Keeping up the Friday theme of old favourites, here's Gareth's Jenkins's first ever 'New Bike on the Block' column, from Cycle Lifestyle issue 2. If you're in a public place, beware: this is laugh-out-loud funny...
Cold winds and flapping tracksuit bottoms meant I recently bought my first pair of black cycling leggings.
Now I am not one to dive in without researching a product first, so I can report that Men’s Fitness magazine says that black leggings improve aerodynamics and keep the heat in… which is all well and good, but what everyone wants to know is: will they look good?
I am one of those people who for some reason find it extremely embarrassing to try things on in a shop before I buy them, especially things that could potentially leave people in the changing rooms sniggering behind their curtain as you “model” your new purchase. I once thought I could pull off a Trilby Hat and a lady almost passed out from laughing so hard.
So trying on skin-tight Lycra was just not a consideration. Instead I decided I’d have to just ask the guy in the shop about leggings (a personal first for me). He advised that if you have a bit of a belly you should buy the ones that strap over your shoulders like a leotard. His words, not mine... “like a leotard”, he said.
I shuddered and asked for the “Not in any way like a leotard ones” and he passed them over. I noted that even they had elastic bits that strap under the feet like the trousers my little sister wore in the ’80s. I sighed heavily and shook my head as I handed over the cash.
The first test was a cold, brisk day and I slid my new leggings over my shivering legs. Then, with all the masculinity I could muster, I fed my tippy-toes through the elastic foot straps and wondered whether Robin Hood felt as stupid as I did wearing tights. It also struck me that the cold weather could potentially bring another small issue to the fore. These leggings should come with a glass case with a rolled up sock inside it saying “In case of Shrinkage, Break Glass, then Stuff”.
As I hit the trail to work, I sliced through the air like an arrow and felt out in the elements yet snug and warm. I have to admit I enjoyed wearing my leggings and I started to wonder whether me taking up cycling had unexpectedly lead to some personal issues I’ve never before considered.
By half an hour in, I was feeling like a Tour de France pro as I stood up to pedal and sprint forward when a red light turned to green. But my exhilaration quickly turned to confusion as I felt a draft from the stern. My previously insulated behind had given way to a huge Dagenham Smile.
Imagine the scene if you will. You’re on a packed bus in Leyton. Its 7:30am. You’re tired and miserable cos it’s Monday. The bus is quiet and hot. You haven’t even been able to pick up a newspaper this morning. Suddenly the silence and monotony is broken by a teenager banging on the window and laughing with his mate. As the bus slowly overtakes it rolls past the wobbly figure of a 31 year-old man wearing thick gloves and trying to wrestle his leggings back up. “His bum’s hanging out! OI MATE, YOUR BUM’S HANGING OUT!! HA HA HA!” The forlorn figure gestures and waves pathetically to hide his humiliation as the bus passes him.
In a nutshell, I hadn’t given enough thought to the leotard.
Another thing I hadn’t given enough thought to is the fact that a bus travelling at an average speed of 30mph whilst stopping sporadically at Bus Stops on the Lea Bridge Road can overtake a cyclist travelling at about 12mph around five times, thus ensuring that the cyclist can be reminded that his arse fell out of his trousers by teenagers on a further four occasions.
I doubt anyone has done a parachute up as tight as I tightened the waist chord of my leggings for the trip back. But to wear a leotard? A unitard? Jeggings? A mankini? Leggings are enough of a guilty pleasure for me, and I strongly recommend them.
Well – for the time being at least. Coming soon to a store near you… “Gentleman’s Cycling Braces”. They come with a pipe, a monocle and a maintained sense of dignity.