When a friend confidently announces that rubber shorts are the only answer, you have to ask yourself: “do I really want to know what the question is?”
Rubber pants might not be a topic for conversation in polite company, but road cycling can provoke this kind of very personal mid-ride sharing. With several hours together out on the road it’s only natural that conversation sometimes drifts towards certain, ahem, ‘niche’ areas from time to time.
A few years ago a good friend and keen mountain-biker finally let his curiosity get the better of him and he decided to get a road bike. We took this to be his tacit acknowledgement that road cycling is really the only acceptable form of cycle sport for a grown up, and that we’d been right all along. As it turned out, he was hooked from the off.
First ride out, as we pedalled along two-by-two, chatting amiably, he seemed quiet and slightly puzzled.
“Is this what you do then?” he asked, “Just chatting? It’s nice isn’t it? Sociable”.
When we stopped after a couple of hours at a little café for coffee and a bite to eat, our friend sat with a beatific grin and a look which suggested he’d glimpsed the promised land.
‘It’s civilised, friendly, still challenging, but much less muddy…and the clothes are nicer’, his body language seemed to be saying.
But as the rubber shorts conundrum suggests, sometimes it can get a bit too cosy and personal. When you’re out for a ride, from time to time you’ll get natural lulls in conversation. Often it’s because one or all of you are tired, or cold, or tired and cold, and you’re in grit-your-teeth mode. Sometimes though, it’s because the conversation is about to enter a dark, personal, or just plain weird area.
Discussions about saddle sores are not unusual, talk of marital difficulties is never good, and if things get really gnarly you might even find yourself on the receiving end of a sincere and heartfelt monologue about why SRAM is an acceptable alternative to Shimano (the common choice) or Campagnolo (the correct choice) when it comes to bike components.
The only sane response to such a suggestion is, of course, glowering silence.
But the rubber pants? As I pedalled along I mentally slapped my forehead in despair thinking: “WHAT is this all about?!”
I strained in the wind to hear what my mate was on about – as I’ve explained before, my hearing is not what it was – and began to pick up snippets: “some kind of rubber pants or shorts are what I need”, he seemed to be saying, “or maybe leather – what are those German ones called…?” he continued. “It’s just that the thighs that take such a battering sometimes, y’know?”
“No”, I thought, “I don’t know!”
But I had to ask.
It turns out my mate is not familiar with the concept of thermal winter tights – sticking, as he does, with a thin autumnal version – and so has been looking elsewhere for practical solutions to cold legs on his winter bike rides. The fact that he is something of an expert on the benefits of rubber fetish wear in a cycling context did catch me by surprise.
I should have pointed him towards the many options in the world of cycling kit for keeping warm in winter conditions but if I’m honest, i’m intrigued to see what he’ll turn up in next week.
I can’t wait to see Castelli’s new ‘adult’ range.