Admit It: You Want to Look Good As Much As You Want to Ride Fast

Morten Okbo
Photo credit: Brian Barnhart

From Bicycling

Okay. I don’t know the first thing about cycling apparel, and frankly, I never thought much about it. However. I ride my bike more than necessary, and although I live away from both people and city, deep inside the woods of Sweden, I still want to look good, and I’m guessing that so do you. We want to look good on our bikes. I came to terms with that as a child, and maybe you did too.

Cycling is special in that many of us secretly pay as much attention to our looks as glammed-up soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, but we hate him for doing so because if we crash we hurt ourselves and if he falls over he doesn’t, but he screams more than we do when hitting the ground, and so therefore he is an overpaid child, and we are not, and this gives us the right to think about our looks more than he does. There should be an argument there, but if we can’t find it, we’ll run with Ronaldo being an overpaid child.

Style is not easy, yet it is everything. Style is not a thing like poetry is not a thing. Both are everything and not confined to fabric or sizes, words or meaning. To do a dull and ordinary thing with style is more challenging than to do a difficult thing with style. In fact, to do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it. I would argue that cycling is art because you attempt to make the dangerous look effortless.

Style matters. In fact, many of us want to look good almost more than we want to go fast, and I can’t think of an activity or sport in which worrying about your looks while exercising matters just as much—or more—as doing the actual activity.

Here is an example: If your friend drops you on a climb, you’ll settle into thinking that you are alone on a mountain looking as good as Fausto Coppi, and that will make up for the humiliation of being dropped by that same friend, who is posting Instagram photos of himself on the bike all the time, yet when you see him, he says he’s hardly been riding his bike for six months. Oh, what lies. What lies we throw at each other as cyclists. But we tolerate it, because we all win in the end.

You see, your friend up ahead on the road now thinks he’s Marco Pantani dropping Lance Armstrong —you are Lance Armstrong—but you are really Fausto Coppi going for a solo win at the Giro, and your friend is not Marco Pantani. He is just an asshole up the road, who dropped you because of three or four excuses you are cooking up at the moment, and because the first asshole cyclist that comes to your mind is Lance Armstrong, your friend is now Lance Armstrong.

So at this moment, on this mountain, 500 meters apart, you are now both Lance Armstrong and not Lance Armstrong.

Yes, so. Ride your bike. Get out there. Don’t be ashamed to look at your reflection when you pass shopping windows. Don’t be ashamed to wear a team kit, either. Do whatever you want, but do it knowing that when you pass other riders on the road, or when you are in a social group hanging around at the cafe—even if we pretend we don’t—everyone is deciding who we are, which is why style matters.

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