Body shaming cyclists and worries about unsightly sausages

New Zealand isn’t a country I associate with body shame and modesty. In my experience (sabbatical at the University of Otago in Dunedin a few years ago)-it was the land of men wearing short shorts. Think rugby. Also shirtless men and shoeless everyone. My Canadian academic wardrobe made me feel overdressed.

And certainly, like Australia, the cyclists weren’t a very modest bunch.


Yet here is a cafe in New Zealand banning bike shorts. (You have to wear trousers instead. Just taking them off isn’t an option.) That’s especially odd given how much cyclists love coffee and breakfast after long rides. Whatever. I’m sure there are other coffee shops in town. This discomfort with men’s bodies is puzzling.

Why men’s bodies, in particular? The sausage references are a clue. The owner of the Plough Hotel Mike Saunders complains about unsightly bumps and bulges.

“We get a nice group of customers out here, some elderly folk . . . when you’re trying to concentrate on your breakfast you just want to see the sausages on your plate.”

Read more about it here.

What is it with men’s bodies that makes people so uncomfortable, positively squeamish unless those bodies are perfect? See Stop saying you don’t need to see that for some of my thoughts about this.

And I worry that enough people are already uncomfortable enough in bike clothing. This won’t help. See No way I ask wearing that for my thoughts on body conscious clothing as a barrier to fitness.

Me, I’m very happy in lycra. I often think I look better in bike clothes than just about anything else. I’m not sure if it’s just that they do suit me or if they just make very happy. Bike clothes mean bike rides!

What are your limits for wearing bike clothes in public?

Sarah and I went for a ride yesterday before my book group. It was a beautiful day, beautiful ride east of Toronto on the waterfront trail. But she got calf cramps on our way back to the car and we were delayed. And then city traffic.

“You will arrive at your destination at 6:53 pm. You’re on the fastest route despite usual traffic.”

Book group is at 6:30 for a 7 pm start. And we still needed to pick up food.

Pizza! Yay! But that meant going into book group and the pizza shop dressed in bike clothes. Tights, jersey, arm warmers, vest. I’d ditched the shoes, gloves, and helmet.

I told people that since I was spending more time in Toronto they should get used to seeing me dressed this way. Nice to have a range, said our generous host.

I don’t usually teach in cycling attire, though I confess I have once or twice in my career taught graduate students dressed in cycling kit. Tight teaching, training schedule. Sorry. But I figure by then they’re instructor resilient. Almost nothing gets in the way of their learning.

But always black. There’s a reason cycling shorts are black.


7 thoughts on “Body shaming cyclists and worries about unsightly sausages

  1. I don’t bike, but I wear very short spandex shorts a lot to run. They’re way more comfortable for me, too. Sometimes, I feel awkward going to the store or grabbing something to eat afterward, but I remind myself I shouldn’t feel ashamed. It’s not like I’m going into the grocery store naked, lol.

  2. The no-lycra policy is really dumb, but I kind of like it when restaurants let it all hang out like that, so I can stay away from them! Also that’s a part of the world where I saw a LOT of Speedos on bodies of all shapes and sizes, so if the locals can’t handle bike shorts, maybe being outside the safety of their homes is not for them.

    I don’t wear the typical roadie kit because I just don’t find it aesthetic, and I’m kind of a daily-rider type, so it’s more than I wear street clothes on the bike rather than bike clothes in other contexts. (On longer rides, I wear some padding but often under re pants of some kind, albeit outdoorsy, technical pants.) I grew up on the West Coast in the US, though, where you can pretty much wear whatever you want wherever you go. It would never occur to me that a book group would raise an eyebrow at bike clothes.

  3. I’ve taught in my sugoi yoga-ish cycling pants (that have a thin chamois), and the students don’t seem to be swooning in horror. And I’ve done all sorts of errands post-ride– for me the main issue is my own discomfort due to sogginess, but no one in the Boston area seems to care. Yay to that!

  4. I often go to tims after hot yoga in my little bootie shorts.
    I have middle age thighs. No one runs away in horror.
    The fact I’m comfortable to do that is liberation!

  5. Twice in last 25 years cycling to work, I forgot a top or business pants to change into. So I wore my jersey or shorts for the day. Thankfully this was in an office at a construction site.

    I think there is a world of cyclists or people who bike for utilitarian /non-sport reasons that sort of sniff at lycra bound cyclists as elitists. The thinking is that to encourage more people is cycle is to move away from lycra/spandex requirements.

    My partner and I have had lovely, expensive dinners in great restaurants while dressed in our cycling gear. Of course, we haven’t cycled for 100 km. and arrived near dinners, all smelly. We just didn’t tour-carry dressier clothing..useless weight in panniers. 🙂 So would be donning a 2nd set of cycling clothing for our dinner evening.

    It’s a weird feeling to see people our age, all dressed up…like a special date. It’s fallen a little of fashion actually….thank goodness.

    Spandex or no spandex can be topic of debate among hipster cyclists, etc. I find cycling clothing is simply durable and I get to maintain my dressy/business wear longer by not wearing them while cycling. It’s actually expensive to find and buy business clothing for a petite, small boned woman these days!! Unless I want to look like a teenager. (I’m 57.)

    The restaurant owner is too tight-azzed. Wearing cycling clothing is not wearing a bathing suit. He better explain the times I’ve seen occasionally, people in their pjamas at the hotel breakfast buffet.

  6. Hmmm, well I guess that’s his choice to enforce a particular dress code for his establishment, although I recon he’d be turning away a lot of business from local cyclists now! I’m fine with Lycra, but sometimes I’ll take a pair of shorts with me to slip on if I’m going somewhere where it might not be seen as appropriate.

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