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Friday, 18 July 2014

How to look like a pro cyclist

My team mates have taken to commenting on how "pro" I look. My response is always that it is one thing to look pro, but another thing to ride like a pro! I'm a 2nd Cat rider and I'm not claiming to be anything better than that. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to put together a little guide on how to look pro! Such fun. Photos by Sarah Theron.
Pro Team Kit
Wearing team kit will help you look pro, but only if you are in the team! Don't wear a trade team's kit if you want to look pro. You’ll just look like a fan. Of course there is nothing wrong with being a fan, but that's another article. Check out this FB page for further discouragement on the matter of wearing pro team kit.
If you ride for a club, get the kit. If you ride without allegiance, wear kit that is not branded to excess. Club kit will look more pro, especially if the club has sponsors displayed on the kit.
Jersey
Your cycling jersey should fit tightly. Try different sizes until you can't go smaller. Nothing should flap in the wind, unless you've unzipped completely on a long mountain pass climb (very pro). The zip on the front must be full length.
When pinning a race number to your jersey, make sure you pin it over the pockets on the lower back. Do not pin it above the pockets, ever.
Shorts
Cycling shorts should be the bib-short type. Draw-string or elastic waist bands are a no-no. Again, they should fit well, but comfort is also paramount. Your shorts should be coordinated with your jersey, unless you are wearing a National or World Champion's jersey. This should only be worn if you have earnt it. Despite what that make-up company tells you, you don't deserve it, unless you've won it!
If you are not wearing club or team kit, go for predominantly black shorts.
Arm warmers and leg warmers
Unless you have these issued otherwise, they should be black. Arm warmers should fit well enough not to slide down.
Arm warmers can be worn without leg warmers, but never wear leg warmers without arm warmers.
You can race in knee warmers, but should try to avoid racing in leg warmers, unless it is snowing. You can buy sports balm to apply to your legs for racing in cooler conditions, which warms the skin and muscles and forms a water resistant layer. It also makes your legs look pro (assuming you've shaved your legs, which you must do, to look pro). In warmer weather you can buy sports balm that is not as strong, giving you slick, pro looking legs.
During the spring and autumn, when it gets cooler than 15 degrees Celsius, it is pro to train in leg warmers and arm warmers.
Pre and post race, it is pro to wear leg warmers and arm warmers. Changing into non-team issue casual clothes prior to visiting the podium is not pro. Banging on clean kit with leg and arm warmers and a pair of clean sports shoes is pro. Sunglasses on head, or sponsor's cap if issued.
Socks
Race socks should be looking new. That means white socks should be white and not grey. Clean crisp socks look pro. They should be cycling specific and reach at least 2 inches above the ankle.
Compression socks should only be worn off the bike. Do not wear them in a race or time trial.
Helmet
Wearing a helmet is pro, or at least it has been since the turn of the century when it became compulsory for the pro peloton. Slotting your sunglasses into your helmet at the front or rear is also pro.
Your helmet should be chosen to complement or match your kit's colour scheme.
Make sure the helmet fits with minimum forehead exposure, so as not to look like a character out of Dad's Army.
Sunglasses should be worn with the helmet straps under the sunglasses arms. This means taking your sunglasses off before removing your helmet, but that's just the way things work.
Shoes
The main thing about shoes, in terms of appearance, is that they are crisp and clean. Wear and tear is fine if it shows that they are well used (indicating that you train and race like a pro), but when they start looking like your dog's been having his way with them, it's time for a new pair.
Shoes should fit snugly to your foot, with minimum bulk. When choosing a shoe colour, you want something that will match your kit, but still be neutral enough to work with different kit, should you change clubs or ride as a guest rider on another team. All black shoes are a bit retro, but white seems to be the modern classic.
Body
A prerequisite to looking pro is to be skinny. This can be achieved by training more, eating less junk and drinking less alcohol. Throwing up after a meal is not pro. Not drinking beer is pro. Making lifestyle sacrifices in the name of your sport is very, very pro.
If you are not skinny, you can go for the Jan Ullrich winter look, but unless you have a Tour de France podium place under the belt it is hard to make this work. In fact, Ullrich did not even make it work...
Tan lines should be preserved and valued. They are like a tattoo of honour, celebrating your hard work.
Your body language can make you look more pro too. Slouching over your bike is pro. Sitting side-on on your top tube is pro. And remember the old adage for a pro, "Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down."
Lastly, avoid contact between your calf and your chainring. Ovoid it like the plague! The grease chainring mark on your calf is a blazing sign, marking you out as someone who is decidedly not pro.
Your bike
Ride a frame that is slightly smaller, which allows more seat post exposure and a bigger drop from the level of your seat to the level of the handlebars. Slam your stem. This means removing all the spacers from beneath your stem, so that your bars are as low as possible.
Of course correct bike fit takes precedence over aesthetics, but strictly judging by appearance, you want a slammed stem and a smaller frame. The back wheel clearance to the seat tube should be a bard minimum of millimetres. This kind of geometry indicates a frame that will be quick up climbs and responsive to out of the saddle accelerations.

  • Your bar tape should match your saddle.
  • Your bottle cages should match your frame.
  • Spokes should be black or silver in colour.
  • Do not use a saddle bag.
  • Do not use a frame mount for your pump.
  • Do not fit a number of any sort to your handle bars. If you are riding an event that requires you to fit a number to your bars, then you are riding in an event that makes you look un-pro.

Conclusion
Follow these guidelines and you should be well on your way to looking a little more pro.
To ride like a pro will take a bit more effort, but at least you can make a good impression before that race starts!

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