i figure there are two types of sporting cyclists: those who embrace the lycra, polyester, track mitts et al, at the earliest possible opportunity and, not to put too fine a point on in it, those who don't. perhaps strange to relate, i was one of the latter, yet now happy to poke fun at those who are reticent to take the well trodden path. it was a long time before i owned a pair of lycra shorts, and even then, i'd either wear them under a pair of plain, black tights, or with leg warmers, unable as i was to show off the skinny pins. as my father was wont to state 'like a pair of woodbines hanging out a packet'.
of course, much of this had to do with my solo career: islay doesn't have too many pelotons from which to choose, and in the early years, i was that peloton. so early pairs of shorts were just that; pairs of shorts, those with a waistband and a distinct lack of bibs, as those of us in the know now refer to them. you see, bibshorts are somewhat of an unknown quantity in the sizing department, and a quick perusal of the swiss sizing chart pointed to the requirement of a pair of large. except i am in that no-man's land between a 28" waist and a 30", and the prospect of wearing the cycling equivalent of clown's trousers was not one i truly wished to entertain, particularly in a rather conservative rural society.
and living in such isolation meant that it was hardly possible to pop into my local friendly cycle dealer for advice and a bespoke fitting. of course now it brings a smile to the visage: even large sized bibshorts have not the wherewithal to turn me into more of an object of humour than i already am, and in the interim period, i have discovered that wearing a size small in bibshorts will not turn me into the hunchback of notre dame due to a severe shortage in the shoulder straps department.
proper shorts are a total necessity for any serious and less than serious cyclist; lord carlos eschews the modern chamois in his fervour to remain merely a bloke with a bike, rather than a dyed-in-the-wool cyclist, but it's a battle he's likely to lose, since comfort in the undercarriage department is something we all ultimately desire. and having been sent a pair of etxe ondo hilare bibshorts, comfort in that particular area is almost assured. ultimately, that's the principal overriding factor we are all searching for in a pair of shorts, and if it costs just that wee bit extra, then it's possibly the one garment where such can be justified.
the bicycle currently ensconced in thewashingmachinebikeshed for review, bears a very attractive and decorous saddle which, sadly, does not provide the same degree of comfort as it does bling. therefore something needs to take up the slack, or my bum will not be speaking to me in its usual dulcet tones. the urraki insert provided by the etxe ondo hilares has all the saddle defence i need, and for more than just a brief distance.
of course, none of us are immune to the desire for a bit of style engineered around the pad, and these have subtle amounts by the truckload. i realise that the latter sounds to be somewhat of a contradiction in terms, but the rainbow coloured stitching joining the various panels positively shimmers, attracting positive comment from my lead-out train, while the silver embroidered etxe ondo logo across the back panel, merely taunted those following vainly in my wake.
it's not all just bells and whistles however: the bib section is constructed from a finely woven mesh that exerts only vague pressure on those less than muscular shoulders, while in a break with modern tradition, the leg grippers are made from ribbed elastic, eschewing any association with the silicon gloop more favoured by their contemporaries. perhaps the only feature that should be treated with circumspection is the presence of powerlycra, ostensibly an upgrade from the more mundane variant, but given to providing additional support to those hard-working leg muscles. i will concur that these are particularly comfortable to wear, especially for extended distances, but so far power is not an epithet i would have felt it necessary to use. powerlycra is, i feel at pains to point out, not something engendered by the host manufacturer, so we can hardly blame etxe ondo for that.
if, like me, you feel trepidation in your approach to a pair of bibshorts, particularly with regard to sizing, mick and andy at prendas, retailers of said product, are more than happy to assist: send them details of height, weight, chest and waist, and they will endeavour to advise of the very pair for you.
and it's nice to see etxe ondo back in the uk market again, even if i can't pronounce it properly.
etxe ondo hilare shorts with urraki insert are available from prendas ciclismo in small (as tested) through to 3xl at a retail cost of £99.95.
posted on tuesday 7 july 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................