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By: Zdenko Kahlina
Do’s and Don’ts to Look like a Pro and be cool!
Pro cyclists spend hours and hours every day perfecting their craft. This is not limited to riding a lot to get fast but also looking the look as well. Even if you don’t have the same legs as a pro you can still look like one, or as close to it as physically possible by doing and not doing things that every pro knows without even thinking. Following these guidelines will not only have you looking like a pro but acting like a professional as well.
Looking like a pro starts with what you’re wearing and how you wear it. Just because it looks “pro” doesn’t mean it has to be expensive though. Plan ahead and you’ll too look the look.
There are two things to a pro’s socks: height, and color. Pros don’t wear ankle socks nor socks that come half-way up your leg. The correct height is about one to five inches above your ankle. The sock should be well above your ankle but not so far as to be to the bulge of your calf. Typically larger legged cyclists, sprinters, wear a bit shorter socks while thinner legged, climbers, wear longer socks. The color of your socks should match the rest of your kit meaning if your kit isn’t bright green, don’t wear bright green socks. Generally white is the most “pro” looking while black is the safest all-around bet.
To look cool, take off the helmet and slip on your cycling cap the moment you arrive at your destination. To look Euro-cool, make sure to always wear your sunglasses on the outside of your helmet straps so the television cameras can see the brand logo on the ear pieces. And please, no neon colored helmets! White is the only acceptable helmet color.
Your sunglasses should be riding specific meaning that they are made for athletics. Although aviators may look cool, they don’t on the bike. For something to look good it has to be functional as well. And wear your sunglasses on the outsides of your helmet strap. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Jersey (the kit)
Your jersey must match your shorts, which must match your arm warmers, which must match your socks. The first thing to having a “pro” looking jersey is to have one that fits. You don’t want one that is too big and flapping in the wind or too small and shows your stomach. It should fit snug but not too snug. Find a good looking kit that fits well with you and your style.
But under no circumstances should a replica pro team kit or a national/world champion kit be worn unless you’ve earned it. The only acceptable team kit is your own club kit. Retro wool kits are sometimes acceptable, but even that is iffy.
There are many rules regarding shorts. First of all, they don’t exist. Forget about them. The only acceptable garments to wear are bibs, no exceptions. But please, throw out your bibs when they start to wear out. Enough anatomy is revealed by the skin tight Lycra, we don’t need to see a transparent butt panel. And this may seem obvious, but the jersey goes over the bibs!
Cycling caps are one of the biggest things that can help you look like a pro. Riding with one without a helmet does not. It just makes you look stupid for not wearing a helmet. Wear one under your helmet on cool or rainy days otherwise take one in your pocket to wear at the coffee shop.
We’ve all been asked a million times, why do cyclists shave their legs? The reasons are many. Our answers range from aerodynamics to massage to wound care. But we all know the real reason. It makes us look smooth (in more way than one)! No pro cyclist has hair on their legs. If you do, you are not going to look pro and you don’t get any of the benefits from not having any hair on your legs. So whip out the shaving cream and the Bic and mow the lawn.
For the ultimate in cool, roll up the cuffs of your shorts for that extra 1/4 inch of tanning space. To look Euro-cool, always wear a pair of the ultra-cool Pez cycling socks. And please, no gym socks!
The saddle bag is viewed by some as not pro but it in fact is. Being stuck without a tube and pump on the side of the road is definitely not pro. If you can fit what you need to get out of a mechanical in your pockets without taking up the space for other essentials such as food then do it. Otherwise get a small, sleek saddle bag that fits nicely under your seat. If it’s big and floppy it won’t look “pro” but small and tight makes it look like it belongs.
To look cool, ride without a saddle bag. Put one small tube, a tiny pump and a tire lever in your middle back pocket. To look Euro-cool, ride without a saddle bag and with nothing in your pockets. This is cool because it means you must have a team car following you with all your supplies… or you’re just taking a big risk!
Having parts on your bike that match in color will make you look more “pro” than ever. This means matching your saddle color to your bar tape to your shoes. White is the most “pro” but black also can look good.
Now that you’re doing all the things above to look like a pro, you now need to make sure you don’t still do certain things that will negate any of the above.
Helmet Visors are quite functional and look good… on mountain bikes. They’re simply not to be ridden on the road. If you need a visor for whatever reason, wear a cycling cap.
As with visors, hydration packs are reserved for mountain bikes. On the road you have two bottle cages that can hold plenty of liquid. If you need a third bottle, put one in your center jersey pocket and switch it out as soon as one of the others is empty.
Mirrors are good for some riders. They allow you to see what’s behind you if you physically have trouble rotating your body and head to adequately see what’s behind you. Aside from that they don’t go on your road bike. Learn to look behind you while still riding a straight line.
Carbon wheels are for racing! Never under any circumstances should they be brought out on a training ride. Training wheels should be strong and heavy with lots and lots of spokes. Carbon wheels say to the group, I’m not strong enough to do this ride without my $2,000 feather weight wheels. And please, no deep dish carbon clinchers. Carbon wheels are race wheels and clinchers are for training. Tubulars are the only way to go on your carbons.
To be cool, ride with Bontrager flat proof tubes. They’re about four-times as heavy as regular tubes and they just about double your rolling resistance. To be Euro-cool, don’t tell anyone you’re riding with them. It’s enough to know for yourself that you can keep up with those weenies even on a 22-pound bike.
Cat 5 Tattoo
If you don’t already know, a Cat 5 tattoo is a chain-ring grease mark left on the inside of your calf due to not paying attention and letting your leg hit your chain-ring. This is a classic give-away to a newbie rider who hasn’t gotten on and off their bike enough to know how to avoid touching their leg to it. If you accidently get one, wipe it off right away.
Another newbie mistake is putting the quick-release of the front wheel on the wrong side. The skewer is always supposed to go on the same side as the rear quick-release; the left side.
Clipping out early
One of the easiest ways to determine the experience level of a cyclist is to see how early they clip out before coming to a stop. A novice rider will clip out as much as a block before a stop sign or red light. A real beginner will clip out a block before a green light, just on the off chance that it might turn red by the time they get to it.
To look cool, let the bike come to a full stop before clipping out. To look Eurocool, never clip out. Track stands are the only acceptable way to wait at a red light. And please, no basket-clips and no mountain bike shoes on the road bike! Wearing sneakers or mountain bike shoes on the road indicates that you intend to spend more time with your feet on the ground than in the pedals. You’re a cyclist, darn it, not a pedestrian!
This should be a no brainer but some riders see pro’s throw bottles and wrappers in the big time bike races and think that it’s okay if they do it. Generally bottles are always tossed toward fans or where people are and wrappers are discarded somewhere where they’ll be picked up, namely the feed zone. Although this doesn’t always happen, it’s a big time big race situation. Your ride is not. Littering not only looks bad, it is bad for the environment, and is illegal, it also doesn’t look professional at all so don’t do it.
The final part to looking like a pro is how you act and ride. Pro’s don’t only look sharp and ride fast but are also courteous to others.
Obeying Traffic Laws
You should always obey traffic laws and if you don’t that is a dead giveaway that you’re a rookie who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Always stop at red lights and stop signs as well as following general traffic rules. Not doing so not only puts your life in danger but makes you and the cycling community as a whole look bad. Follow the rules of the road and look like a pro doing it.
Half-wheeling is when you ride half a wheel ahead of the rider next to you instead of keeping your handlebars even, right next to each other. Most often you don’t even realize that they’re doing it. This is a dead giveaway to a rookie cyclist as well. Ride next to each other with no more than a foot in-between your bars.
I should say MP3 players, but let’s face it an iPod is the only cool on-board music system. Of course legally, I have to recommend against wearing headphones out on the road, but since you’re going to do it anyway, here are a few guidelines. The same should apply for the cell phones. Never wear headphones on a group ride. Never answer your cell phone on a group ride! Headphones on a group ride say two things.
1) You people are good enough to ride with, but not good enough to talk to or even listen to.
2) I’m not concerned with my own safety and I’m even less concerned with YOUR safety.
There’s no faster way to become disliked by a group of cyclist than by showing up on a group ride with headphones, even if the music is off.
Along with half-wheeling is when riders are constantly trying to show that they’re stronger than the other. They do this by half-wheeling along with always pushing it up every little climb. This gets old quick and if you’re riding with a more experienced rider, they’re not going to ride with you for long. Save the fight for races and hard group rides, not when you’re just trying to get a nice ride in.
Safety and Courtesy
Another way to act pro is to always ensure everyone’s safety by pointing out debris and other obstacles in the road as well as any upcoming turns. Never assume and be vocal about what’s coming up. This will not only keep others safe but you as well.
Showing Up On Time
A final part to etiquette is showing up on time to rides. No one appreciates someone who shows up late. It just shows that your time is more important than the others in the group. The best pros are the ones who are also grounded and don’t think that they’re more important than anyone else. They can be the best rider in the world but showing up on time shows respect.
Looking like a pro takes a lot of planning and knowing of the little details but if you focus on it at first it will just become how you look, ride, and act. All the little details are what add up to being pro so focusing on them can get you looking like one even if you don’t have the genes and ability to be one.
Most importantly, get out there, have fun, and enjoy your bike! And in the meantime, hurry spring!
Hope to see you on the road.
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