If you read my previous article on The Evolution Of Bicycle Touring Clothes you will have seen that my bike touring clothes have changed a lot over the past nine years.
I started my bicycling career with dark, neutral colors and clothes designed for life off the bike. But as the years progressed, I got sucked into the bike culture here in the United States and started to wear the clothes I saw others in the bicycle industry wearing. And now, after more than nine years of long-distance bicycle travel I have begun to drift back to my roots with more neutral colors and clothing that was never designed to be worn on a bicycle.
When I first started traveling by bike, I didn’t have any money and knew very little about the specifics of bicycle touring. Because of this, I just wore the clothes I had in my closet. If you look at the photos of me in 2001 and 2002, I’m wearing a T-shirt, cargo shorts, and a simple pair of running shoes. At the time, I didn’t know that there were clothes made specifically for the bicycle industry.
Of course, when I got out on the road I met more experienced cyclists who told me (sometimes not so politely) that there were clothes made for cycling that would make my bicycle touring adventures that much more enjoyable.
So, as the years went on, I began to collect the pieces of clothing I saw other bicycle travelers wearing. I got a jersey (although it wasn’t the form fitting ones you see on the Tour de France riders) and I started to wear the tight Lycra shorts (although I typically wore them under a pair of thin athletic shorts). By 2004 I had all the gear needed to call myself a seasoned bicycle traveler.
I did a few more tours after that, but it wasn’t until my tour of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic in 2007 that I began to think about the clothes I was wearing and what they said about me both on and off the bicycle.
In America, the bright and tight colors were what the other cyclists wore. And because I considered myself (to some degree at least) to be a bicyclist, I felt the need to fit in and wear the attire that labeled me as such.
But once I got to Europe I began to see how people there were able to ride their bikes and still blend in with the rest of society. Riding a bike in Europe didn’t mean you were some hard core cyclist. It just meant you had a bike and you used it as a means of transportation. No special clothing needed!
Because I never really considered myself a cyclist (certainly not a professional racer or anything even close), the more lifestyle driven clothes of the European cyclists appealed to me. I thought to myself, “Bicycle touring isn’t a race. Why am I wearing these flashy clothes?” I also realized that the bright biker clothes I had worn for the previous five years were only a little more comfortable on the bike than the clothes that had not been designed for the bike at all.
Being a bicycle traveler (someone who spends just as much, if not more, time off the bike than on it) I realized that I no longer needed the tight and bright clothes I had worn in the past. I realized that by dressing with more neutral colors and styles that it would allow me to more easily blend in with the rest of society off the bike, that it would be that much easier to meet people on the road, have others approach me and ask me about my travels, and blend in with my surroundings if need be.
Now that I have been bicycle touring for more than nine years, I now realize that there is little need to fit in with the rest of the bicycling community because, frankly, I don’t consider myself to be a cyclist. I’m just a guy who likes to travel with my bicycle. No special clothing needed!