Should cyclists ever wear Lycra?
YES Andrew Critchlow NO Theo Merz
The thought of wearing Lycra is enough to put middle-aged men off cycling, according to a British Heart Foundation survey. A third of the 2,000 professionals it polled thought that men over the age of 40 should never wear the stretchy stuff, while experts in the beauty industry thought the cut-off age was 27 years old. These figures represent something of a tragedy. If you’re holding back from cycling because of the fear of being branded a MAMIL (Middle-Age Man in Lycra), then it’s the psychologist’s chair you need, rather than the bike saddle. For a cyclist, Lycra wins every time. Introduced to the mass market in the Seventies by the Swiss cycle clothing brand Assos, this fabric has become an industry standard for the sport. Here’s why... Snug-fitting clothing will enhance your enjoyment of cycling. It won’t snag on equipment or fill up with air and act like a parachute to slow you down. New Lycrabased fabrics also wick away sweat from your skin and act as a barrier to bacteria. The alternative to Lycra kit is baggy shorts and a football shirt, which almost defeats the object of going for a ride. Whether you’re out on a Sunday morning club ride or on your daily commute, one of your aims will be to get from A to B in as little time as possible. Aerodynamic and robust, Lycra helps no end. For me, the ritual of getting ready to go for a long ride is part of cycling’s appeal. Filling up my bidon with Isostar, putting on a heart rate monitor belt and squeezing into Lycra shorts that were a better fit 10 years ago; this is what my hobby’s about. And then there’s the psychological effect. Although I don’t doubt that I look ridiculous to other road users, in my own mind I am just a few training rides shy of taking on Chris Froome in this year’s Tour de France. It’s a great feeling, and it’s available to you, whether you’re 14 years old or 40.
You wouldn’t wear black tie to a children’s birthday party. You wouldn’t wear a cocktail dress for a cup of tea with the neighbours. And yet, growing numbers of cyclists overdress in a similar way – with their insistence on wearing Lycra on the morning commute or out for a weekend ride with friends. Of course, there are advantages to the stretchy fabric. It won’t catch on your chain like the jeans I cycle in (though I’ve always found tucking them into a sock does the job just fine). There’s no air resistance, so you won’t be slowed down by that as I am with the baggy shirts I wear. My attire would, I admit, put me at a serious disadvantage were I competing in the Tour de France. But, as I’m always tempted to shout at the cyclists who pass me on my commute through Battersea Park in a blur of brightly coloured Lycra, aerodynamic helmet and sunglasses to protect their eyes from debris flying in the opposite direction: you are not on the Tour de France. You can’t help but wonder whether the people who treat every ride like the last sprint in an Olympic race are trying to compensate for something. Some of us are happy enough just getting from A to B without being knocked off our bike or worse. Wearing Lycra also necessitates a change of clothes when you reach your destination, meaning us jeans and shirt-wearers more than make up the time we’ve lost on air resistance in the long run. I understand the thrill of dressing up like Bradley Wiggins for an amateur race, but let’s limit it to that. Last but not least, I should mention the obvious: Lycra is an unforgiving fabric and the majority of people who wear it look absolutely awful. Andrew Critchlow and Theo Merz write for Telegraph Men - expert opinion and advice for the modern male
Leave it to the pros: Bradley Wiggins can get away with Lycra