Cycling Fashion Faux Pas

A few weeks ago Jim and I were driving home after work and passed a cyclist on the road. I was trailing Jim in my car and we saw him at the same time. The man was totally decked out in a ‘legit’ cycling outfit. Cycling shorts, jersey, helmet, gloves the whole sha-bang. He even matched, too! Then we noticed he was riding either a comfort cruiser or mountain bike with slicks. I tried to get Jim’s attention by shaking my hands in my car and bless his heart, his arm shot right out of his window shaking a fist of satisfaction. I thought immediately, Good for Him! He’s riding his bike with no shame!

In this post I hope to eliminate all fears of Cycling Fashion Faux Pas. There is no need to stop riding just because you don’t have the correct wardrobe . I have had a number of people come into the shop and mention how they want to look ‘good’ on their new bike, or don’t want to look like a newbie or an inexperienced rider. There are even some horror stories of cyclist being criticized by other cyclists because they weren’t conforming to the unwritten (I mean that in the literal sense) ‘law’ of cycling fashion. I hope none of these personal attacks have actually prevented the ostracized cyclist from riding.

The Faux Pas we will discuss are varying from road riding to mountain riding and all are pretty much ridiculous. I will say there are more on the road than there are on the mountain.

I have listed just a few faux pas in my little drawing above. Let’s discuss them.

Visor on helmet:

Having a visor on your helmet is a very interesting thing. If you buy a helmet with one it’s in most cases removable. You might hear some guff from the road when wearing a visor on your helmet, but never on the mountain. Some may wonder why the helmet even has a visor if it doesn’t block the sun that much. It may vary from helmet to helmet and from person to person whether or not it does. If it does block the sun then why not wear it on the road? The sun shines out on the road more than on the mountains right? One reason is due to the position of your body on a road bike. Being hunched over more and cranking your neck up to see where you’re going can be hard enough without a visor blocking your view. Also some visorless helmets have an extra vent providing a cooler ride. And of course no visor means more aerodynamic. Having a visor on your helmet in the mountains does have its benefits. I’ve had a number of times where a small low hanging branch was deflected by my visor. You’re definitely in a more relaxed position on your mountain bike so it never blocks your view. And yeah, it looks cool! Fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter. It’s a personal preference. I don’t like the visor when I’m on the road because I have a short neck and it would get in my way. You can definitely use the same helmet for your road and mountain endeavors.

Old school or Glamor glasses:

Last I checked, Beyonce’ doesn’t ride bikes. Glam glasses are a faux pas. They fit funny and were designed with photo shoots in mind. Old school glasses work, but sunglasses have come a long way! Cycling specific sunglasses are sweet. They block the wind, are comfortable and lightweight. They look really cool, too. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a good design either. It’s worth the research and time to find a good pair for yourself. Especially if you use contact lenses. If you want to wear your glam glasses, however, go for it. More power to you. Plus maybe you’ll see Beyonce’ on the side of the road and have a conversation starter.


This is a particular product that you wont get any comments from the mountain side of things… unless the other person doesn’t have one and is jealous of yours. Using a CamelBak on the road has been a long time ‘no no’ for most road cyclists. Why??? Who knows? Here are a few suggestions as to why… it’s not aerodynamic, not plausible, not needed, makes you more sweaty… I think for a short ride a CamelBak can be a bit overkill. But if you think about a long ride, it would be a great companion. It can carry more water and nutritional sups than your puny jersey pockets can, and can carry other clothing item such as a jacket, arm warmers and other bulky items that don’t fit anywhere else. CamelBak has actually designed a cool new hydration system to conform to the more demanding road rider called the RaceBak.

Helmet strap hanging beneath you chin:

Talk about picky. This is probably an unspoken faux pas, meaning no one will really give you a hard time about it, but will think to themselves, “whats the matter with this guy?” It’s probably when you have like six inches of strap hanging down there where people are mocking you in their minds, but at the same time it doesn’t really matter. If you have the little rubber ring that is designed to hold it up, use it. If not, then deal with it (which you probably do). Those little rubber rings break very easily and aren’t really replaceable. Again anyone voicing their opinion about this should chill out.

Arm warmers with a sleeveless jersey:

This one is silly to me. If its cold enough to be wearing arm warmers it’s probably not the brightest idea to be wearing a sleeveless jersey. This one has a little bit a reasoning behind it. But if you want to rock it, I say rock it hard! Plus, some people need to show off their tattoos.

Tucking your jersey into your shorts:

Other than this one is goofy looking and uncomfortable, I don’t see a reason to criticize one for it. If its comfortable for you then do it. On the road bike it could cause some breathing issues in the more hunched over position with the bulkiness under your stomach. On the mountain it could prevent dirt from going down your shorts in a wreck. Or it could just be really sweaty and hot. I don’t see this one often, but like all these other faux pas… it doesnt matter. This picture ought to cure you of your bibshort tucking dreams.

Drawstring shorts:

Not really any mountain issues here. Don’t know if anyone on the road would give you a hard time for it either. It has the same idea behind it as tucking your jersey. It can make breathing more difficult for you which you don’t want. If all you have is drawstring shorts and you don’t mind trading a sore butt for better breathing then just wear something else. Or, have sluggish breathing and a comfy bottom. Or loosen the string if your anatomy permits you. It’s all up to you.

Baggies vs. Spandex:

This is another touchy area for some riders out there. Some will say never wear baggies on the road and others will say spandex is sissy. Don’t worry about this at all. A padded short is way more important than fitting in with the ‘elite’ cyclists. Or any cyclist for that matter. A lot of riders out on the road are true mountain bikers and only own baggy shorts and vice versa. Not everyone has the budget to afford two separate wardrobes for two very similar hobbies. You may get bagged on for this but don’t let it get to you. Ride your bike and enjoy it.

White spandex:

Ok… not all white spandex (lycra) shorts are bad. The ones that are bad are the ones that are old and worn, and cheap. The reasoning is, we can all see something(s) we don’t want to see. A worn pair of white cycling shorts can be very revealing. Cheap white cycling shorts can do the same. You sweat…. ever heard of a wet t-shirt contest? Well a worn or cheap pair of white cycling shorts is the ugly red-headed step child of the wet t-shirt contest. Seriously. Sweat is wet… AND revealing. It goes the same for padded short liners. If you see a pair of cycling shorts that look like a nice vented jersey material or boxer short and cost half the price of regular shorts… they’re meant to be worn UNDER something. Imagine a century behind THAT guy. One hundred miles of crack! You’ll be wishing more than ever that you trained harder.

Burly legs:

What is the deal with shaving your legs??? Some hardcore mountain riders would say you’re a pansy for doing it. Even some road riders would say the same. There are multiple benefits, however, to shaving your legs… for road and mountain riding. Having hair on your legs and riding really fast can sometimes make your legs feel sort of numb. It’s not a bad thing, just annoying. Having hairless legs also makes you feel faster. And in actuality makes you faster… just by a hair though. Hairless legs in any wreck, road or mountain, will prevent the ‘hash’ from being as bad. The hair on your legs in a wreck tends to tear and pull the flesh more leaving you with deeper, bigger, and more serious wounds. Hairless legs are also more helpful for the healing process of wounds. Think of a Band-Aid. You can choose to shave your legs or not. I personally don’t just because I don’t like the maintenance of it all. I haven’t heard of anyone criticizing another for not shaving their legs. Maybe in the Peloton, but not on Main Street.

Tube socks:

Tube socks… Hot. No compression features. Make your feet smell. Goofy looking. Just a few reasons why they are a faux pas. Once you try any cycling specific sock, you will understand why the tube sock doesn’t fit in the cycling world. You will probably get more comments on the road than on the mountain for tube socks, but it’s considered a faux pas in both. If you don’t like the fact that you can buy ten pairs of tube socks at Wal-Mart for the same price of one pair of cycling socks then wear the tube socks my friend. Oh and wearing the same pair of cycling socks for an entire week can cause some friends not to want to ride with you. Just a little FYI there.


So many people who come into the shop will wonder what the difference is between road shoes and mountain shoes and why its important. There is a difference, but it isn’t always important. It’s a case by case thing. Most people want to have one pair of shoes for both of their bikes and not need to switch their cleats every time they switch from road to mountain. What a good idea! There are differences between a mountain shoe and a road shoe. Mountain shoes have a tread on them when road shoes are slick. They have different bolt patterns on the sole for road and mountain specific pedals. But all in all they have similar functions. If you’re worried about using mountain shoes on the road, don’t be. There are heaps of other riders doing the same thing.

There are many more Faux Pas unfortunately. The good news is that you can still ride your bike while ‘breaking’ them. The only real Faux Pas is when one cyclist criticizes another cyclist for what they’re wearing. It’s a very childish thing for one, and rude. Don’t worry about riding you road bike with baggy shorts. Your riding and that’s the important part. If you have any comments or other Faux Pas you want to share, comment on this post. Enjoy your riding!

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