So there’s this guy I sometimes cycle with, more of an acquaintance than a friend, and he always wears these old spandex riding shorts which he’s probably had since 1993. Thing is, these shorts are wearing thin along the centre seam at the back, and the lycra there has become pretty much see-through. To be clear: his nether region is clearly visible through the disintegrating fabric of the shorts! I don’t think he knows this. But he needs to. How can I let him know without embarrassing him or creating an awkward scene?
Bothered by Crack
One of the greatest pleasures of cycling is the unparalleled views of Nature the saddle provides: soaring mountain vistas, vast undulating wheatfields, rugged misty coastlines. Or at least it should be. What your disturbing letter describes, BBC, is an affront (or should I say an arrear?) to this sacred aspect of the cycling experience. Although cycling does sometimes offer a chilling prospect of the more ominous side of Nature’s works (think of riding through a storm, no shelter in sight), the particular dark valley, the wild crevasse you have been exposed to while riding with this poor fellow is an abomination both to Nature and to the gentleman rider’s eyes. It is more obscene than sublime. I shiver at the thought.
Look, BBC, lycra (aka spandex), the so-called “wonder fabric,” is great for cycling, many would argue. But with wearing lycra comes great responsibility. It is an unforgiving, impossibly thin material to begin with, best suited to bodies of the young and fit. It behooves any wearer of lycra in public to perform an at least occasional, simple once-over of all seams and sensitive areas. Alas, too many lycra devotees don the shorts without putting in the due diligence.
In my youth, BBC, we didn’t have such problems. We had our own version of lycra; it was called tweed. The material was a bit heavy, but it was solid. Sure, the shorts were itchy at first, but after the first 50 miles we hardly noticed the rash at all. Our tweed trousers built character; lycra, like so much in modern life, breeds laziness.
As for what to do about your situation, BBC, one might simply advise you to avert your gaze, to look away, to focus on everything but that one blemish in your line of sight. However, I won’t pretend that such a strategy is easy. It can be difficult to take your eyes off precisely that which you know you should avoid. You know that nothing good can come from even the smallest peek, yet you can’t help yourself. It’s in our very nature to be drawn to that which horrifies us, even as such sights scar our memories.
Another option is to be sure to always position yourself in front of this fellow so as not to have look at his hindquarters at all. This will address your immediate problem, but it is only a makeshift solution, one that fails to address the real issue. You are only condemning someone else to view that unholy sight.
Therefore, this situation calls for direct action. Simply put, those shorts must go. One solution is to offer the fellow a gift of a new pair of sturdy tweed cycling pantaloons in the hopes that he will get the message. But perhaps the best route is to address the problem head on. The delicate matter, of course, is how best to inform your acquaintance of the sorry state of his pants’-back without incurring humiliation for you or him. I suggest the following comment: “Excuse me, my good fellow, but I can see your bare buttocks through your gauzy short pants!” True, there may follow a brief moment of awkwardness, but it’s nothing a hearty back slap and guffaw can’t smooth over.
He should thank you for your honesty and be glad that you are no mere cycling acquaintance, but rather a true friend.
If you’ve got a question about cycling etiquette, send your queries to Jasper at firstname.lastname@example.org