I’ve been bicycling for a long time. Lots of things have changed. For instance, fifty years ago, people bought components for their beloved bikes designed to shave a few grams off the weight, even though it would be a lot less expensive to just take it off their thighs. Now, bicycles are made out of some kind of miracle metal where the atoms are so far apart that the whole thing wouldn’t tip a scale against a bag of chips.
Also, modern bike saddles have some cush in them and are no longer made out of pterosaur clavicles.
Plus, people have helmets now, and stuff. They’re made out of old ice coolers, but they’re better than nothing, which was the style helmet I wore for the first 35 years.
Old-timers like to make fun of this sort of thing. What a bunch of sissies. We did just fine without all that guff, they say. Old-timers love to say “guff.” Of course, the ones that didn’t do so fine are no longer with us.
One time, our old beloved Hostel Club group went off for a week-long tour in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, the home of zero cars and food bigger than your head. A couple of our friends put on strappy little leather helmets and toeclips and raced each other to Pennsylvania. From Virginia. They loaded up on salt tablets, because that was a thing then. We were already there, transported by motor vehicle as Nature intended, just in time to see them race up side by side, blast into the parking lot with a spray of gravel, lean over, and vomit copiously on their shoes.
If dignity were the goal in life, this did not appear to be the activity to get into. Naturally, we got into it.
The toeclips distinguished the serious biker from the hobbyist. They were little cages for your feet, and you jammed your toes in them, reached down, and cinched up the leather strap. With your feet locked in, you could really move. Problem. A moment of inattention while you’re locked into your pedals, and you will go over like a dead dinosaur. It will look very majestic: no struggle, no fuss, no flailing, just your inert body, tied to a stake named Gravity. Modern bicyclists have abandoned the toe cages for a system wherein their shoes are locked into the pedals. You’re supposed to click out of your pedals easily, but it doesn’t always happen. Also, it is possible–I hear–to come up to a stop, click off one pedal, and lean the other way. Everyone’s done it at least once. Lance Armstrong has done it too, I assure you, but he cleated all the witnesses. He stomped them into amnesia or worse.
So that’s one way to efficient your way into a case of “road rash,” or the transfer of all or part of your epidermis to pavement. I have never had a bad case of it, because no matter what I do, the road beneath my wheels doesn’t go by all that fast. And if I get going down a mountain where my friends will gleefully reach speeds of up to 55 miles per hour, I will show up at the bottom considerably later, and my forearms will burst into flame from braking.
Clothing is different also. Seems to me my serious biking friends in the ’60s wore wool shorts and tee-shirts. Now you are expected to deck yourself out in Spandex. It’s not attractive. I don’t care who you are. You’re going to look like a bunch of link sausages in Technicolor.
The Spandex, at least, makes a certain amount of sense, and reduces chafing, but does not solve all the problems in the shorts region. On one long trip, I emerged from the porta-potty with a distinctive hitch in my git-along and eased myself back in the saddle. A woman rode up to me and said, quietly, medicated diaper powder, and then rode off before I could thank her.
I submit that if the first words from a complete stranger include “diaper powder,” you are not engaged in a dignified activity.