Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Traditions and Rules

Folks welcome to the 21st century. I sit somewhere between enjoying and observing the 'rules of the road' and at times struggling with the constraints that they bring. I am all for road etiquette, pointing out road furniture, pot holes and not blowing snot on your fellow riders. But in regards to clothing the old rules have passed away and a new free form expression needs to be embraced, by one and all, regardless is you decide to follow it.

Once upon a time all road shoes were black and socks were white. Sometime in the mid eighties this all started to change, no doubt spurred along by the new clipless technology. Companies like Castelli and Assos changed the way PRO's and cyclists the world over wore jerseys and shorts. Sub-lamenation and lycra had a massive effect on the apparel industry encouraging manufacturers to look beyond their normal supply chains for new and exciting fabrics. The Ski industry must receive a doffed cap as important changes like the Look pedal and the Assos short come from that sport.

Shoe makers looked for new materials to create lighter and better drying shoes fr their Elite athletes. Although leather is a fantastic option traditional leathers where heavy and highly absorbent (Kangaroo skin is favoured these days if using leather). Lorica was new, an artificial leather but with all the correct attributes that the shoe companies were looking for; lightweight, faster drying, less prone to sun fade and less stretch. Whether the two are intertwined or fashion helped dictate it also but it seemed as Lorica became popular so did the emergence of coloured shoes.


In the nineties socks no longer 'had to be White'. Teams tied the colour of the socks in with the rest of the uniforms allowing a flowing look from head to foot. Lance Armstrong is highly credited to the wearing of black socks. While this isn't entirely true as other PRO cyclists donned this look before him, he was (and I think still is) the only reining Tour de France champion to do so. Since his recent come back I can't think of an occasion when I haven't seen him wearing the black sock/shoe combo.


With the absence of rules, in regards to clothing, there are no rights or wrongs. Bike snobbery, is at best unpleasant, at worst damaging as it removes freedom of expression and creativity which may be absent from the riders 'normal life'.

Bicycles should be about liberation and for a couple of hours being able to forget the 'normal life' and not have to comply to a whole set of other rules. Maybe I'm always looking for that freedom I experienced as a 9 year old boy, and on a good ride still manage to find. Oh and for the record I like white shoes but never white socks.


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