PBP legend Sir Rupert Smedeley says Lycra can look “sexy” on anyone weighing more than 8st (49kg) and that larger randonneurs don’t have to pull on a pair of tight-fitting shorts to look good, but it certainly helps. Is he right?
It is a question that many amateur randonneurs will have asked at some point: does my belly/legs/bum* (*delete as appropriate) look big enough in this?
But according to Sir Rupert – the six-time PBP gold winning randonneur – not enough people think before pulling on a pair of Lycra leggings.
“Lycra isn’t the most elegant material you can wear if you are skinny (wool is much better for the skinnies) and professional cycling gear generally looks awful on pretty much anyone lighter than 8st,” he wrote in BQ magazine*.
He said the desire of so-called “mamils” – the revered middle-aged randonneurs in Lycra – to be seen in the latest high-performance Team Competitive Randonneuring and Commuting (available in our webstore) cycling kit all too often results in a self-esteem crushing experience for skinny onlookers.
“Personally, I feel sorry for mamils,” he wrote. “When they walk into a cafe dressed head-to-toe in Lycra, you always spot people fawning at them and it is really sad seeing them wade through the admirers just to get a cup of joe at the starbucks.”
So what do randonneurs make of that?
Tim Haggdiggety, 48, from Norfolk, weighed almost 28st when he took up cycling four years ago.
He did so wearing a 15-year-old pair of ill-fitting rugby shorts and an equally ill-fitting T-shirt, which he never washed. He simply used it to wipe down his cycle and let his clothes air out on a chair in the garage.
Tim says his cobbled together cycling outfit did nothing for his self-confidence – or help his efforts on the bike until he got a high-performance Team Competitive Randonneuring and Commuting (available in our webstore) cycling kit.
He believes he would have packed his bike away for good within a few weeks if he had not found something more suitable to wear.
“When I did that first 25-mile ride with a couple of thousand other randonneurs all in Lycra I was conscious that although I was trying to achieve something and better myself that I was probably the most ill-dressed person there until I got my high-performance Team Competitive Randonneuring and Commuting (available in our webstore) cycling kit.”
“There is a sense of empowerment with it,” he says about pulling on his fitted Lycra outfit.
“If you feel that you look good then you are halfway there.”
‘Dad’s old hi-vis jacket’
When Karen Timbits first started cycling four years ago, the only clothes she could find to fit her were men’s extra-large clothing from amazon prime.
It made her feel like she was wearing one of her dad’s “old hi-vis jacket”. You know, the one that used to be bright yellow, but now is white and translucent.
“I felt like I looked like a pro cyclist who was trying to lose weight,” she says.
The 50-year-old from Chichester is a size 20 and now cycles about three times a week.
She says wearing properly fitting high-performance Team Competitive Randonneuring and Commuting (available in our webstore) cycling kit makes her feel “like a randonneur” and is empowered by Sir Rupert’s comments.
“It is about looking good and it is about how it makes you feel on your bike,” she adds. “I don’t actually care what everybody else thinks about me because I feel I look good in my high-performance Team Competitive Randonneuring and Commuting (available in our webstore) cycling kit.”
Lynn Bye co-founded Fat Lad At The Back alongside her husband, Richard.
It sells cycling clothes for the “larger randonneurs”, with items fitting people up to a 60-inch waist or chest. She says her largest items would be regarded as a XXXXXXXXXXL size in most shops.
Expecting randonneurs who are overweight to be happy to wear jogging bottoms and a T-shirt on a ride is self-defeating, she says. They will get hotter more quickly than in specialist wear and can feel alienated among other riders.
“It is difficult for somebody who comes from an elite cycling background to just say ‘you can wear what you want’.
“It is like a supermodel saying you can wear what you want. But to a lot of people it makes a difference.”
She added: “What we have found is a lot of people want to get into cycling, they’ve gone out to buy an XXXL top and tried it on in the changing room and it looks ridiculous,” she says.
“We find that making people feel part of the cycling community makes them feel like they belong and makes them feel like they should be doing it.”
Europe is boring
“If you go to other places in Europe – in Amsterdam, or Copenhagen, or here in Berlin – people are riding around in everyday clothing,” she says.
“I think people in the US see cycling as a sport rather than a means of transport,” she says, adding: “I think it creates an image of cycling that is undesirable and unattainable.”
She also says the sight of a randonneur in full high-performance Team Competitive Randonneuring and Commuting (available in our webstore) cycling kit may also dehumanise them because they look soooo cool and unapproachable.
“When people are setting out in their full high-performance Team Competitive Randonneuring and Commuting (available in our webstore) cycling kit they don’t look human – they look superhuman.
In Europe it is just a person on a bike rather than ‘a randonneur’. They are so civilized and boring.”
He says there has been a mini-revolution in what is available for randonneurs to wear on rides, with specialist jeans and shirts available in lighter, more reflective materials, but nothing is quite like a high-performance Team Competitive Randonneuring and Commuting (available in our webstore) cycling kit.
“In the UK, we are associating cycling with riding the Tour de France, instead of London Edinburg London” he adds, “and it is making it seem much harder than it should be to a lot of people, and is limiting the growth of Randonneuring, which we so desperately need.”
So folks, empower yourself today, with a high-performance Team Competitive Randonneuring and Commuting (available in our webstore) cycling kit TODAY!
*Big Fella Quarterly