Generally, if it isn’t too cold, I’ll ride in a t-shirt and bib-shorts, often with casual sunglasses. My sole purpose for doing this is to keep things casual. It’s also cheaper.
A while ago, I got into a bad pattern of taking all things cycling way too seriously. Training, racing, clothing and myself included. Allowing myself to have fun instead of being so serious makes things, well, more fun!
It’s strange how cyclists can get so caught up in appearances. No one wants to look out of place or odd on a ride. People aim to look ‘pro’ with their matching kit, expensive glasses and expensive bikes. People might get called out or judged on rides if they look out of place. I know this, because even I would partake in conversations about riders with old helmets and cut off tank tops two years ago.
Cycling encourages a lot of conformity. In the last couple of years, I’ve started to feel increasingly perturbed by the level of expectations to conform. You can’t expect everyone to train in the exact same way. You can’t expect everyone to be a slave to numbers, routine, and prescribed training plans and routes. Similarly, you shouldn’t expect everyone to look the same.
Living up to others’ expectations of me on the bike took away from the passion I originally felt for riding.
Last year I changed the language I would use when going for a ‘training ride’ to describe all rides simply as ‘riding’. This movement has also included adjusting my ride attire. I wasn’t wearing kit; I wore it because I felt I had to. And once I wore full kit, I felt like I had to take the ride more seriously. But why? Why can’t I just ride for fun? Why can’t I wear what I want?
I’ve never liked the term ‘life behind bars’ sometimes used by cyclists as a cool slogan or hashtag. I’m beginning to realize that, perhaps, it’s because the restrictions of cycling felt a little too real for me and comparing cycling to prison didn’t feel that far off for a while. This may sound very dramatic, but at a young age with ambitious goals, no plan B and trying to live according to others expectations of me, I felt I had no autonomy.
Now, there is a point at which you need to represent sponsors. It’s important to uphold your end of a sponsorship bargain. But I haven’t been sponsored for a few months now, so I’ve suddenly been granted the choice to either continue to wear sponsored kit as that’s the norm or allow my personality to be reflected in my choice of outfit as well.
Every decision I make when I ride these days is a component of the personal revitalization of my relationship with cycling. It’s meant to be fun. It’s meant to feel free. I’d like to be free to ride how I like. It has nothing to do with disrespect for other cyclists, sponsors or anything. It’s about respect for myself.
It’s also fun to show up to a group ride ‘incognito’ in a t-shirt. People don’t suspect that you might be fast. It takes them by surprise when you drop them!
Oliver Evans 20-year-old cyclist from Winnipeg, currently living in Victoria.