A Note from Fatty: If you read my post on the H2O Audio headset from a couple days ago and are considering buying one, you can get a 20% discount on anything from the H2O Audio website – including the Interval 3G Waterproof Headphone System – including the by entering the discount code FatCyclist20 at checkout. (Full Disclosure: I do not get any of the proceeds from any of these sales — this is just something nice the H2O Audio people are doing because it looked like a lot of you were interested.)
For the first few years of my cycling life, I wore bike shorts with an elastic waist. This was OK, though I never really cared for the way the elastic cut into my waist, while my belly flopped over the band.
And then I tried my first pair of bib shorts, after which I quickly discarded all my elastic waist shorts.
Yes, bib shorts are really that much better. For one thing, they keep the chamois snug against your nethers. For another — much more important — thing, they keep your stomach compressed, giving you the same benefit William Shatner had in the first Star Trek series. Which seems only fair.
Also, they look dapper.
And in short (ho ho!): I love bib shorts.
Which means that I’m exactly the right person to answer the following email:
On my ride the other day I spied something I’d never seen before. A cyclist riding in bib nicks only. Of course I quickly checked his bike for signs that he was a triathlete, that strange sub-set of cyclists which you’ve quite rightly pointed out in the past are dangerous and to be avoided. But there were none. So it’s quite obvious from that comprehensive check that we can rule that option out. So there you have it. Someone riding in bib nicks only. OK. And shoes and helmet – he wasn’t totally crazy.
As you can well imagine, this left me somewhat confused. Like most people, I feel much more comfortable when I can pigeon-hole people in accordance with my own misconceptions and biases. But here was someone who defied all classification because I realised that I didn’t have any rules of thumb, codes or standards to apply.
In such a disturbing dilemma and time of distress you are the only one I could think of to turn to. A kind of Agony Aunt, or as I’d prefer to think of it Modern Guru. At least for all things cycling, but more probably for everything, such is your insight and breadth of experience.
So, dear Fatty, what is the correct dress for a road cyclist? Is it acceptable to only wear bib nicks when it’s really hot and steamy? If so, does that mean it’s also ok to ride just in regular nicks with no jersey?
Is wearing no socks the start of poor cycling dress – the first step on the slippery slope to cycling dress purgatory?
Help me oh wise one. What is the correct etiquette?
Thanks for your question, Paul! The short answer to your question is that this rider was exactly right to be wearing nothing but bib shorts (or “bib nicks” as you Australians adorably put it) on his ride. But the circumstances in which bib shorts — and nothing but bib shorts — are appropriate goes much, much further than merely on the bike.
I shall enumerate.
Let’s begin by addressing the question at hand. The truth is, bib shorts are so attractive that it’s a shame to cover them with a jersey. And really, why would you want the extra weight? Besides, if you have a hairy chest (and / or shoulders and / or back) you ought to share that with the world.
One caveat, however: bibs do not provide quite as much protection as a jersey in the case of an accident. Not that a jersey protects you from a hard impact, but it can reduce road rash to a degree.
For this reason, you should always wear a jersey over your bib shorts during the rides where you expect to crash, much as you should wear a helmet during those rides.
For extra-attractive awesomeness, I especially recommend wearing a Camelbak over your bibshorts when mountain biking. I guarantee an interesting set of tanlines.
What many people do not realize is that bib shorts also make terrific swim suits! And in fact I think you might find that you would not be the first person to wear such an outfit, as demonstrated in the below photograph.
Really, all you need to complete your look is a parasol, and perhaps a waxed moustache.
Note: Be careful of the chamois, which can hinder movement and become somewhat uncomfortable when soggy.
Something most people don’t realize about bib shorts is that they are awesome for more than just athletic activities. I hope that it is not revealing too much to say that I also wear bib shorts when I eat, especially when I am sitting on a couch, eating chips and drinking a favorite beverage.
Why? Simple. By pulling the front part of the bib short forward, I have a ready-made kangaroo pouch of sorts, one that will hold at least 3/4 of a bag of chips. Depending on my mood, I will stuff the bag into the pouch, or simply pour the chips down into the opening.
Either way, I’ve got easy access to my chips, and the chips stay with me when I move.
Let me make it clear, though: the pouch is not the only thing the bib shorts will hold. Consider, for a moment, Twizzlers. Or Red Vines. (I don’t want to get into an argument right now over which is better.) You can easily stick several of your favorite red licorice into each shoulder strap, giving you unprecedented access.
And really, this is just the beginning. With all that lycra, the places to hold your favorite foods and beverages close to your body is only limited by your imagination. And by how tight your bib shorts are to begin with, I suppose.
Try eating and watching TV with your bib shorts on. You’ll thank me.
One place where I do not recommend wearing your bib shorts without a jersey, however, is when participating in a Triathalon. The reason for this is simple: triathaletes have their own clothing rules and customs, and it is important that we observe and obey these.
Hence, if you are going to wear bib shorts when participating in a triathalon, you should also wear a half-shirt. That’s what I’m going to do in the St. George Ironman in May, and I am going to look hot.
Here’s what I’m going to look like:
In the interest of accuracy, I want to point out that my bib shorts do not do quite as good of a job in holding my muffin top in as shown in this photograph.
And my quads look about thirty times as awesome.
Other Questions Answered
Paul also wanted to know whether it is allowable to wear regular shorts without a jersey. The answer is — again — “yes,” but with a few caveats: it is permissible to wear regular shorts without a jersey only if
- You have 8% or lower bodyfat
- You have no hair on your back or shoulders
- Your skin is not so pasty white that bystanders must wear special eyewear or risk damage to their retinas.
I should point out that owing to one or more — or all — of the above criteria, I have never worn cycling shorts without a jersey.