Fake it until you make it (the Pro look)


The picture still haunts me. I have been having recurring nightmares about it since my friend sent it to me. My therapist* doesn’t understand the sheer mental torture of trying to unsee it.

To the untrained eye it was just an innocent picture of a road bike but all I could see was a pump attached to the frame. I think what had happened is that they had bought the mini pump and forgot to immediately throw away the extraneous bits of plastic that come with it. All those lovely sleek lines of the bike brutally disrupted by a mini pump jutting out from the frame. Its presence on the frame skewed the natural order of the world and called into question the very notion of beauty and aesthetics.

We are no longer friends**.

This episode and the subsequent discussions on the therapists couch got me thinking of the steps that most cyclists take to look “pro”. For most of us it is an iterative process and we look back at our earliest pictures on the bike with embarrassment.

To skip right past this embarrassing period of finding your "look" on the bike I will let you into the secrets of looking pro out there on the roads whilst actually being a complete average Joe.

If there was an overarching theme to looking pro on the bike then it would be that you should do everything in your power to look ridiculous off the bike whilst forfeiting any and every practicality on the bike. Only then can you be sure that you are striving for the pro-look. It is a fine line that you must tread though and don’t think for a minute that you can skip all this by just buying a team kit. This is one of the most important unwritten rules of road cycling; the wearing of pro kit is strictly the reserve of the pro’s. Cycling is not a tribal sport like football and allegiance to trade teams is simply not done. Same goes for wearing anything that even vaguely matches the infamous yellow jersey of the Tour de France.

Since you will not be blessed by a support car full of spares for your bike and instead will out of pure necessity have to carry a few tools on the road you will also need some sort of saddle bag. It should only ever be a saddle bag and not some monstrous bag that sits on the top tube or worst still one of those triangle bags that sit in the frame. They probably have a name but I refuse to google it in case I am forced to see a picture of one of these things. Once you have made peace with the fact that you will need a saddle bag then get the smallest one possible to fit a couple of spare inner tubes and a few tyre levers. On the saddle it is at least out of sight and out of mind. The mini pump should not be attached to the frame but neatly tucked into the middle pocket at the back of your jersey.

Pump tucked neatly into the back pocket. Pro.

So you don’t have space in your saddle bag now so where to put things? Those pockets at the back of your jersey are looking pretty useful to you I bet but be warned, stuff them full of things and you will look like you have some kind of lower back haemorrhoids. Your beautifully sleek jersey will be weighted down to your ass and stretch all over the place.

A couple of energy gels, a rain cape, your phone and the aforementioned pump are all you need. If you need to carry more then you are no longer road cycling but touring and then you can just give up and buy panniers.

To even further perfect the pro look you could tuck a couple of energy gels under the rim of your shorts.

White shorts are never acceptable and even less so in a country that rains 98% of the year. I am not going into more detail on this one.

In summer, your legs should be shaved. This is non-negotiable if you want to look pro on the bike. If they are not shaved then stick on some leg warmers and pretend that you are so European that 15 degrees is actually defined as winter anyway.

Sock length is a contentious issue in the pro-peloton and there are even strict rules governing the length. All you need to know is that ankle style socks are totally and utterly unacceptable. Are you running? No, then put on some proper socks.

Proper road bike clipless pedals and shoes should be used. Mountain bike style pedals and shoes are completely unacceptable on a road bike. If you want to walk comfortably and safely off the bike then take up hiking. Un-clipping from clipless pedals (confusing for historical reasons) should be done at the very last possible moment when nearly all forward momentum has been lost. Better still, do a track stand and never ever become disconnected from the bike. The amateur road bike rider tends to prepare to un-clip around three miles before the junction and can sometimes be seen dangling a leg in worried anticipation. The pro cyclist is in total control of the bike and you should be to.

My therapist thinks that I might have some issues and the best way to manage those issues would be to look into my past and admit to my own mistakes. In the interest of full disclosure I will admit to, at times, not looking very pro on my road bike.

  • I didn’t immediately remove and incinerate the reflectors that (legally) came with the new bike.

  • I wore three-quarter length cycling tights.

  • My first jersey was both too big and the zip only went halfway down.

  • I started with mountain bike shoes and pedals. The shame! I was ignorant and the sales guy at the bike shop made a good pitch. Why did I trust a chap who was still in high school!

  • For some reason I wore sweat bands on my wrists. It was a totally ridiculous look that offered no practical advantages.

  • I used to tuck the legs of my glasses under the helmet strap.

Literally my second ever day on a road bike. Let's count the crimes together. The legs are hairy for a start and then there is the unforgivable reflector.

Sweatbands! Why???

Half-zip jersey. Three-quarter length tights. Mountain bike shoes. I had much to learn...

Ah that feels good to get that off my chest.

* I can’t afford a proper therapist.

** Obviously we are still friends and will remain that way as long as the pump remains unmarried to the frame of his bike.

This post is completely tongue in cheek and should not be taken seriously at all. If you are out on your bike in any way, shape or form then I am a happy guy. There is joy to be found on two wheels and never let vanity stand in the way of that.

Not very pro, just an excuse to post of picture of me cycling in Cuba propelled by cheap beer.


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