However, I also have a third passion: road biking. Being a road biker is sort of my ugly, closeted secret. I guarded my secret so well, it took my girlfriend over a year to see me in my bike shorts (and her doing so left me very red faced). I still try not to let her see me in a cyclist state; I go so far as to slip out of the house in regular clothes only to change once out of her judging eyes. (*Girlfriend edit: I want to see Tim in his cycling gear – as does my grandmother, but that’s another story – and he refuses to let me.*)
I am sort of like the opposite of Clark Kent turning into Superman: rather than flying away from the phone booth, I blast away from it on my bike. How come it is all right for Superman to wear spandex but not me? In comparison to climbing and skiing (both sports with X games style appeal) I am willing to accept that there is nothing dorkier than road bicycling. Thankfully we have unicyclists and recumbent bikers around to lessen our dork factor.
The humiliation does not end with the over-abundant use of spandex in the clothes. Thanks to the generous use of skin tight materials, a road cyclist is often left with a discernible tan line to mark them so society can easily pick them out. I often feel like Mickey Mouse as my hands will be extremely pale, thanks to the gloves I wear while biking. The paleness of my hands is then of course exaggerated by the healthy tan my arms get from riding for hours in the sun. By about mid-August I could easily pass for a mime (I try very hard not to talk with my hands during cycling season).
If we do not suffer enough from our skin tight clothing and awful tan lines, we exacerbate the problem by drawing unnecessary attention to it. Cyclists proudly display crazy socks, shirts, and helmets in the loudest of colors in the spirit of embracing all that is wrong with our gear. It is as if the tighter, louder, and funnier the clothes are, they somehow become magically more acceptable. It often seems as though the farther you move from these trends, the farther you push yourself away from the cycling fraternity.
Even worse are the people who adorn themselves in their favorite pro team’s kit. The closest comparison I can make would be to show up to the local park for a pick up basketball game dressed in a full Paul Pierce game uniform. Or perhaps sport a complete Dustin Pedroia game uniform for a game of whiffle ball in the backyard. I could not imagine ever seeing someone commit the two previous listed atrocities, but at least once a week someone rolls by me in a full team kit.
The worst part of this secret life as a cyclist is that I am finally growing to accept it. Over the past month, I have purchased a replica of the climber’s jersey to be worn in the US Cycling Challenge, paid to stream every minute of the Tour de France through my computer, post-ride downloaded my route into a Google map, and (worst of all) have begun to linger around in my cycling shorts post ride. The final straw happened last week when I had an honest conversation about leg shaving with a co-worker.
I do not know what it is that appeals to me about cycling. It certainly lacks the adventurous and fun culture so often associated with skiing and climbing. What I find strange is that many of cycling’s oddities have begun to make sense, and I am starting to embrace them. The turning point came the other day when someone biked pass me wearing “baggy” shorts and I thought to myself, “what a weirdo. ”