Friday, March 15, 2013

Bicycletiquette: Bib Protocol

Dear Jasper,
Photo taken at Liberty Cycle, St. Catharines, Ontario
I am a semi-serious cyclist, and I recently purchased my first pair of bib-style cycling shorts. I like them a lot. In fact, they’ve changed my life. But there’s one problem. For the life of me I can’t figure out the logistics of, you know, relieving myself without getting entangled in a mess of suspender straps and shirt fronts. Is there a secret to this? What’s the protocol?
Bibbed and Desperate

Dear BAD,
Many brethren of the wheel would concur that bib-style cycling shorts are a game-changer. No more worries about one’s shorts creeping up or riding down; no more exposed hairy lower backs (or worse). The bib has a way of making one feel sleek, fully contained, and positively aerodynamic. But when nature calls, even the most serious bib-wearing cyclists must answer, and over the years some wily wheelmen and women have come up with proven, even ingenious, methods for taking care of bib-ness.

The most common method (this one is for gentleman only, I’m afraid, and only for number one) is the Open-the-Window. It’s simple: pull up the tunic with one hand, pull down the stretchy bib front with the other, and whiz, free hand, through the window of opportunity. (If you are advanced, you can try holding up the tunic with your teeth.) Don’t be afeared of stretching the bib fabric; it’s made to withstand such torsion. This approach is fairly discreet and works especially well at the rural roadside, where the margin for aiming error is great.

Another, more obscure, approach (again, not recommended for the womenfolk and also only for number one) is the Downunder. This involves hiking up one short-pant leg and then reaching up and pulling down one’s tackle until it’s free and clear to do its business. Some call this Milking the Cow, though I’ve always found that designation vulgar and, in my agricultural opinion, not entirely accurate.

The third—and most radical—technique is one that works for both sexes and both numbers one and two: The Full Monty. This entails going full Doukhabor, completely disrobing (usually in a public bathroom), removing every article of dress save one’s shoes, often leaving the floor of the lavatory looking like your teenager’s messy bedroom. Once in this al fresco condition, you are free to disburthen yourself as needed, unencumbered by pesky vestments. Once the job’s done, the clothes can be put back on piece by piece. This method can take some time.

Personally, BAD, being from the Old School, as I am, I do not wear bib-style trousers. But in the cold weather I have been known to don my woolly Stanfield one-piece undergarment beneath my breeches and tweed jacket. In the case of the Stanfields, however, the manufacturers have anticipated such practical concerns and made accommodations. A simple fly in the front and a discreet button-fly trap door in the rear make answering nature’s call so easy—just open the door and let her rip.

Until some genius invents a pair of cycling shorts with a discrete, Velcro-sealed fly and trap door, or perhaps a light-weight cycling diaper (is carbon fibre itchy?) or discrete and aerodynamic catheter bag system (Camelbak, are you listening?), I recommend experimenting with some combination of the methods above.

Or you could always go back to wearing regular, easily accessible trousers or short-pants. You may sacrifice some sleekness, but you’ll simplify your business.

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