Monday, September 14, 2009

Cargo Shorts & Air-O-Space

Not Me.

I'm not overly concerned with being all aero or racer fast when I ride. If I were, I would have grave misgivings about my panniers, fenders and single fixed gear. Nontheless, I built my summer commuter to be as light and fast as a practical commuter bike could be. I enjoy going as fast as I can where conditions permit, and I will hunker down in the drops when riding into a headwind or just for optimum speed once in a while.

Before I continue, I wish to reiterate that people should wear whatever they want when they ride. Whatever you're happy in works, and you'll be more likely to ride in what you find comfortable. Lots of people wear cargo shorts. I've been wearing lycra cycling shorts for a few years now, despite the weenie factor, because they are what I find most comfortable.

Recently I found that I was out of clean cycling shorts, and threw on a pair of cargo shorts instead. After all, I used to wear them all the time. Having become used to leg-hugging bike shorts, however, they felt like gigantic air scoops, especially when riding into the wind:

No, that is not my butt. Those are the massive air intakes of a Harrier jump jet. My cargo shorts, however, do not come equipped with Pegasus turbofan engines, and so do not allow me to hover or propel me forward even at the Harrier's somewhat mediocre sub-sonic speeds. If they did, I wouldn't be sitting here writing this nonsense, but instead be hovering and blasting around town impressing the hell out of everyone. No, I think perhaps this picture better conveys how cargo shorts feel to me now:

There, that does it for me. Now in describing my opinions on cargo shorts for bike riding, I'll just say they "give me the 'ol reverse spinnaker". Wait, maybe not. I don't like sound of that at all. Ah well, I'm sure you get my drift, and that's good enough for me. I'm just gonna shut up for a little while now.

Talk about hopeless wind bags!



ChipSeal said...

For me, a peek at the equipment used in professional bicycle racing is a clue for what works to provide either performance, or comfort, or both.

If cargo pants were the most comfortable pants to spend a few hours on a bike with, you would see them worn in the peloton.

Pro racers are the beneficiaries of millions of dollars worth of development money. It seems to me that those who won't consider "race style" products out some notion of fashion sense are depriving themselves of those same advantages.

That said, some of the trade-offs made in the name of performance at the professional level don't make enough difference for us more casual cyclists, and it is prudent to weigh for yourself if the often incremental benefit is worth the cost.

RANTWICK said...

ChipSeal - leave it to you to leave a reasonable, well thought out comment on that ridiculous post. You are, of course, corect.

Steve A said...

It's all about storage. Bags r dead weight...

RANTWICK said...

Steve A - I know. When I take the panniers off, its a whole different bike!

Andrew said...

I depends... If I'm riding to the pub and don't want to get laughed out the door, I'll wear the cargo shorts for sure.

I wear cycling shorts for riding pretty much everywhere else. They look particularly great in Church... ;)

Seriously, cycling shorts are what I feel the most comfortable wearing. As an added benefit, there is no giant ram-scoop to collect angy, flying bees & wasps.

ChipSeal said...

Oh Andrew! I have a way too graphic imagination for that word picture! Ouch!

Dearest Rantwick, I am reacting to the folks who act rashly, and get rashes, because they don't want to be considered part of some (Often rude and self-centered.) group.

As Steve can testify to, nearly all automotive advances emerged out of the crucible of competitive auto racing. Cyclists also ought to recognize their debt to those mad enough to compete in bicycle racing.

But for truly useful technological advancement, we casual riders have our own contributions to boast about: What professional cyclist knows how to protect his video camera on a rainy bike ride, eh? The strategic usefulness of a fanny pack? The effect of a well played display of madness and it's effect on automobile traffic?

Darn that was good! I should have made it into a blog post!


RANTWICK said...

Andrew - Most times I make it out to a pub, a bicycle would be a bad idea. If I had more self-restraint, however, I too would skip the spandex for a social gathering. As for wasps caught in a reverse spinnaker, yikes!

ChipSeal - You are too kind. I had no idea that anyone remembered what they read here...

Steve A said...

Hmm. First came road bikes and the ROAD cycling shorts associated with them. Later, in an evolutionary development, came mountain "do everything" bikes and the baggy shorts associated with progress, and more akin to what commuters might benefit from using.

Is Chip suggesting I will have to abandon my fashion sense and go for the bagginess associated with progress?

Just asking...

Todd S. said...

Not being a racer myself, I'm not entirely sure what level of comfort they are concerned with. Nearly everything I see about bike racing is geared for performance rather than (in spite of?) comfort. Much in the cycling world - as in the rest of our daily lives - is accepted as being right or better without anyone really knowing why or even testing it. As far as bike clothing goes, I do see and feel benefits when I wear it.

That said, I don't really see what performance benefit lycra shorts are going to give me while riding around town, or to work, or out for a leisurely Sunday ride. Or that I even need a performance booster in that case (no, not that kind of performance booster! ;). Since I moved to a Brooks saddle, I've found that even the padding of bike shorts is superfluous on most rides under a couple of hours.

On longer rides I tend to lean towards loose bike shorts. Not necessarily baggy, but not skin tight either. Along the lines of these .

RANTWICK said...

Hey all, I would like to point out that this was a fluff piece. I have become accustomed to a decided lack of flapping clothing, especially waist down. Does it make any real difference around town? Probably not. Everybody is different, and everybody is 100% correct in their personal choice!

So don your chicken suits, your spandex, your cargo shorts, your tweeds and knickers, whatever! If you're riding a bike, you're my kind of people.

Steve A said...

Actually, for good comfort, we should stick to the naked bike riding except for the need to demonstrate against something or other...

RANTWICK said...

Steve - You're right! I'll bet the fully naked reverse spinnaker is someting to behold!

ChipSeal said...

Actually ChipSeal is suggesting that that one should put comfort before fashion, and he is perplexed by those who don't.

As a utility cyclist, ChipSeal uses a bicycle to travel, not to make a statement.

ChipSeal has found wear on his saddle that includes the wearing off of paint and smoothed metal. He has come to appreciate reduced friction in his daily life. There are some places callouses don't belong, don't you think?

ChipSeal has no objection to the choices ToddBS makes. ChipSeal thinks there is a chance he missed his point about comfort. Performance in racing is a harsh taskmaster for sure, but if you are engaged in a bicycle race covering nearly 3,000 miles, one saddle sore can make you a spectator.

The same is true for things like gloves and synthetic fibers. ChipSeal knows his neighborhood is glad that they are now providing garments with synthetics in more loose fitting cuts.

If one rarely travels more than, say, ten miles at a time, the advantage of such technologies is not likely to matter much. Thus ChipSeal's admonition to being prudent when considering the various trade-offs.

"I would like to point out that this was a fluff piece."

ChipSeal finds dear Rantwick's wit delightful!


Keri said...

ToddBS said: "Since I moved to a Brooks saddle, I've found that even the padding of bike shorts is superfluous on most rides under a couple of hours."

I concur!

Who'd a thunk it?

I wear baggy shorts most of the time when riding around town. I ride so slow, it makes no diff. However, I have noticed the drag in a heavy headwind and they get quite heavy in a downpour.


RANTWICK said...

I've been debating about forking out for a brooks on the tourer I'm building ever so slowly... sounds like they may be worth it, but I've always wondered if they were just overhyped. Testimonials from Rantwick readers are changing my mind, I think.

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