I have a colleague who is Irish and refuses to wear shorts, a choice, he says, is “based largely on the pastiness of my legs,” before adding: “An element of a man’s dignity is surrendered when he wears only half his trousers.” Strong words, but what if, through the remaining half of that man’s trousers, he revealed half of their contents?
As a rookie roadie a few years ago, I got up early one Sunday morning to join an experienced bunch for some laps of Richmond Park in south-west London. After about an hour of pedalling and sweating, and while the sun was still low, one of these men had the courage to tell me my Lycra shorts, a cheap pair that had become worn, were almost completely transparent. If regular shorts challenge a man’s dignity then cycling shorts squash it to the dimensions of very small vegetables.
I was wearing bibshorts, you see, which are the snug sort incorporating shoulder straps. Think Borat’s mankini with added modesty (but not much more). They must be worn without pants, their function being to eliminate chafing on long rides. They shouldn’t be see-through, of course, but inevitably they are revealing.
After the sheer embarrassment of Richmond (I had no choice but to grin and bare it all the way home) I very quickly invested in a new pair of bibshorts with a luxurious chamois gusset and harder-wearing Lycra. I proudly wear my figure-hugging gear on big rides but, regardless of the quality of the short, I do think the everyday commuter should think twice before exposing himself. I ride to work in a pair of slim-fitting trousers with a bit of stretch that I roll up to just below the knee. They, too, elicit ridicule from housemates and colleagues, including my Irish friend, but they do at least keep everything contained and covered up.
I propose a code of modesty for the road: If you need to cycle with a bag, leave the Lycra behind. This allows for training rides in the city but means no more unfortunate flashing on the commute or while riding about town. Another friend recently reported seeing a pair of bibshorts, while cycling in London, which exposed “every single geometry of the man’s arse. It was like watching jelly being poured between two egg cups.” And, whatever your thoughts on shorts, nobody wants to watch that.