Having been an avid bike rider for years there are certain things that fellow cyclists and my family (mostly) take for granted. Like what I hear you ask. Well just things like shaved legs, bib and brace outfits, chamois cream and the like. All these things are part of pretty much every day for a cyclist but, for someone taking up the sport for the first time, they may seem bizarre and a little hard to understand their necessity. To the point that I have a few mates who are new to the sport and half the time when discussing things to do with riding, they look at me sideways with a smirk to see if I am being serious or taking the mickey out of them. Not only that, I have also had the cyclist`s partner take me aside and ask if certain habits are really necessary or relevant. So, as a result, I have put on paper just a few of the “unspoken laws” of bike riding!
Cyclists do not wear underwear beneath their bike nix. This one came up the other day when a friend was walking as if he had a bit of a limp and, on enquiring, he sheepishly mentioned that he had a sore undercarriage where his jocks had folded under themselves and created friction in places they shouldn`t have. A couple of us said to him that surely he wasn`t wearing jocks under his bike pants and he wasn`t sure if we were joking or not. To him it sounded abhorrent to not have anything between him and his nix but, as most cyclists know, friction can be your worst enemy and that`s why the no jocks rule exists…… which brings up the next delicate point.
Chamois cream. Now I`m not talking about anything edible here but, this is again actually something to simply reduce the friction between the rider and the bike. Most bike stores stock it but sadly I didn`t find out about it for years. Chamois cream is placed on the chamois or padding of the bike shorts to soften the chamois and most have antibacterial qualities as well as antifriction. If sharing, make sure no-one double dips on this one!
Bib and brace. This essential piece of clothing has nothing to do with stopping your toddler spill food all over himself. It actually refers to a pair of bike shorts that have straps like a pair of braces that go over your shoulders to keep the shorts from sagging down around your backside. I resisted for years but once I converted there was no turning back. They are way more comfortable than traditional bike shorts, more expensive, but absolutely worth it. Critical note to self here, don`t answer the door in these if you have taken your cycling top off as your guest may show you a clean pair of heels at your less than fashionable sight! The other thing that a bib and brace may protect you from is an “on the bike wedgie” and their fit has to be firm yet comfortable.
Shaved legs. Once only the domain of the bike rider, these days it is not as uncommon sight as it used to be as AFL players and all sorts of sports people shave down. Most people snicker that shaving leg hairs would not make much difference to aerodynamics or speed and they would be absolutely right in thinking so. The reason bike riders shave down is that in the event of a fall or crash shaving the legs makes for a cleaner wound as the hairs drag road debris and grit into the area, plus as the area heals it is easier to clean and dress sans hair. Lastly, most bike riders have a regular massage and having no hairs to pull during this treatment is a great deal more comfortable. So the only thing to worry about is how to remove that fuzzy stuff on the legs. Do you go the razor, hot wax, cold wax, depilatory cream or laser? I`m sure my bricklayer father has never fully recovered from the sight of his 21 year old son who had just started triathlons trying to rip hairs out of his legs with a pot of wax and cotton strips (apologies Dad).
Sunglasses. Most bike riders wear some form of sunglasses and there is more to it than trying to simply look too cool for school. Cyclists can reach speeds of up to 100km/hr or more when descending and anyone who has been hit by a bug at this speed can attest to the fact that it damn well hurts. So apart from reducing sun glare and wind in the eyes, sunglasses are a mandatory piece of protective equipment. Different lenses are especially helpful in different lighting conditions and can help the cyclist pick out defects in the road and avoid gravel and loose stones on the road which could ultimately lead to an accident.
Clipped in pedals. For any of you out there reading this that are old enough to remember that sickening moment when Shane Kelly pulled his foot out of the pedal toe strap at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, clipless pedals have put an end to this. Clipless pedals are pedals that allow a rider to have his feet locked in to the pedal via a mechanism similar to a ski boot binding. It allows the rider to push down and pull up on the pedal allowing for a smoother pedal stroke and, as you are using more muscle groups in the leg and therefore generating more power, it generates a faster speed. In the old days, riders had their feet locked in via a toe strap that went over the shoe. And I am sure many other riders have suffered the indignity of stopping at traffic lights, remembering at the last minute that the feet were locked in via a toe strap and fallen sideways onto the bitumen. Apart from a sore hip, the pride took a major belting. Clipless pedals allow the rider pedal effectively without pulling the foot out but then a sideways motion of the heel will allow uncoupling of the shoe and pedal. This also helps in a crash as the feet normally come out so the bike doesn`t end up on the poor rider.
You must eat on the bike if you ride for more than 2 hours. Hitting the wall in a marathon is a very well-documented fact but try hitting it on the bike whilst on a long ride. Also known as “bonking “ (I can hear the newbies snickering again), depleting your food stores, such as glycogen, on the bike can be one hell of an experience. One can go from feeling fine to a dribbling mess within moments. Once a cyclist has hit the wall, it is all over and there is no amount of food that will reverse the situation at that point. Therefore, it is essential that a rider eats at regular intervals and keeps the fluids up when on longer rides. There is a reason they make those sports gels and drinks! Your regular Tradie doesn`t really need to consume several sports drinks a day, but a cyclist working hard can lose fluid and electrolytes very rapidly, especially on a hot day. For instance, at the Australian Cycling Nationals in Buninyong, it is not uncommon for the cycling Pros to drink a full water bottle PER LAP. Yes that’s right, 18 bottles in around four and a half hours. Plus, if they weren`t putting carbohydrates in the drink bottle they may consume a sports gel every 30-45 minutes.
Summary So as you can see there are a few unspoken habits (I will let you the reader decide which are the most undesirable) that go with bike riding and, unless you ask why, you may never have discovered some of them…… until now!