Be Invisible.

This is my Sunday morning plea. I won’t call it a “rant” – I haven’t gone on one of those in a while, and frankly they do little other than to make me even more hyper-aware of whatever obscure topic happens to be bothering me at that moment.

So, a plea it is. Cyclists, if your riding is primarily JRA outings (Just Ridin’ Around, please consider wearing comfortable, every day looking clothing. Unless you are a BASC (Bad Ass Serious Cyclist) – and really, unless you’re actually a racer out racing, or at least training for a race, you’re probably on a JRA ride.

Where I live, nearly every cyclist I encounter is garbed in skin tight Lycra, covered in logos or eye-melting colors and patterns, or both. (Well, not my friend Bob. I don’t see him often, but when I do he’s comfortably sporting shorts and sneakers. Thumbs up to you, Bob!) But here’s the thing: If you’re riding around the block or doing a two mile stretch through the park on your “townie,” do you really need $75 padded cycling shorts and an equally pricey wet suit-like microfiber jersey that weighs less than a quarter ounce just because it has a couple of pockets aft?

Please understand I’m not arguing against common sense cycling gear. A good quality shoe that meets my needs is something I personally value, especially if I’m riding for distance. In yesterday’s cool 40 degree weather, a decent base layer was the right call. Sometimes I wear a pair of purpose-made cycling knickers with knee socks; yesterday it was Levi 501’s. In the wind, a good shell makes sense… mine is a windbreaker I picked up on the cheap at an Eddie Bauer outlet. Even cheaper still is the black wool cardigan I got from a thrift store (three or four bucks, if I recall correctly.) A wool cap from Walz. A Dollar Store bandana purchase.

I ride a lot, but not everything I do is riding. I get off the bike to sketch. (A lot.) Or on my return ride, stop on the square at the pub. (Actually, I do that a lot too.) I feel oddly conspicuous clacking across the floor of the pub in skin hugging super hero tights. And let’s face it, I’m no longer built like Ryan Reynolds. (Don’t you like how I implied that I once was? Fact checker: I never was.)

I think it’s just plain weird that cyclists feel the need to go through an entire ritual of dressing in special clothing just to ride a bike. (Weird? Yes. Also the result of great marketing.) So my plea: Go for a ride today. Need to change your shoes or put on a windbreaker? OK. But beyond that, just hop on your bike and take off. Go ride. Enjoy the day. Turn on your blinky. In all other ways be invisible.


14 thoughts on “Be Invisible.

  1. Kevin Lindsey says:

    Gotta comment here:
    a) My commuter garb is lycra shorts and a high visibility lightweight shirt. I just find ’em more comfortable, less likely to pinch or squeeze than normal wear, and much more visible to cars and other cyclists than jeans and a sweatshirt. In addition, stuff like that is easier to leave in a locker once I get to work than are a full suit of everyday clothes.
    b) But my main comment has to do with a phenomenon I’ve begun to notice lately on my commutes along the bike paths here in northern Virginia (Washington D.C. suburbs): guys (invariably guys) decked out in the full racer panoply – including aerodynamic sunglasses, the latest Sidi shoes, team logo racing suit, etc., etc. – riding peddle assist e-bikes. If they’d had training wheels on it couldn’t be any funnier. Just goes to show what clever marketing can accomplish.

    • I am smiling and chuckling to myself as I read your comment! Although I haven’t seen this on e-bikes, I will share a similar observation.I was pacing my wife on one of these paths recently. She’s pretty slow. We were passed by numerous riders decked out as if they were riding in the Tour de France. I find that puzzlig because even though they were going faster than the two of us, I find it hard to believe they would need to be so aerodynamic at 14mph!

  2. It’s hard to take exception to that thought however if stretchy neon helps to get people out of their cars and on a bike it may be worth the glare and giggles. I must say that I have seen many riders who have come to the sport in their billboard blazing gear move on to a quieter ‘kit’ once they realize that Astana or Sky won’t be picking them up for the next grand tour. Similarly many come to realize that their preoccupation with watching their Garmin isn’t nearly as rewarding as enjoying the scenery that surrounds them. All good in the end is how I have come to think of it.

    • What you are sharing is a very common sense philosophy that I totally appreciate. I also feel like whatever gets you on the bike is the right thing. It could be that what I’m really making a plea for is simple common sense. I am not especially comfortable wearing skintight clothing… I prefer loose, parachute like duds! I’ve spoken with many fellow riders who feel like Lycra is an absolute riding necessity. It would be great if more people could see beyond the marketing hype. 😊

  3. Phillip Cowan says:

    Normally I hate riding in jeans, they’re just too hard on the “boys”. The new Athletic Fit jeans ftom Levis have a nice stretchy weave are actually pretty comfy though if anybody cares.

  4. Paul Glassen says:

    I used to defiantly wear “regular clothes” whenever riding. Even in my ‘senior’s’ ride group I was chided for my “low visibility”, never mind “invisibility” – everyone else was wearing day-glo orange or yellow.
    Over the years I noticed that motorcyclists were more often wearing the construction worker’s “visi-vest” apparel. Then it was dog walkers and other dedicated pedestrians. Finally it got to the point where I figured a lawyer would successfully defend the motorist who hit a pedestrian or cyclist by arguing, “He wasn’t wearing hi-vis clothing”. If that seems improbable, note how often it is the police investigating the accident who say, “There was no way the driver could see the cyclist.” (I always wonder, was the driver blind?)
    So I still wear regular clothes but I bought one of those bright lime green wind breakers. And I have a well ventilated visi-vest for warmer days.
    Now we are advised to display daylight running lights. What won’t we do, in North America, to alibi negligent driving? Don’t get me started on cell phone use.

  5. Lol. I really loved your post. Very funny and true. I am a beginner. A real beginner. I got my bike in August of this year and I ride twice or three times a week. I am starting very slow as you can see, but I wear my regular clothes. I want to use my bike to go to the library, supermarket, etc., so I don’t need specialized clothing. Keep on posting:-)

    • That is fantastic! Listen, my point is just to follow common sense… If a chartreuse green and pink polkadot skin suit gets you out on the bike, more power to you! Just don’t feel obligated to have special clothing just to turn two pedals.

  6. bwinsl01 says:

    You nailed it!

    As I age, the need and the ability to ride hard, long and fast fades. However, the essence of biking continues to grow all be it evolve in my life. I commute every day by bike and do the occasional weekend ride. Ninety nine percent of my riding is JRA (coffee run) and errands. The other 1% lately is century/200k etc. Those one percent rides definitely benefit from gear, but I did do a club ride (200k) in Crocks…and did another 200k in a Hoffman bicycle day t-shirt. I was just fine and my time/speed was just about the same. Rude to have fun and push yourself as needed…gear should not be a rule or mandate, but a benefit to our ride. Do you need to dominate a ride? Do you need $200 rapha jersey?

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