On yer bike, Chris Hoy! In defence of amateur cyclists wearing Lycra

The Olympic great says pro cycling gear ‘looks awful on pretty much anyone heavier than eight stone’, but there are good reasons for a ‘Mamil’ to invest in proper kit

Is it a bit rich for a man mountain to offer style advice after a career spent squeezing into one-piece suits tight enough to make Borat wince? Perhaps, but Sir Chris Hoy has gone there, sprinting into a storm with a column in GQ.

The retired track champion took aim at riders in full Team Sky kit. It “makes most cyclists look as ridiculous as an overweight football fan wearing the shirt of his favourite club for a pub five‑a‑side game,” Hoy wrote. Pro gear “generally looks awful on pretty much anyone heavier than eight stone”. What about 13 stone, all of which I regularly pour into Lycra (including a jersey that bears Hoy’s name; Hoy Vulpine tops come in sizes up to XXL)? Or, for that matter, what about that ridiculed older male cyclist, the “Mamil” (middle-aged man in Lycra)?

This is familiar ground. However classy cycling gear may be, we amateur cyclists must defend ourselves from ridicule in our offices, cafes and homes.

First, the shorts. Pity the nether regions of any cyclist who ventures far without a chamois gusset (the built-in padding). I imagine bigger riders only suffer more from chafing. The market recognises this risk – you can buy Lycra shorts with a 64in waist from the “spare tyre” range at British brand Fat Lad At The Back.

And the jerseys with the pockets at the back? You could wear a T-shirt, but the flapping would get annoying. So would the sweat (cycling jerseys encourage it to evaporate).

Hoy was partly joking, he explained in a tweet, but I agree with him on some counts. Full team kits are for pros only – and white shorts are a no-no. “From the front, men look like a percentage sign,” he observed. Anyone in doubt should, if they dare, seek out photos of cycling teams posing in white shorts, who tend to look like a row of international clocks above a hotel reception desk.


Simon Usborne

The GuardianTramp

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