Should cy­clists ever wear Ly­cra?

YES Andrew Critchlow NO Theo Merz

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Lifestyle -

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

FABIO FER­RARI /AP

Leave it to the pros: Bradley Wig­gins can get away with Ly­cra

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