Friday, September 20, 2013

Bicycletiquette: Shirtless Bib

Dear Jasper,

I saw this dude the other day in the park. It was smoking hot out, sure, but . . . really? Is this get-up—the bib shorts without a top—ever okay?


Dear BS,
Summer heat can do funny things to people. When the mercury soars, people will resort to extreme measures to keep cool—measures they often live to regret come the rational shades of autumn. Too often, though, the sartorial damage has been done, and innocent bystanders will have witnessed heinous heat-induced fashion crimes. The memories of these can scar onlookers for life.

The particular summer phenomenon you speak of, BS, that of a cyclist attired in bib-style shorts sans tunic, is one of the saddest fashion faux pas this advice columnist has ever seen. The image above offends my taste and wounds my soul. Hot weather is no excuse for vulgarity. In fact, it defies the very essence of civilized gentle cycling.

Certain garments were invented to serve practical functions without ever needing to be seen in public: the girdle, the jock strap, theStadium Pal. Flaunting these items, wearing them on the outside rather than the inside, is perverse, a foregrounding of function, a defiance of discretion, like placing a toilet in the middle of one’s kitchen. Technically, it might work, but at what cost?

It’s hard to say exactly what it is about the shirtless bib that offends. My theory is that the suspender component troubles people. These days, we expect to see suspenders only in very specific contexts: mimes, hockey players who get their jerseys pulled over their heads in fights, and Larry King. In almost any other context, the sight of suspenders tends to make one wince. And as for situations where shirtless suspenders do feel appropriate, there’s really just wrestling.  

Personally, BS, while I do sometimes wear bib shorts, I’m careful about it. When I get dressed for a bike ride, I take pains not to allow my children to see me wearing my bib-only around the house. If I have to pass through a common area while wearing my bib and no shirt, I always don my dressing gown or smoking jacket. No point in risking exposing the lads to a traumatic sight. 

If you absolutely feel you must wear your bib shirtless, another option is to remove the suspender straps, and let them hang down at your sides. This is slightly less offensive than the original condition. A purely shirtless man has a modicum of integrity, even in unflattering spandex shorts.

Finally, BS, when cycling in hot weather, I recommend a crisply pressed and starched, white, long-sleeved shirt, buttoned up to the very top. Or a white, woollen turtleneck. These timeless garments bespeak class, dignity, gentility. They express what every gentle cyclist knows: that it will take much more than a little heat to make him lose his fashion cool.


  1. Actually, i don't mind the shirtless bib look. I find the dude in the photo to be quite appealing. I myself have had great success with this look.

  2. I continue to get a kick out of all the unwritten cycling 'rules', especially related to the appropriate kit. While I am a big personal fan of the bibs, I tend to keep my jersey on. And as many members of my cycling community joke - the further you are from your bike the sillier you look! Cheers


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