On Tight Bike Shorts

A presidential debate occurred last night. I didn’t watch. I can’t endorse any activity that subjects me and my fellow countrymen to over a year of intense campaigning. Furthermore, I’m a big believer that debates don’t occur among a crowd of people approximately the size of a marching band. If I’m honest, though, those aren’t the reasons I avoided the debate last night. The truth is I can’t watch a debate when no one is willing to tackle the most pressing issue facing our country today: tight bike shorts.

I can’t be the first to notice this unsettling trend. I estimate it’s been growing steadily for over a decade, even since Lance demonstrated how to LiveStrong (or not). At that point, it wasn’t enough to just ride a bike. Everyone was preparing for “The Tour,” and that meant you had to wear the gear. Old Betty Lou hadn’t broken a sweat in fifteen years, but that extra one-tenth of a second she gained on her trip down to the park by wearing aerodynamic clothing was totally worth it. Totally. Rusty had a pretty bad case of gout, but when he suctioned on that yellow jersey, half unzipped, he felt like a champion.

Before long, whole packs of weekend warriors were shimmied into the tightest outfits possible, swearing up and down how it took them to new levels of performance. Special shoes, water packs, energy bars, it was all required. People remember the tight bike shorts, but it was only one part of the ensemble.

As memorable as the tight shorts are, my beef isn’t with their tightness. Rather, it’s with our national obsession with the trappings of achievement, but not achievement itself. It’s all around us. Rippled abs in 3 minutes per day! Earn your degree at home in your pajamas! Learn a foreign language in your spare time! We want it fast, we want it effortless, we want it painless. Only, true success is none of those things, and we all know it down deep.

We tell children they can grow up and be anything they want to be in life. And that sense of optimistic ambition is wonderful, but, maybe, by focusing on the end result, we skip over the truly important parts: the hard work, the sacrifice, the pursuit of excellence. Anyone can slap on a pair of tight bike shorts, some, admittedly, a little easier than others. Few have the discipline to need them.

I don’t begrudge anyone their hobby, a dream of elite athletic performance, or just a desire to avoid unnecessary chafing. All that said, you better put in the miles to earn those bike shorts because, trust me, we’re all watching.

2 thoughts on “On Tight Bike Shorts

  1. A group of bicyclists meet daily at the Panera where we have breakfast on Mondays and Friday. Usually 7 or 8 guys – a couple in their 40’s and the rest in their 50’s and 60’s. I am grateful that they are in full gear as you describe above. Since they have on their bicycle cleats, I can hear them coming by our table as they go for coffee refills and know that I must put up my hand to shield my vision and avoid being junk slapped. They either don’t have mirrors and are unaware of how they look or they have no friends to tell them they shouldn’t be out in public like that. The only people that should be allowed to wear that tight clothing should be Olympic athletes – under 25.


  2. I find myself wanting to agree with you about the fact that there are a lot of people out there who should not be wearing the revealing clothing they’re wearing. I can certainly cite some examples myself. But then I realize the crux of piece isn’t really about folks wearing tight athletic clothing who really shouldn’t. It’s about taking short cuts to success, wanting to appear accomplished when we’re actually not. Or is it?

    Sent from my iPad



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