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May 3-9, 2006

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2006 Spring Fashion Issue
Growing up at Parsons Paris | Sonoma County designers shine at Moxie | Healdsburg and the Mona Lisa? | Take Jeff Koons and Rei Kawakubo, please | Dressing for Sonoma County's cyclocross and a date

Bike chick chic

Out of the Saddle: Our girl, geared up and good to go.

Queen of Spandex

The lowdown on how a biker chick gets chic

By Ella Lawrence

When I get dressed for a date, a lot of effort goes into what I wear. I don't want to come across as too put-together, but I want to look nice. I want to show off my curves, but I don't want to bare too much skin and get a sunburn. I'd like to look fast, and actually go fast, too. And my options are pretty limited when they're all made of spandex. Maybe I should clarify: Most of my dates take place on two wheels. As a competitive bike racer, I spend a lot of time pedaling around while other people are at work.

What might seem like an obsessive amount of bike riding to people who don't, is actually a pretty routine training schedule for a half-assed racer like me. I ride about 10 hours a week in my off-season, more when the whim strikes and less when the job does. And during my race season, my entire life is given over to traveling and riding around in circles on the dirt and pavement for an hour at a go.

This nonsensical lifestyle means that there is little time for dating unless he also spends as much time (or more) two-wheeled as I do. Thus the bike dates. When I first got asked to go for "a ride" with a feller, I didn't realize what it meant. A few weeks and many rides later, I was flabbergasted when I started hearing around town that I was his girlfriend. That was quite a few years ago, and I've since learned the ways of being a cycle girl, so getting dressed for "a ride" now requires a lot more effort.

Bike shorts are the basis of any outfit. These tight Lycra skivvies with a gigantic pad in them should never, ever be worn with underwear. This defeats the whole purpose of bike shorts, which is to reduce the chafing and soreness that can accumulate over long hours sitting on a hard bike seat.

Once I'd been riding bikes for a long time, men with shaved legs wearing these strange garments actually became attractive. But only--I repeat only--if worn with a bike jersey. There is nothing that screams "Rookie!" more than someone wearing tight bike shorts with a big, baggy T-shirt. I would never, ever go on a ride with a guy wearing this outfit, nor would I wear it myself. Although I felt like a fool the first time I ever wore a complete spandex outfit, I took it on good faith when the guys who work at Nor Cal Bike Sport told me what I "had" to wear to ride in. Period.

Socks are the part of the cyclist's outfit that really defines the personality. Because all bike clothes pretty much look the same (solid and stretchy, or printed with a team logo and stretchy), bike socks are the part of the ensemble that adds flair. My favorites are pink and black with a kitty skull and crossbones on the anklet. They read, "Bad Kitty."

Because an outer layer is the garment that is noticed first when rolling up to meet my potential fella, I take great care in choosing what I put on over all of this Lycra. A hand-me-down wool sweater from my first biker boyfriend is still my absolute favorite. A long-sleeved black jobbie with a zipper, made by cult favorite bike-clothes label Swobo, it absorbs wind, rain and sweat. I know this garment was a hard one to give up.

Once you've owned a piece of expensive cycling clothing, had many long rides in it, raced in it and been affiliated with the now-defunct shop embroidered on the back, it becomes a part of your history. And because I, like so many others whose lifestyles revolve around les vélos, plan to be riding bikes until the day I keel over from age, that sort of history stays with me.

Now, please excuse. I've got to go and get ready for a ride.

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