I don't need a jersey to ride a bike. I don't need padded shorts, clipless pedals or a fancy-schmancy helmet. I truly don't need gloves, ray-bans or even (gasp) polypro.
I was the kid that rode up and down my uber-rural cul-de-sac, back and forth, back and forth, patrolling the neighborhood against the communist threat of the Cold War on my Mongoose BMX bike. I wore Chuck Taylors, ripped up jeans and an army surplus shirt or concert tee. I watched the sky for MiG 29s or alien invaders, whichever came first.
Those days have long gone, but I still ride a bike. After I bought my first "real" road bike, a Giant OCR2, I fell into the peer pressure of the bike shop crowd. I bought bike shoes for my clipless pedals for about the same price as I could have paid for standard pedals. I bought the colorful jersey that struck my fancy. I bought padded bike shorts which I had always scoffed at on other people. I bought padded gloves, an underseat utility bag, matching water bottles, ultra light bottle cages and a myriad of similar cycling accessories. Multitool...you could say I was one.
As that vigilant teenager, cruising the fallow fields of rural Southwestern Ohio in search of both the Red and Green threats I never felt pain in my rear, even after hours of sitting on that hard plastic bike seat (not saddle, never saddle). I had no ulnar nerve pain and my feet rarely left the pedals despite not being clipped to them.Helmet? Those were for fighter pilots. Gloves? My hand weren't cold in the bright sunlight of the Midwest. Shades? Never...
If my bike were to have broken down, or if I had been afflicted by a flat tire I would have walked stoically alongside the bike for however many miles it would have taken to return to my father's garage where the bike would have rested for months until he decided to fix it.
So with my boom box lashed to my handlebars I cruised for hours. If I needed a break, to give my eyes and my attention span reprieve I would cruise on up the road past the house of a certain young lady I shared a few classes with. Back and forth, back and forth...glutes of steel, ulnar nerves like twisted cables. Of course my vigilance against commies and aliens was even more devout in regards to my crush's safety. They never had a chance of harming or abducting her. I would have stopped them. Or ridden for help.
As an adult my vigilance lapsed. Years have passed, but now I am back on the bike, riding to and fro about the land. I feel encumbered now by the accessories I just had to have. I want to throw off the tight stretchy clothing, I want to be free from the anxious feeling that comes when I can't find my padded gloves or both of my cycling shoes...when my padded shorts have began to reek of a week's riding. I want to go back to the simplicity of riding like a kid rides a bike.
Convention be damned. Who cares what I look like on the bike? Not I, said the mouse. I am a community of one, a guardian against the Red and Green. I will pedal on no matter what kind of clothing I am wearing.
You can keep your jerseys. You can keep your clipless pedals and padded shorts. My feet, my glutes, my ulnar nerves are STRONG! I'll sweat into cotton. If God had meant for us to wear polypro it would grow on plants.