Surviving the Cycling Fashion Police !

In general cyclists are a vain lot. It’s a colourful and glamorous sport particularly at a professional level and this filters down to us mortals in the amateur cycling ranks. With modern fabrics, printing and production methods there’s no end to the choice of cycling gear available to cyclists. This provides ample opportunity for every cyclist to express their individual tastes and style.

There’s no rule book out there in respect of what you can and can’t wear. Well that’s not strictly true as cycling’s international governing body UCI does have rules around clothing particularly around the area of cycling performance enhancement. So, for example, they will carefully scrutinise the makeup, design and materials in skinsuits to ensure that they comply with the UCI rulebook so that no unfair aero advantage is gained.

Lately UCI’s fixation has been on sock height and this was evident at the recent World Road Cycling Championships held in Yorkshire, UK where a number of riders, both male and female failed the pre-race sock height check (yes, the UCI have a protocol and a specially designed measuring tool) and were obliged to make changes. This sock fixation is based on the fact that greater coverage by material on the lower limbs results in a greater aerodynamic advantage to the rider.

In reality, it looks like the fashion police are behind this move where the UCI, in the absence of any rules would not like to see professional cyclists wearing knee high socks to enhance their aerodynamics as it’s not in the tradition of cycling.

Back in the amateur ranks things are a lot more relaxed but in order to strike the right balance between individual expression and sartorial mishaps there’s a few unwritten rules that are good to know. If you’ve recently taken up cycling, you want to look like you’ve been doing it for years and you don’t want to run foul of the cycling fashion police !

As soon as you’ve made up your mind that cycling is for you, ditch the tracksuit/leisurewear and get some real cycling gear. When buying cycling gear, think about the colours and how they might co-ordinate particularly where you are lawyering. If you’re going for bright colours for safety reasons, watch out for the colour clashes. If you’re going to be doing a lot of performance cycling training on mucky country roads, stick with darker base colours with some bright colour flashes for safety. If you are only buying one helmet and pair of cycling shoes to start, better to buy these in a neutral colour (black, white, grey) as they’ll go with any cycling gear that you wear. You can include more colourful additions in time as you expand your range of cycling kit.

Talking about cycling socks again, cycling sock height should be at least a few CMSs above your ankle. If it’s chilly enough for you to be wearing knee warmers, then you should also be wearing arm warmers or a long sleeve jersey. If you’re heating up and feel you need to shed some clothing, then your knee warmers should come off before your arm warmers. Dress appropriately for the conditions and leave the short sleeve jerseys for the summer.

Professional cycling trade team gear is a mixed bag as it’s designed to maximise sponsor exposure and not necessarily what looks best. If wearing ‘trade’ cycling gear, try not to combine the gear from two different trade teams. Retro pro trade cycling jerseys are becoming more popular. It’s  a nice combination with retro design meeting modern performance materials. Some classic retro jerseys which spring to mind include the 1970’s Molteni jersey as worn by Eddy Merckx and the 1980’s La Vie Claire jersey worn by two other greats of the sport Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault.

And finally, when it comes to the Tour de France, Giro, and World Championships, my advice is to give the appropriate respect and only wear a TDF yellow, a Giro pink or a world championship rainbow jersey if you’re good enough to have won any of these races !