Tuesday, July 22, 2008

RAGBRAI Rant #1: When Lycra Goes Wrong

As predicted, Thursday's "naked" post tweaked the content of my Google-inserted spam, but not in the way I expected. I saw five ads for bike clothing today. Cycle-capitalism trumps pornography on the Internet! Who knew? So, inspired by this sartorial swing, I'm taking my first snarky potshot at Iowa's big ride.

First, let me say that I am not a slender man. There was a time in my life where I could sort-of hang with a middle group of recreational riders on a mediocre climb, but these days, I've found some pounds. I know this about myself. Therefore, all the form-fitting, stretchy garments that formerly made up the bulk of my cycling wardrobe have been banished to a cedar-lined storage bin, to be pulled out from time to time as a not-so-gentle reminder of just how pudgy I've become.

The brand of cycle-enthusiast who enjoys RAGBRAI seems to know no such modesty. I'm not talking about the non-cyclists who drag out their Magnas and spend a day riding from beer to beer in whatever they happen to have handy. I'm talking about people who go in for the full kit but conveniently leave out the training miles. RAGBRAI organizers cater to this brand of cyclist with a vast selection of skin-tight jerseys absolutely guaranteed to accentuate the ICG, or Iowa Cyclist's Gut.

I cast no stones, for I too have the ICG. There's nothing to climb around here, so the more (ahem) "husky" physique of the flatland sprinter tends to dominate. Add some beers, a pork chop or three, and within a couple years, you too can have a jersey-jiggler. Then, you're faced with a choice: Modest baggy tee, or let it all hang out in Lycra.

Granted, there are (tenuous at best) performance gains to be made in jerseys. Nobody my size should claim an aero advantage, but at least the things wick. I'll buy that. However, the RAGBRAI jersey also seems to serve as a uniform/badge of honor, identifying the RAGBRAI rider to others of his herd. Thus, he feels the need to wear it everywhere: bike rides, outdoor concerts, grocery stores, police lineups, weddings, coffee shops, business meetings, and audiences with the Pope. So when I'm just trying to enjoy my third State Fair corn dog in peace, I have to be confronted by the consequences of those corn dogs in much-too-graphic "elastic over butter sculpture" detail.

RAGBRAI organizers, I beg of you: I'm sure you already make a nice t-shirt in sizes ranging from small to me. All you have to do is discontinue the jerseys. Our state already has a smoking ban. Let's stomp out cycling-related visual pollution while we're at it.

1 comment:

scott said...

It's a good thing you're not bitter about this or anything. ;-)