Monday, June 15, 2009

Becoming an Ultra Geek--The Cycling Fashion Hierarchy

It happened somewhat gradually.
First, I started wearing a jersey with three big pockets instead of two cute ones.
Then, I began wearing an acid-yellow wind vest for visibility on PCH.
And pink arm-warmers.
And purple leg warmers.
Then came the acid-yellow jersey when it got too warm for the vest.
And the white arm coolers, to shield my arms from hours of sun.
And the stick-on reflective stickers that run down the back of my bike, placed there for my first double and never since removed.

And then, the straw that broke the cycling fashonista's back: the Camelbak.

Riding longer and longer meant I began to favor visibility and hydration over cycling fashion.

It never occurred to me, until this past Saturday, that I had become a wholehearted ultra dork, fashion-wise, until I rode with the group of cyclists that pure cyclists abhor: triathletes.

It seems that triathletes (make that Los Angeles-based triathletes), in an effort to put someone down for their cycling fashion choices just as they are put down by pure cyclists, have chosen the ultracyclist as their prey. It's a strange situation to be in, considering most ultracyclists, obviously including myself, are triathletes.

The first sign that I was not worthy to ride in a peloton of aerobar-ed triathletes: nobody, of the 30+ people gathered in Santa Monica to start the ride, talked to me.

The second sign came later on in the ride, when the only people still riding were me, and 5 dudes in their 30s-40s: The ride's leader asked me why the hell I was wearing a Camelbak.

I had several options for my response:
I'm doing a mountain bike race next weekend, so I have to get used to wearing it.
I need the extra weight for training; this ride isn't hard enough as it is, suckas!
I went with the harshest truth I could think of, thinking they'd back off.

"Because I have an arrhythmia and I need to drink more on my long rides." Boo-ya. Try to say something mean to me now.

"So you have to drink more, not carry more," said the ride leader.

Point taken. I looked like a major dweeb. But a dweeb worth waiting for, apparently, as they didn't ditch me on the last few climbs. In fact, they were waiting for me at the top of the last major climb, so I stopped to down some salt pills.

Then one of the 5 remaining dudes took to dissecting my Silver Bullet, aka Frankenbike, aka my only road bike who was recently remodeled and, I thought, was looking pretty flashy.

"Did you build this yourself?" one of them asked.
"Yes. I got the shifters from being hit by a car." Will you zip it now?

If only my legs hadn't felt crispy-fried before beginning the ride that morning. Then I'd have kept up and shown those dudes that it's not the bike that matters, it's the engine.

At first, I was concerned that I had lost my fashion edge; my cycling fashion has recently been taking cues from Rainbow Bright rather than Bicycling.

Then I realized a simple truth: the most fashionable people on earth are always ridiculed for the risks they take. However, taking risks is what makes them seriously fashionable in the first place à la Lady Gaga.

Therefore, though the cycling fashion hierarchy is traditionally viewed as follows:
Pure cyclists --> triathletes --> ultracyclists
in truth, the inverse might be the true order of cycling haute couture.

Ride on, ultra trigeeks!


  1. You and Frankenbike will show them all up with your many past and future accomplishments! And come join our friendly tri club (Silicon Valley Tri Club) when you come in the fall!

  2. Nice! ;)

    Way not to fit in! I got some flack before a race (not at me, but I overheard someone talking about my bike) for riding a "commuter bike" in a race. I probably beat some of those people in the time trial on my steel-framed "commuter bike".

    Don't worry about what people think. They'll shut up when you kick their butt!

  3. Haha thanks Joan. And I have to work on the kicking butt part to seriously justify my ensembles. :P

  4. I will never for the life of me understand why we have such a burning need to segment ourselves into groups. No matter what the issue or activity these days, everything breaks down into "US" and "THEM". Why? Why is everyone so threatened by different ideas, different priorities, different desires, differnt goals, different clothes.....just differences in general. Isn't that what America is supposed to be about?

    Why do we need to look down on anyone? For that matter, why do we need to revere anyone either? Why can't people just be happy with their own choices and accomplishments and enjoy the company they find themselves in while pursuing their goals? Just live and let live already.

    If a pair of purple leg-warmer or a Camelbak bothers you so damned much, then put everyone out of your misery and ride alone. Or else sit home in your cocoon of safety with the blinds shut and the TV off. Then nothing will ever assault your delicate sensibilities or force you to, god-forbid, consider someone else's perspective.

    Sorry. Haven't a good rant in a while. If I don't vent periodically my cynicism about humanity reaches critical mass. And that's not good for anyone!