Have you ever wondered why male cyclists shave their legs, whether you are a MAMIL, what a derailleur is and why you might need chamois cream? Cycling has many weird and wonderful facets, features and idiosyncrasies yet sometimes you might be too afraid (or, frankly, embarrassed) to ask anyone these questions. So we are bringing you a blog that reveals 12 of the things you might want to know about road cycling but were afraid to ask.
1) Can I ride a road bike without wearing Lycra?
Lycra will not help you go faster (unless of course you compete at elite level) nor will it make you look any racier if you are not race fit in the first place but it will bring you more comfort on a bike.
Lycra is comfortable for cycling because it stretches with your pedalling motion and bent-over position on the road bike. Lycra-based fabrics tend not to rub the skin and most are great at allowing sweat to wick away.
Cycling-specific Lycra products have also been designed with the riding position in mind resulting in longer back, leg and sleeve lengths as well as higher waists. Hems also often feature silicone grips to avoid material from ‘riding up’.
However, of course, Lycra is not essential for riding a road bike. If you prefer, you could choose baggier mountain bike shorts that still have the advantage of padded inserts or running tights and a straightforward sports t-shirt. Comfort is more important than style!
2) What is an N+1?
As soon as you start cycling you’ll realise that most riders are in a permanent state of N+1. N refers to the Number of bikes you own and +1 is the desire for another.
3) But I own a hybrid bike so why would I need another?
While a hybrid does combine some of the benefits of an off-road and on-road bike, and is perfect for many riding occasions, you might find that depending on what cycling styles/disciplines you get into, you also need a more specific bike, such as one for time trialling, road racing, one for the track, sportives, a folding bicycle to get on the train during peak times, cyclo-cross, cross country mountain biking, downhill mountain biking, bike touring and/or fat biking on sand. That’s the N+1 for you!
4) Friends have told me to get a “granny” gear. But I’m childless and only 32
A granny gear is not for grandma’s bike but the term for the easiest gear. In fact, the correct term is “granny ring” and refers to the smallest of the three front chainrings but can sometimes also be used to describe the largest cog on the back cassette (also the easiest), or the cog that you keep in reserve for riding up the steepest hills.
5) What is Strava?
Strava is a GPS tracking app designed for cycling and running that records your speed on a road or trail anywhere in the world. Link it to your smartphone or GPS-compatible cycling computer and it is a useful navigation and training tool. But Strava has also been adopted by many riders as a way to compete for the fastest time on hill and road sections (segments) which is awarded with a KOM (King of the Mountains) or QOM (Queen of the Mountains) for female riders. You will hold the KOM/QOM title for a particular segment until somebody else records a faster time. Take a look at Strava and the Evans Cycles leaderboard.
6) Do I wear pants under my cycle shorts?
It’s best not to. Bike shorts are meant to be worn without pants or knickers and if you do wear underwear you may be more likely to suffer with rubs and chafing.
7) Why do I need chamois cream when my padded shorts are made of synthetics?
Chamois cream acts as a layer of lubrication. This is meant to reduce the friction between your bare skin and the pad of the shorts.
8) I have heard of cleats and ‘clipless’ pedals but what are they?
There are flat pedals and there are pedals that allow the base of shoes (with cleats attached) to clip in, a bit like the bindings on your skis. It might then be slightly confusing that the latter pedals are often referred to as ‘clipless’ but the clip, or lack thereof, this relates to is the ‘toe clip’ which used to be the preferred racing option before clipless pedals took over in the early 1980s. Clipless, also sometimes called ‘clip-in’, pedals and cleats come in a variety of shapes and sizes from different brands and for different riding styles, but the basics are that they keep your shoes attached to the pedals for a more efficient and powerful pedalling motion.
9) What is a derailleur (well, actually, I can’t even pronounce this word)?
From the French verb dérailler “to go off the rails” a derailleur is the device facilitating the movement of your chain from one cog to another in order to change gear. There is a derailleur at the front and rear.
10) Why do male riders shave their legs?
The answers include: For better aero dynamics, to improve post-bike massage, for more effective wound treatment and for nicer-looking legs.
There is little evidence to back up any of these theories but many cyclists say they feel better with shaved legs so they may have a psychological advantage. In truth, it’s most likely a tradition that is followed because once you start shaving your legs you feel like a proper road cyclist.
11) Am I a MAMIL?
MAMILs have been the fastest growing category of cyclists in the UK in recent years. MAMIL stands for Middle Aged Man in Lycra. Most MAMILS take the term with a pinch of salt and enjoy their new-found riding hobby. If you are not a MAMIL, perhaps you are a MAWIL?
12) Why do people look at me strangely when I wear a peaked helmet on my road bike?
Tradition has it that road bike helmets do not have a rain/sun visor and mountain bike helmets do. (The peak can limit a road rider’s vision when taking a more aggressive body position.)
While it’s fun to talk about all the jargon and to know about cycling’s unwritten sartorial rules, we don’t worry too much about what we wear. It’s definitely more about safety, being comfortable and having a great time on the bike.