What IS it about Lycra?

That tweet appeared in my timeline this week. It's badly written, by someone who seems to have confused bicycles with boats. Presumably they're both B-words on the chart in his bedroom.

The problem is, he's not the only one with a 'thing' about Lycra.

No clothing associated with any other sport or pastime attracts the same opprobrium. When did you last hear anyone express disgust about the trainers worn by a runner or the tutu chosen by a ballerina?

It's not just people like our Twitter friend, or the eccentrics ringing into radio programmes who love to loathe Lycra. It's would-be cyclists, too. As a Breeze Champion I come across women who are nervous about joining our friendly, sociable rides because "You all wear Lycra."

So let's get a few things straight.

We don't wear Lycra because we think it makes us look good. On the contrary, we know we resemble badly-stuffed sausages. Unfortunately, jogging bottoms get tangled in the chain in a way that leggings simply don't. The seams on your jeans will chafe so badly they'll make you bleed when you ride long distances and if you get wet in that jumper, you'll freeze for the rest of the day.

We wear Lycra because it is the most practical fabric available. It's lightweight, stretchy, warm and comfortable.

Those neon colours? We don't choose them to exalt in our Lycra, we are wearing them in the hope you will see us before you run us over.

Nobody cycles because we think we'll look good on a bike. We cycle despite the fact that our lumps and bumps will be painfully exposed. Our helmets make us look like Mekons and with all that padding we are perfectly well aware of the disadvantages of cycling shorts, we don't need you to sing a chorus of Fat Bottomed Girls as we pass by.

We choose cycling for the way that it make us feel, not how it makes us look. We ride because of the downhill swoops, the smell of wild garlic in the hedgerows and the sound of skylarks above our heads. We ride for friendship, fitness and to get from A to B.

So please, lay off our Lycra and we won't mention that your baseball cap makes you look like an American president - which is a lot less cool than it used to be.


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