Sara Blakely made Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People list because she created Spanx, the underwear that serves as a girdle. Blakely should focus on cycling fashion, which could use a serious girdling. A line of Spanx jerseys is desperately needed.
The idea behind the modern cycling jersey is to cover the body with a sleek sleeve of sheer fabric that cuts wind resistance and looks fast. It used to be that only racers wore jerseys, their team costumes emblazoned with logos of the businesses sponsoring them. Jerseys became popular in Europe, and now they've become big in the U.S. - really big, as in super-sized!
European racers looked good in jerseys because they were rail-thin with taut bodies and well-defined legs, stomachs, backs and arms. That image doesn't translate very well here in the United States of Obesity because many of the recreational cyclists donning jerseys don't look anything like their heroic role models. They ride the same fancy bikes, but that's where the similarity ends.
The lighter the bike, the bigger the overhang. This is especially true with ambitious cyclists who take a second mortgage to finance space-age composite frames and straddle them wearing form-fitting Lycra bike togs - the flashier, the better.
It's great that cyclists are trying to stay young and dapper by applying high fashion and exercise, but when cycling aficionados pay thousands of dollars to drop a few ounces from their bikes while carelessly adding pounds to their bodies, the irony is laughable. The least they can do is to stop wearing skintight spandex jerseys that accentuate their corpulence. This is not only a matter of aerodynamics - it's a matter of decency. As to the appearance of form-fitting shorts, that's another topic altogether.
A well-fitted jersey has certain Continental panache, but the style fades when every bulge, fold and cellulite ripple is revealed beneath brightly colored shirts that flash one's presence in living Technicolor.
Another irony is the sponsorship. The more logos you have on your jersey, the cooler and faster you are. The vast majority of riders, however, are not being sponsored for their riding acumen or physical appearance. Instead, jersey-clad cyclists sponsor whatever corporate logos are printed on their overstretched chemises, paying handsomely for the privilege of being a moving billboard.
The bigger you are, the more prominent is your commercial endorsement. Given that many jerseys on the road today constitute eyesores, sponsors would do well to reconsider who wears their logos in public. Eventually, a body-fat index could be required to determine whether a cyclist sponsors Slimfast or Wendy's.
Face it: The only riders with body bulges who look really great in jerseys are a handful of athletic women whose forms are nicely defined in spandex outfits, some of which would impress Angelina Jolie. They don't even have to be riding a bicycle to look fast, though the female fashion today seems to be major cleavage over the drop bars. Talk about a distraction on the road!
Conversely, for the average middle-aged man, the jersey is an advertisement for too much couch time and too rich a diet. I've seen jerseys on men who were never meant for spandex but rather for billowing muumuus to cover the mortal signs of aging.
In tight jerseys they look like pregnant guppies, and nobody wants to see a pregnant guppy hunched over the drop bars of a carbon-fiber racing bike grimacing like Bernard "The Badger" Hinault. These guys have been too focused on C-Span and not focused enough on their caloric intake or the results in the mirror.
Any man with more than 2 inches of overhang should hang up the jersey and opt for a T-shirt - with logos, if necessary. Any man with 3 inches or more of overhang should hang up the jersey, the T-shirt and the logos and go instead with a bulky sweatshirt. Any man with 4 inches or more of overhang should hang up the lightweight road bike and opt for a heavy cruiser until his gross weight has been sweated off.
There are enough risks on the road without unsightly jerseys bursting at the seams with conspicuous corpulence. Keep America beautiful - be a jersey barrier.