Fact: You Can Ride A Bike Without Wearing A Jersey

I think Matt was a little embarrassed to be seen with me. I was trying my best to arrange myself in the two square feet of shade outside the Conoco station, sucking down the last of an energy goo. Lycra-clad cyclists rested their bikes tenderly against the building while they dashed in to grab Gatorades and coconut waters. Monster trucks towing motor boats and tattooed women with boob jobs roared in and out of the fuel bays.

“So, tell me again why you don’t wear jerseys?” he said, peering sidelong at me after a squirt from his water bottle. We hadn’t ridden together for several months, and in his Mondrian-inspired kit, straddling his brand-new carbon baby, he certainly looked the part.

I was wearing a t-shirt. Perfectly worn-soft, grey, cotton v-neck. With Matt’s band’s logo on the front. And bike shorts.

I said: “I don’t mind riding in cotton in the summer, because sweat cools you down. And for winter, I have synthetic long-sleeve shirts and jackets. I suppose the pockets might be nice, but I have a seat bag, and usually I’m mountain biking and carry a backpack.”

I meant: “I ride in a t-shirt because I like to feel like a little kid when I ride my bike.”

I ride my bike more than 200 days a year. And just about every day, I feel like Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, with an adventure around every corner. Breeze on my face, hopping a curb, cutting through a park, squeezing through traffic, screaming down a hill, or slowly cruising under moonlight. And somehow, wearing a synthetic bike jersey with some sort of corporate logo on it would feel less natural, less spontaneous, less fun. Less of most of the things I love about cycling.

Riding in a t-shirt has a second advantage, if fun weren’t enough: I call it the t-shirt sandbag.

I used to think, when I noticed a pack of folks in flashy kits and expensive bikes, that surely they ride harder than I do. Only people who hammer out hundreds of miles each week wear stuff like that, and they’ll drop me before the first curve in the canyon. But the more I ride, the more I realize how naive I was. Obviously, in the Denver-Boulder area, there’s a chance that the guy swiping his card for a Clif bar in a Garmin-Cervelo jersey is actually a world-class racer. But there’s just as good of a chance the guy clopping around in that jersey only pulls the bike out of the garage a couple of times each summer to pedal down to the Starbucks at the downtown REI.

When I get dropped/passed/generally schooled, hey, whatever, dude.  I’m just out having a fun ride in my t-shirt.

And, when I’m the one who happens to be doing the dropping/passing/general schooling, hey, whatever, dude. Don’t take it too seriously, because I’m sure not.

BTW, the awesome photo is by Alex Strickland!

15 Responses to Fact: You Can Ride A Bike Without Wearing A Jersey

  1. Sinjin Eberle says:

    Good one…

    While I am one of those occasionally overly serious lycra-clad mountain bike (sometimes) racer, I sure do love still just getting on the bike and going for a spin. We all need to do more of that – the world tries to take itself too seriously all too often.

    • hilarymoliver says:

      Thanks, Sinjin! Yeah, I think there’s a time and a place for Lycra. But it’s so fun to get back in touch with the simple pleasure of pedaling!

  2. Nancy Barnes says:

    Great piece, Hilary! I think I wear jerseys when road biking because I stuff the pockets full and just have a tiny bike bag. Riding a bike is great fun!!

  3. Alex says:

    Thanks for the photo credit! That was a fun day, despite my boneheaded crash.

  4. Eric O'Rafferty says:

    Awesome! I have long been in the t-shirt school myself! Love the “feels like a kid” take.

    • hilarymoliver says:

      Thanks! I recently started mountain biking on flat pedals, too, and it feels so much more like it did when I was a kid, pedaling around the neighborhood. So much fun!

  5. mashall moose says:

    Hilary – just ran across your site… awesomeeeee. Totally badass fatbike photo!

    I also like employing the cutoff carhartt shorts sandbag. plus it adds a little hipster flare. Cut them short enough and you still get to show off those quads, too. Wear them long enough and you will show off more than that… (aka hole in the butt problem).

  6. Kelly says:

    I love this! Too many people buy into the idea that to really be good at something, you’ve got to have all the accoutrements. While gear might enhance an experience, it should never take the place of the pure joy of being in the moment. Good work!

    • hilarymoliver says:

      Thanks, Kell! Glad you like it! I’ve realized (or it has been pointed out to me) that often while I’m doing something that I should be enjoying for the pure experience, I’m talking about what I should buy in order to enjoy it more. Sigh. So funny.

  7. bruno says:

    Enjoyed reading. Loved desccription, almost felt the breeze on my face while was reading.
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. In my opinion, you don’t need to wear anything special when riding. I’ve been riding singletrack for a couple years, and all I ever wear is a t-shirt & shorts, along with my helmet & riding gloves. I’m guessing sweat-wicking shirts are nice, and padded shorts are more comfortable, but they definitely aren’t a must.But i found here many information from you article. I think it will help me in future. thanks for sharing.

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