It’s not About the Bike or the Clothes, but it Is

A couple of weeks ago, I forgot to pack my jersey. Bibs, yes. Helmet, yes. Gloves, yes. But there I was in my office with no jersey and not enough time to ride home and get one before I had to meet folks for a quick after school/work ride. And then I remembered the bag full of old jerseys, bibs, etc. I keep in my office for college kids who don’t have any and who want to try cycling.

Rifling through the bag, I ended up with an old Pearl Izumi jersey from the late 90s. Visually it’s pretty similar to the Quest with the white epaulet type things with the PI logo. It’s blue. Kind of Sky blue before the was Sky. Maybe it’s digital blue. Whatever it is, the girlfriend likes it after she overcame her suspicion of its origins. It was a fairly high end jersey from the late 90s, but wow how times have changed.

Forgot a 3/4 zipper, this thing has a 1/4 zipper, which may have been fine back in Ohio, but 1/4 zipper ain’t cutting it in south Louisiana. And that’s just the start of it.

I’ve spent the last few years riding fairly high end kit–mostly by Hincapie, Biemme, Girodana, and Garneau. Ok, so not Assos. And not top, top of the line but good race kit level stuff. After a few miles in a heavy, scratchy, and meh fitting jersey from the 90s, I realized how much I’ve been taking my good kit for granted. How much, in not having to pay attention to my kit, how it basically disappears, good equipment makes the ride better. Makes the experience better. I was reminded of this yesterday in a different way as I sat on the wheel of someone with skipping gears and alongside someone with a creaky bottom bracket. Bad equipment gets in the way of Flow. Just like riding with faster or better handling cyclists make you better, good equipment makes the experience better (and yeah I’ve had horrible days wearing my best kit).

When I bought the PI jersey in the months before leaving the bike shop for grad school, and in the years of grad school wearing it, I never noticed its shortcomings. It was one of my favorite jerseys. But now, despite the girlfriend having washed it and hung it with care–saying again how much she likes it, the chances of it getting worn again are slim. The hems of the sleeves are tight but not tight enough: they don’t move with me. Instead I move around them. The fabric is rough (this might be from all the washings). The already mentioned zipper. And then it just didn’t feel like it breathed very well. It was there and in a bad way.

I wasn’t any slower with the old jersey, but the experience of the ride wasn’t quite the same. There were other reasons why the ride didn’t reach Flow state, but the jersey was part of it.

So yeah, it’s not about the bike, until it is. And I’ll keep shopping for my off the bike clothes at the thrift store so I can ride in a nice kit.

–VagabondCyclist

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