With the recent explosion in cycling popularity, the United States is experiencing record growth in the sport of cycling. This is a particularly encouraging development in a country which has largely associated cyclists with automotive target practice using projectiles like Gatorade bottles and 7-11 Big Gulps.
Each day a new cyclist dons his or her two wheeled steed for the first time is a day where more people learn to tolerate the sport. However, if you go out on the road and look like the quintessential cycling geek who clearly doesn’t know what they’re doing, you will only hurt the cyclist’s cause for social acceptance.
We all have to start somewhere, and I was definitely not immune to being a neophyte. I had all the rookie characteristics: the obscenely large helmet, haggard looking shorts, baggy jersey, hairy legs, greasy chain marks on my calves, bobbing posture on the bike – oh yes, I was indeed a tool.
However, not all rookies have to be subject to ridicule. There is a way to look experienced without having thousands of miles under your legs; you just have to pay attention to the details. This article is targeted towards folks who are new to the sport of cycling and wish to avoid the potential embarrassment I was put through as a rookie.
Tip 1: No Pro Kits
The cardinal violation in trying to be a cool cyclist is when you buy a full professional team kit (jersey, shorts, socks, etc.) of a team you do not ride for. Nothing screams ROOKIE louder than a full Discovery Channel uniform on a non-payroll cyclist. Steer clear of these overpriced kits. The only time these types of jerseys are acceptable is when they are vintage. General rule of thumb is 10 years after a team’s disbanding. For instance, if you hit the road in a vintage Motorola or Coors Light jersey, you get big style points. Just make sure you know a few of the cyclists who rode for those teams so that when approached by other cyclists, you can sound knowledgeable.
Tip 2: Buy the coolest helmet you can afford
When it comes to helmets, don’t skimp. You are going to be wearing this piece of equipment all the time (hopefully), and you want to be motivated to put it on. If you have some cheapo brain bucket or a nicer one that is two sizes too small, you’ll never want to wear it. Back in the day when I was young and stupid, I thought riding around with no helmet and gel that made my hair glisten was cool – well, it wasn’t. My Giro Pneumo helmet looks far cooler than my bare cranium, especially when it’s hemorrhaging blood after a head-over-shammy 30 mile per hour crash.