To baggy or not to baggy?
There’s an unwritten rule when it comes to shorts: baggies for mountain bikers and Lycra for roadies, right? Apparently, not, as Katherine Moore discovers…
There’s a revolution taking place on Britain’s saddles, with a handful of women flagrantly contravening the Velominati’s Rule 18: “No baggy shorts and jerseys while riding the road bike. No Lycra when riding the mountain bike.” Jaw. Dropper.
Instead of head-to-toe Lycra, we’re seeing more and more road and cyclocross riders opting for something in the middle – a sort of low-key, loose-fit short.
More subtle than all-out downhill MTB get-up, yet more versatile than Lycra bibs, these in-betweener shorts are known as all-sorts, touring shorts, gravel, commuters... So, what’s driving this revolution? Katherine Moore finds out…
Up the baggies
Racing in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race across Australia in early 2017, it was long-distance specialist Sarah Hammond who first caught our eye – not only for her incredible ability to pound out incredible miles day after day, but her ‘unconventional’ clothing choice.
Sarah sports Rapha Randonnee shorts and admits, “I hardly leave the house in anything else. For me, it's a restriction thing. I think endurance racing requires you to feel more comfortable. When your body is under stress, having loose, breathable gear on can help you feel better.”
When Sarah isn’t on an epic ride, it’s the styling of her loose-fit shorts that appeals most. “There’s nothing worse then going riding and ending up getting post-ride beers fully clad in Lycra. The shorts and casual look mean you can pretty much get away with not looking like you got off a bike at all.”
Sarah now finds herself getting questions from all over the world about her shorts, although she states that “many of the bikepacking crew here in Melbourne have been wearing them forever.”
Piling on the shock, Sarah admits that instead of teaming her more relaxed-fit shorts with undershorts, she’s “become quite accustomed to just wearing underwear underneath.” Eye. Opener.
A true multidiscipline rider and cyclocross fanatic, Fran Whyte, Operations Manager at women’s cycling apparel specialists, Velovixen, is a self-confessed disciple of ‘The Rules’. That means baggies for the mountain bike and Lycra for the road. As Fran puts it, “If I wore what I wear on my road bike when mountain biking, I’d feel naked.”
Fran appreciates that for many women, donning skin-tight Lycra is a step too far, and for some it’s a matter of body confidence. “Some women simply feel more comfortable wearing loose-fitting shorts while riding, no matter what bike they’re riding.”
Too much information?
Living in London and commuting daily by bike, Carolyn Gaskell, Founder of Velocity, could think of nothing worse than striding into her office dressed head to toe in Lycra.
Struggling to find practical yet smart clothing that she could commute and work in, Carolyn went about designing and launching her own brand of cycling apparel specifically for that purpose and Velocity was born.
In Carolyn’s eyes, "It’s a personal choice: I think it’s important to offer women an alternative to Lycra, and to support them if they want to wear Lycra too.”
So, what’s the verdict?
As Sarah Hammond puts it so brilliantly, “The bottom line is that people should wear what feels comfortable!” Sod the rules, then! And with more and more brands offering a ‘halfway house’ between styles, it’s easier than ever for women to flex their kit depending on their needs and wants.
- Great for beginners who are yet to take the plunge into full-on cycling get-up.
- Pockets! Stash all your essentials without carrying them on your back to avoid inevitable mid-ride fumble as you blindly try to locate snacks.
- Modesty. Not everyone wants it all out on show.
- Equally valid on or off the bike. We all like multi-use.
- That moment of utter joy when you whizz past the guys in full TT kit on your road bike with baggies flapping into the wind. Speaking from experience.
- Chamois as standard to protect the pride and joy.
- Not aero. All that flapping is gonna mean you’ll have to work harder to keep up.
- An extra layer on top of undershorts can get a bit too hot in the summer season.
- Straps mean less pressure around the waist.
- Breaking ‘The Rules’ (Velominati #18 to be precise). Because no-one will ever take you seriously ever again. Yeah right.
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Photos by @toby.c.martin, Mike Cook, Sarah Hammond