Fairly early on into my training course for my PADI Open Water diving qualification, I was introduced to the two golden rules that all scuba divers must live by:
1) Never, ever hold your breath
2) Always look cool.
The first rule is easy to explain: air expands and contracts in your lungs as you change depth underwater. If you hold your breath whilst diving, the air can expand within your chest as you ascend and explode your lungs. Okay. Alright. Important safety tip. The second rule says an awful lot more about divers as a whole: you need to look cool at all times. A heavy wetsuit, flippers, a BCD and a whacking great cylinder of air make perfect sense when you’re underwater, but it’s a damn sight harder to work it as a look when you’re not actually diving. In those circumstances, an excellent pair of sunglasses and an air of studied nonchalance can go a long way.
I’m starting to realise that cyclists have a similar set of rules. It’s probably not so critical that you don’t hold your breath on a bicycle, but there’s a definite sense that you must maintain your poise even when wearing the most absurd clothing. I’m not sure that there is a man alive who can really pull off an outfit involving that much lycra, a padded backside, a bike helmet and those daft shoes that clip into pedals. I solve the problem by not even trying: never wear lycra as a top-layer and stay away from cleats. Other cyclists take the opposite approach: the success of British cyclists at the Olympics and in the Tour de France has led to a proliferation of cycle clubs, and the little drag of cafes where I live absolutely swarms with middle-aged pelotons sat at the outside tables with their legs apart and a pint of Peroni on the table in front of them. Some of them seem to spend a good deal more time wearing their lycra at café tables than they do on actually on their bikes. Sadly, many are also classic examples of middle aged men in lycra (MAMILs), but you have to admire the chutzpah that sees them attempt to style out their bulging lycra in the face of all taste or good judgement.
There are plenty of these guys in the changing rooms at work too, clopping their way in from the bike shed on their cleats wearing their Team Sky lycra. It’s a fifteen minute cycle into work, not a time trial up Mont Ventoux, for goodness sake. (some of them apparently don’t even break sweat on their rides to work in their full gear. At least, that’s why I assume they don’t have a shower before peeling off their pro-cycling gear and putting on their work clothes for a full day in the office, anyway….)
I saw one guy in there the other day, getting changed out of his work gear before he cycled home in the evening. Somehow, he had managed to put his sunglasses on first, before any of his other cycling gear, so he was standing at his locker with his wraparound, mirrored visor on, changing out of his trousers and into his cycling shorts. Now that is an admirable commitment to rule 2…. well, apart from looking entirely ridiculous standing indoors at your locker wearing only your pants and your sunglasses….
Honestly. People, eh?