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Naomi  The Biking Life

 by: Naomi Bloom  1/1/2008

Confessions of A Cycling Clothes Horse

Recently Scott Martin wrote a Web article about socks. I am not making this up (to quote Dave Barry). "There are 27 pairs of cycling socks in my cycling-sock drawer," he stated. "I don't know which is more disturbing: that I own so many, or that I have a dedicated cycling-sock drawer."

That got me to thinking; so I counted my own cycling socks: I have 19 pair of what I call "regular" cycling socks. Like Scott, I have several pairs sporting bike club logos. I have a few freebies that came my way as door-type prizes or "samples." I also have winter socks (some are even merino wool), including 6.5 old polypro hiking socks that often pinch-hit for winter use.

I too have my share of silly socks. Mondrian-style squares. "Fit St. Nick." "Feet of Flames." "People Powered Ride" with wine grapes. "Tutti Frutti." Even Alpe d'Huez. Hey, my BF climbed Alpe d'Huez and all I got was these lousy socks (and jersey, and cap, and . . .).

And I too have plenty of old, stretched-out, threadbare socks I can't bring myself to throw out: "Merlin." "Cycle California." "ACTC."

There are even 12 (yes, 12!) pairs of girlie below-the-ankle socks I only use on hot summer days, or on the trainer on cold, wet winter ones. And a few other non-cycling socks that occasionally end up on my pedaling feet anyway.

At least I don't have a dedicated cycling sock drawer -- only half of my sock drawer holds all these cycling socks.

Jersey bounce
Counting old socks reminded me that I acquired a few to match one or more of my myriad jerseys. So I took a new count: Egad! There are 45 jerseys in my closet! Of these, six have long sleeves and five are sleeveless. One of the long-sleeve numbers sports the name of my favorite French beer. The retro design commemorates the 1960s team sponsored by the brewers, way before Killians Red bought 'em out. Too bad it's so large that I can only use it as a jacket.

Of the short-sleeves left, there are "transitional" jerseys I only wear on slightly cool spring, summer or fall days. These used to be great for those cool mornings and warm evenings when I was a commuting working stiff. Nowadays I hardly ever use them but I never know when they'll come in handy.

There are club jerseys and century jerseys (13 to be exact). I have three ACTC jerseys, one Western Wheelers jersey, and one from the now defunct Bay Area Roaming Tandems. Then there is the sentimental keeper from France. I traded one of my old ACTC jerseys for it; about five years later the guy who once wore it died in a crash while coaching his junior team.

I've always been really tickled with the old Pedali Alpini wool jersey I picked up at a swap meet. I don't know where this guy got it (he was no elite racer) but it gave me a personal link to the glory days of 1960s Bay Area racing. Little did I know then that I'd someday have an even more personal link to those days -- Mr. Jim (aka the BF) himself was a rode for Pedali in his youth. Nowadays I get to tag along when he shows up for the "Old Farts Ride."

I'm proud to declare, however, that I own no Discovery Channel, USPS or even French team jerseys (the Pelforth number excepted).

Centuries commemorated by jerseys on my back include the Santa Rosa Wine Country Century (old vintage) and Tierra Bella (2 vintages).

There are three shop jerseys (two from the Bicycle Outfitter (where Jim works) and one from a shop in Cortina, Italy. (Hey, my BF toured the Dolomites and all I got was this silly jersey.)

One of my all-time favorites came from Discover France, sporting a map of France and a couple of baguettes poking way out of one of the rear pockets. I get great compliments every time I wear it.

I'd really like to wear some of my European jerseys more often but the zippers are too darned short. Like the one from "Le Pays de l'Homme" (the land of prehistoric man). It sports a bit of cave art on the front and back. The open-weave fabric is meant for warm weather, but the zipper only opens a couple of inches. Ditto for the Italian Bianchi team jersey I picked up in Florence ten years ago. It's so cool, but so warm!

The rest of the closet
Then there are the shorts, the knickers, the tights and the jackets. I admit that I hang on to old, embarrassing shorts so I have something to wear on the trainer or under tights in winter. It bugs the heck out of me when they get mixed in with my good shorts.

Knickers, I believe, are the greatest invention since indexed shifting. I have two pair of old SheBeest knickers that sport my favorite chamois and fit perfectly. That style is no longer made, and sadly, both of mine now have holes. The newest pair lost a knee when we crashed in France in September; the other wore through in a more embarrassing location (now well patched). Although I own four pairs of tights, I only like (and therefore only wear) the ones with the cozy microfleece lining.

Base layers also abound. Some go back to my cross-country skiing winters but still hang in there. Some don't do much to keep me warm on these cold winter days. Does this make any sense?

Gloves? I go through gloves like wildfire. The best I've ever found -- Pearl Izumi's Pittards -- fray at the wrist and wear away at the knuckles. I managed to disintegrate two pair in France.

So what's the significance of all these sartorial confessions? Only that I have way too much cycling attire. This despite unloading many pieces at various club swap meets over the years. You might say I just can't let go. I'll never give up that Gaillac club jersey. Or Pedali Alpini. Or some of those worn out old socks or shorts or knickers.

There are too many memories to let go. And too many regrets about giving up other former favorites. Besides, I hardly ever have to buy new clothes anymore. How's that for a New Year's resolution? Besides, socks and jerseys are really getting pricey, ya know?

Naomi can be reached at naomibloom@earthlink.net

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