In which the Reluctant Cyclist refuses to wear lycra.
Sitting at Trisports in Letchworth, in a room full of women cyclists of assorted ages, I awaited Chris Garrison’s talk which promised to demystify sore bottoms, saddles, and flat tyres. Trisports had cleverly promised wine and chocolate to accompany this evening of women-focused bike chat, and some purveyors of tight Lycra things were also in attendance.
Having partaken in a mere two glasses of red, Chris started off by informing us that years of research by Trek bikes had come to the conclusion that men and women were actually different. We all nodded in agreement at the sage wisdom, as she demonstrated with a pretend pelvis the different positions men and women were likely to take when riding, all due to lower centres of gravity and suchlike. Chris freely admitted to not being a ‘perfect size 10’, but when trying out new saddles she had been amazed to discover that she has a thin pelvis. We greeted this with the necessary applause as we could all identify with trying to find a part of ourselves that we were truly comfortable with. Apparently the size of one’s knickers is not the determining factor when buying a saddle, which rather blew my ‘big bum saddle’ comfort theory out of the water.
Having demolished my bum size/saddle size theory, Chris then went on to explain how saddles can be the beginning of the end of a wonderful friendship. “Women love to share,” she explained, “if we find a perfume or book or something else which really works for us we tell our friends so that they can try it too.” If, however, we extol the virtues of a new saddle to a friend, though, Chris foresaw the rapid end of that friendship. “Your friend will try this amazing saddle, but it won’t fit her like it fits you. She’ll start wondering if your other advice can be trusted and soon the entire friendship will collapse.”
Chris then got to the crux, or rather the crotch of her talk. “Who here wears cycling shorts?” she asked of the crowd. Many lovers of Lycra duly put their hands up. “I bet you don’t!” she said, turning to me. “Of course not,” I replied, amused at the very thought of squeezing my lower portions into the small, black item she was waving, which was distinctly reminiscent of Spanx ‘hold em’ in’ knickers. “You must always wear cycling shorts when out on a bike,” Chris decreed, “and,” she continued, as if this idea was not daft enough, “you must never wear knickers with them.” Now this was too much for me to bear. There was no way on earth that I was ever going to be caught outside without pants. This was the first piece of advice that I resolved to ignore.
Moving on to explain the intricacies of paneling on the shorts, Chris turned them inside out to reveal the ‘chamois’, which looked like nothing more than sewn in Tena Lady. So now she was expecting me to squeeze myself into this instrument of torture whilst wearing no knickers. Being as I took up cycling to improve my relationship with my boyfriend, this seemed a very retrograde step.
The icing on the proverbial, however, came when Chris introduced us all to Chamois Cream. This miracle cure, she explained, was to be slapped liberally on either the inside of the shorts or onto oneself, to lubricate the entire area. Having explained that this should always be a private process, Chris demonstrated various facial contortions which can accompany the routine of getting the nappy-shorts halfway up her thighs and then trying to apply said cream. Off putting? If I hadn’t have been physically hemmed in by other cyclists, I would have run away screaming at this point. Despite the other professionals in attendance concuring with the guidance being given, I decided that this was the second piece of advice that I would be ignoring. Having taken up riding to please my chap, there was no way squishing myself into a lycra-nappy and then lubing up my internals was going to keep the romance alive.
Following the final part of the talk on how to change a flat tyre (useful, needs practice prior to attempting), and having thanked Chris for her genuinely informative and amusing presentation, I wandered downstairs to have a look at the bicycles in the shop. Having noted my interest in a teal coloured racy number, Carolyn, who works at Trisports, managed to be the complete opposite of the Reluctant Sales-teen and engaged me in conversation about the bike, my current needs and biking aspirations. Despite completely failing to follow the advice in Chris’ post on this exact site, I found myself being drawn to the colour, as Carolyn carefully explained the bike’s features (thankfully without too much techno-jargon) it transpired that this was exactly the right bike to meet my cycling goals. Chris came over, looking approvingly at my selection. “It’s teal-coloured,” I blurted out. As her face showed her exasperation with my priorities I added, “It would match the colour of my living room…”