rely on my business cajh outfit to do it for me.