Every so often we run a story that really strikes a chord – like Ed’s recent look back at 50 Years of Cycling Kit – a trip back to the good ol’ days and the kit and gear we all used to wear – before technology, modern fabrics and smart designs transformed the global marketplace for cyclists.
AND The Winner is… Here’s the live draw for a pair of PEZ socks – selected from all the readers who sent in their own stories of old kit…
I dug out my original Oakley Factory Pilot sunglasses, and a plastic Brancale helmet I actually wore, and invited readers to share your own stories of what you used to wear. I received more than a few emails with some funny memories – which I submit for your consideration below.
50-years of cycling kit? Well not for me since I am only 51; however, I started riding in 1988 and racing in 1989 as a junior 17-18. My first bike did have toe straps but I quickly upgraded to time clipless pedals and shoes. I had a used Colnago SL with Dura Ace – I did not realize how lucky I was at the time. Obviously, back then I got all my cycling information from VeloNews print and word of mouth from senior riders. In 1989 I went to UW-Madison and met a couple guys who rode and raced. I was on a local team and we had Giordana shorts and jerseys but nothing else. Undershirts? Nope wore a cotton t-shirt. Breathable jacket, nope a red nylon jacket. Armwarmers? No again, I took a pair of white cotton tube socks that had red and blue piping that matched my jersey and I cut off the feet. Leg warmers? No again. I did have a pair of running tights that I could wear over my shorts but the thing was that one of the guys I rode with always teased me. He would say “look at the pics in Velonews, the pros wear their tights inside their shorts!” So that is what he did; he did not know about leg warmers and his crotch paid for it.
One early spring ride the weather turned sour. The wind shifted and temperatures plummeted. The guy who rode with his tights inside his shorts still, and I were getting cold. Suddenly, along the side of the road there were discarded VHS boxes (thin cardboard) of porn movies. We had both seen pictures and read stories of riders stuffing newspapers down their jerseys before cold descents so we stopped; grabbed the porn boxes, and folded them under our jerseys. Yeah. This was before 24/7 weather radar and the hi-tech fabrics of today but none of the new hi-tech fabrics can match the style of porn stars pressed against your chest.
– Kevin Kirsch
I always enjoy Ed’s pieces because I can usually remember and relate to the riders from the 60s and 70s he writes about. His piece “50 Years Of Cycling Kit: Stuff We Actually Wore” resonates because he describes not only the stuff that I used to wear in the early 70s, but it’s pretty much the same stuff I’m wearing today!
I’ll encounter bike riders on the road who tell me I’m “retro”, but that implies that I went back in time. The truth is, I’ve just never moved forward. Or maybe I’m just lazy?
Attached photo is from 2018, but I’m still wearing:
- wool jersey
- ribbed wool undershirt
- banana in rear pocket
- wool arm warmers
- wool shorts (but with modern insert!)
- chamois gloves
- Danish crash hat
- lace up shoes with toe straps
I have nothing against lycra, but I feel like wool is a better fit for riders of a certain…ahem…age group.
The bike is pretty much all 70s too, but I ditched the tubulars a long time ago and ride clinchers.
I had a “modern” bike for a brief period, but turns out I didn’t find it a big improvement, and my left hand kept reaching down when I needed the big ring. I never figured out how to change cables or do much routine maintenance and didn’t want to buy a bunch of new tools, so I sold it and am sticking with 70s technology and my old tool box.
Wow! Did this bring back memories! I bought my first 10 speed in 1967 ~ Côte d’Azur and soon after I purchased a cycling cap . I don’t remember what brand but it had to be French and I was taking French in high school at the time. The Detto Pietro shoes at the local bike shop were very cool – but so expensive. I bought baseball cleats at Good Will, ground off the cleats, and nailed on the TA track cleats – the longer road cleats were more expensive. Of course I used white gym socks – no such thing as cycling socks at the time. The bike was stolen soon after so I bought another, a used Italian Aquilla 10 speed. I wanted to race so I bought an Italian leather hair net. Next were the wool shorts – no logo – I was an amateur. And for Christmas I received a beautiful Italian Sergal long sleeve wool jersey – two pockets front, three back and a zipper just long enough to get my big head through. With all those pockets, I needed to purchase a TA water flask to carry – very cool – but never really used it. Shorts were cold in the winter and wool knickers were expensive. My Mom made me a beautiful pair of knickers from an old pair of corduroy school pants. I won a nice pair of Italian leather cycling gloves in the Berkeley Hills Cyclo- Cross soon after – made in Italy – and with a snap closure. Velcro had not been invented yet. The gloves I still have and belong in a museum. And through all this, cycling was so un-cool at the time I had to be careful where I rode and not to be seen. Yep – 50+ years of cycling memories – And still vertical.
So after finally spending my wad on a proper “racing bike”, a Schwinn Continental (basically a Schwinn Varsity with gumwall tires), I was tapped-out, but I had seen proper cycling shorts somewhere and knew that I needed some. What to do? After thinking it over for a day or two I realized that I had some black sweat pants that fit pretty snugly through the “shorts area” and after I got my mom to cut them down and hem them they actually looked, to my worldly eye, like a fair approximation of real cycling shorts, except that I had noticed that real ones were shammy-lined in the pertinent crotchial area…hmmmm…where to get shammy? Oh yea, my dad washes the car with those, so off to the auto parts store to buy a nice shammy, which I then cut into a useable shape so that it could be mom-sewed into the (now) sweat-shorts, with, I believe, minimal unwanted creases and folds, leaving them, to my worldly eye, like a fair approximation of real racing shorts. So now I was,at last, set-up with proper cycling kit that would do justice to my my elegant “racing bike”.
– Chris Mason
Your intro photo showed my first racing shoes and campy cleats. What hell! The unlined Adidas leather chafed at the seams, the stiff soles caused ‘hot spots’, Cleat alignment hurt my knees and in criteriums the straps had to be painfully tight or you’d yank your foot out (solution: two straps per shoe, double the pain!). As soon as Look came to the USA, I got new shoes, pedals and cleats – probably the major change that kept me racing. Styrofoam helmets – were mandatory in US amateur racing, so most of us only wore them at races. Best used as beer coolers.
My story comes when I switched from competitive running to cycling. My first pair of real cycling shorts at that time were the ubiquitous Pearl Izumi shorts with the real organic animal skin as a cushioning chamois. It was the only pair of cycling shorts I had and I would immediately wash and dry them after each ride. I sensed my mates particularly the females were looking at me strangely for the first few weeks or so that I began cycling. I didn’t think too much about it until one of my male friends alerted me to the fact that I was wearing my cycling shorts backwards! With running shorts I was used to always aligning the manu logos in the front. PI’s (and many other brands) logo was on the rear of the cycling shorts. Consequently the bulk of the chamois was right in my crotch! The ultimate moment of embarrassment but a source of a lifetime laughs with my mates, GFs and wives!
John M Brown
PEz Sez: I’ll leave you with this one – before I really got into road cycling, I was one of the first in Vancouver to buy one of the new things called “mountain bikes”. That’s a Rocky Mountain Blizzard – note the frame pump – standard issue ion those days. I got into racing and this picture was taken a Whistler BC, c. 1990. The jersey was made of store-bought lycra, and sewn my one of my buddy’s moms, and the helmet was some unknown brand, but it looked infinitely cooler than the Bell V1 Pro’s which were popular at the time – but resembled a cereal bowl. I was 4th in this race. The shorts were not bibs (but did have a chamois) – it was still too early in my career for me to go that route. The shoes were Nike mtb cycling shoes. The descendant of their Lavadome hiking shoe that everyone here wore for mtb riding, before actual mtb cycling shoes were invented.
- See you – live on the PEZ Instagram channel Thursday March 2 – at 9:00am PST – to see who wins the PEZ socks.
- Gotta comment you’d like to share? Send your thoughts and suggestions to [email protected]