Who’d have thought a humble fabric could cause so much angst, heh?
Well, it’s the fault of a guy by the name of Joseph Clois Shivers Jnr, a Virginia-based textile chemist working for DuPont back in 1958. He’s the man who invented the thermoplastic elastomer that became Spandex, or Lycra as we know it here in Australia. Shivers died in Florida in 2014, so there’s nothing you can do about him now.
I’m fairly certain if Sigmund Freud was still about today he’d suggest there’s something all rather homoerotic about the average Australian’s insatiable fascination with cyclists wearing Lycra. We don’t tell footy players or swimmers or netballers or cricketers or rowers what to wear, especially when it comes to technical apparel. So please, don’t tell us. Oh, and if you could refrain from mocking what you don’t fully understand that’d be great too.
Why do we wear the stuff? Well contrary to popular opinion it’s not to emulate pro riders like Richie Porte and Co. Nor is it to visually traumatise you at the local café or provoke you into running us off the road. It’s because it’s comfortable, it’s lightweight, it’s flexible and it’s aerodynamic. Given it doesn’t flap about in the breeze, it’s generally a lot safer than loose fitting clothing too. While the special padded chamois inside cycling shorts also stops us from getting pretty horrific cases of chafing and boils – known as saddle sores – especially on longer rides. (Trust me, if you ever have the misfortune of getting one, you’ll start wearing Lycra too.)
Now sure, some of us may not be perfect physical specimens. But go to virtually any amateur sporting event this weekend and you’ll quickly find ample evidence that cycling is not Robinson Crusoe on that front. I spent two and half decades playing basketball with middle-aged guys whose beer guts were hanging out for all and sundry. I didn’t ask them to cover up with a tracksuit.
In short, Lycra works for cycling. Deal with it.
“The lyrca faux La Tour narcissists are just asking for it.”
P. Malone, 18 May 2017
“If I see a guy wearing jeans and trainers, he is just a guy on a bike … if I see one of these ridiculous lycra clad morons who walks in his pathetic shoes like a duck with haemorrhoids and has a bike which costs more than your average monthly wage, I see someone who … regards himself as the King of the Road.”
S. Sanderson, 2 July 2015