SNOWMASS VILLAGE - In case you haven't noticed, there is a major offseason controversy brewing locally. It has become a battle of the bulges of sorts and the question is who, if anyone at all, should be wearing form-fitting Spandex while riding a bicycle.
Of course in a town like ours, the discussion will invariably turn to performance first. And, yes, by all means, if you happen to be racing in the Tour de France this summer you should wear the tightest, brightest, most aerodynamic clothing available because milliseconds and sponsorship dollars count. You also should shave your legs.
Unfortunately, the case for ensconcing our bodies in clothing designed with sausage casings in mind is not as clear-cut for the recreational cyclist - not that there are many recreational cyclists around these parts.
So you know where I'm coming from, I prefer not to shrink-wrap my body in breathable plastic while I exercise. While I fully appreciate the functionality of clothing that comes as close as possible to replicating nudity, I'll put up with the slight discomfort of a little bunching here and puckering of my shorts there for the short rides that I partake in. On the non-existent occasions I decide to go out for 16 to 20 hours, I'll break out a Bermuda-Speedo for the added comfort.
Let's dispense with the opinions, though. Skin-tight clothing is a personal choice and I don't care one way or the other what anyone wears to ride their bike. However, before someone decides to draw in a deep breath and hold it long enough to pull on a pair of bike shorts, they should know the facts, and of course there is only one fact that anyone really cares about:
Fact No. 1: Tight bike clothing looks stupid.
Yes, I know it sounds like opinion, but it's true fact and here's the proof. First, the chamois padding stitched into the crotch of cycling shorts, materially speaking, is pretty much the equivalent of a Depends adult undergarment. It serves a different purpose, of course, but in size, consistency and shape it's pretty much the same thing. It's a big wad of stuff under your bum. So tell me this: Who with this wad of material between their legs secured in place with a pair of ultra thin, skin-tight short pants, looks attractive? Uh huh.
"OK," you agree. "But it's cycling tradition. The pros wear it, and therefore, so should I." It's a dubious argument. While it might be cycling tradition, note also how winners of prestigious races are presented to the public after a race and before they can change into a pair of sweats. That's right; they stand on the podium surrounded by beautiful women to divert attention while clutching huge bouquets of flowers in folded hands over their privates.
So, while bike clothing is not particularly attractive on anyone, this vivid example does suggest that bike clothing does look better on women. This is not in anyway a sexist remark. It is a sexist observation.
Maybe the best way to construct the argument is to move it away from the specific example we are talking about. Judging from the letters to the editor in the local papers, wearing Spandex is a highly charged emotional issue in this unique part of the world, and a different perspective might help us see more clearly.
Let's change to context to car covers. Let's say someone wants to park a Porsche 911 out on the street and they cover it with one of those snug-fitting canvas tarps to protect it from the elements. Classic design. Clean lines. Big deal. Knock yourself out.
Now, suppose somebody else wants to park their farm tractor out on the street and stretch a tight fitting cover over it? No way! Common decency or, at the very least, local ordinance would never allow it. Think of it: the big, bulging tires in back, the long hood protruding out front, and all the other gadgets sticking out here and there. Give me a break. Park that thing in the barn!
In fairness, I have to present the positive aspects of tight bicycle shorts. In order of importance they are: 1. To create big profit margins for bike shop owners; 2. To give free advertising to completely noncycling-related companies that plaster their logos all over the stuff; and finally, 3. Genuine femininity is always in fashion.
Armed with all the pertinent facts, you can now make your own informed decisions about cycling wear next time you are out buying a pair of baggy shorts.