Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I'll get to spandex in a second, but I first want to let my readers know that I spent a fair bit of time today talking to managers of some of the pro teams that will be coming out to race Tour of the Battenkill this weekend.
The interviews were done for upcoming Saratogian and Velo News articles, so I don't want to tip my hand too soon, but I'm getting really excited for this race (both to observe and report, and to race), and something that one of the managers said to me should help serve to illustrate why I'm excited:
"One of the virtues of a classics-style race is that the tactics are fairly simple. You want to show up, race hard, and be the first guy to the finish line. The nature of the event means that every team coming to the race will have the same plan."
I think we'll see some full-on racing come this weekend...
But, spandex. Those outside the world of cycling tend to fixate on the bikes, which are shinny and can be very expensive. But that's only one part of it. Spandex is a huge part of it too.
As I've mentioned, I've been riding in my new team kit for the past few days. All the new spandex has got me thinking about all the various spandex I've worn over the course of my career.
I've been on three cycling teams: four seasons with Skidmore Cycling, four seasons with Brooklyn Velo Force, and now I've begun the new season with Anthem Sports. Before I was affiliated with teams, I rode on my own. For each phase of my cycling career, I've got a wardrobe of spandex to match.
Here's some of it folded in my closet:
In case you're wondering about the chamois, here's a close up of my pile of bibs:
As you can see, I've got a bit of spandex. While the uninitiated tend to question the necessity of spandex, anyone who rides knows that wearing a pair of bibs can make any ride vastly more comfortable, and therefore more enjoyable. Once you're wearing bibs, you might as well wear a jersey -- you know, so that you have pockets to hold your stuff, since there aren't any pockets in your shorts.
As a rider who's been affiliated with various teams over the past few years, spandex also takes on another dimension beyond providing comfort and impeccable style. It becomes an important means to identify team mates in a race, obviously. Perhaps less obviously, kits are also used to advertise sponsors -- which help to keep teams rolling.
As such, sponsorship logos tend to dominate cycling apparel, and sometimes come up in unexpected places on kits. For instance, I once saw logo on the inside of a jersey's collar. Now, who's going to see that?
My new kit, by contrast, is very well appointed, with logos only in appropriate places, such as on the side panels of the bib shorts, the chest and back, and on the sock's cuff:
As you can see, in addition to have the logo in the right place, the sock is also in the currently in-vogue mid-ankle length. Very cool.
The down side to all this spandex is that it tends to accumulate. Here's a drawer full of warm bits, base layers, and various things that you rub on yourself:
Here's a drawer full of nothing but cycling socks and gloves.
Keep in mind that both drawers and my closet were only half-full at the time these photos were taken, as they were shot mid laundry cycle.
For all of the many benefits of spandex, I won't pretend that it isn't free of some level of silliness. For instance, the chamois from my new team's kit came with a tag that described the bibs as "Professional:"
The content of the tag had mostly to do with an antimicrobial treatment given to the chamois (very much appreciated!), but I suppose the professional label is supposed to imply that my chamois is worthy of a professional athlete -- by extension, I suppose we're supposed to think that wearing the "professional" chamois will make us faster.
As I've said, I'm a believer in the power of spandex -- but really? Perhaps this is some sort of keister-based doping? Do they test for that?
Posted by Andrew J. Bernstein at 7:01 PM