I used to be quite amused and somewhat critical of our local cyclists who donned their lycra knicks (shorts) and fancy cycling jerseys while out training on their latest model road bike. These people were most often male riders, with a serious air of superiority about them. They were probably very good athletes, and, judging by their wiry body frames and incredible tenacity, very fit too.
In countries like France, men, women and kids have grown up with bicycling being an integral part of life. It is so firmly embedded into the culture and bikes are a common sight everywhere. Daily commuter or recreational cyclists rarely dress specially to ride somewhere. Of course, in the land of the ‘Tour de France’, those who are doing serious cycling training or racing do use specialised cycling gear, and for good reasons.
But back home in our Australian country city, our lycra clad fraternity did little to encourage other less athletic types into cycling; in fact, I think they (unintentionally) frightened many people away. There was a perception that to become a bike rider, one was going to have to pull on tight shorts and racing tops, and then be able to cycle like a pro. I was one person who was intimidated by this outlook and it kept me away from bikes for quite a long time.
Nowadays though, cycling is becoming far more popular here, and commuter and recreational cyclists are becoming more brave about riding in casual attire. They are also realising the benefits of specialised cycling garments. Happily, this means that the less athletic amongst us are also starting to don the lycra and other cyclist clothing with less self consciousness.
Some years back, I could never imagine myself wearing knicks or cycling jerseys, but I now seldom ride without them. The knicks (with padded chamois insert) keep a nice comfort zone between my butt and my favourite firm leather saddle. The jerseys are made of special fabric which is lightweight and breathes well regardless of the weather. (An added bonus when touring, is that they dry quickly after being washed or if you happen to get caught in the rain). Sometimes, though, I resort to ordinary shirts, but still use the cycling shorts. My favourite brand is Cinettica Diva Elite Nix. They are not cheap, but they fit well, and the two pairs I have had for 3 years are still in good shape.
So, to the immense mirth of my offspring, I have now joined the fraternity of lycra clad cyclists. However, the wiry body frame and superb fitness are attributes which sadly still elude me!