Note that this is not me - though it's not far from the truth. Just remove 90% of the leg muscle, add a lot of hair in its place, and replace the bike with a 20-year-old hand-me-down in bright yellow, and you're there. A furry hotdog astride a mustard bike. Oh, and my shoes are blue, not white. / © Unsplash
About eight months ago I published one of my first opinion pieces on RTL Today about cycling in Luxembourg. Today I must admit that I have fallen victim to both conformity and comfort.
As you can read at length in my earlier opinion, before moving to Luxembourg I was of the belief that only a very small subset of the general cycling population in any given country would wear Lycra*. I spared no verbal expense in detailing the reasons for this, which largely came down to the fact that Lycra is a very unforgiving fabric. It accentuates that which is best left unaccentuated, and leaves very little to the imagination.
*Polyamide, spandex, budgie smuggler fabric, etc. - all more or less the same.
For those of us who aren't built like professional cyclists, that's not necessarily an idea with which we would feel fully comfortable. And yet, upon moving to Luxembourg, I soon found myself feeling slightly silly wearing regular gym or street clothes when cycling to work. I even devised this handy chart of how much Lycra to wear:
© Martin Jonsson
The Lycra Conquers All
This year I've resolved to get back in shape, and as part of that commitment I've decided to start cycling to work when the weather allows. It's only a 12 kilometre ride, but given that even a 3k ride has, in the past, left me feeling as though my posterior was made out of freshly ground turkey giblets, I decided to venture to Decathlon (by car, mind) in search of a solution.
The solution, of course, was cycling shorts. Tight as an over-stuffed sausage casing with the added sexiness factor of what is in essence a built-in nappy, it's safe to say I did not feel like Daniel Craig* as I squeezed myself in. What I did feel, however, was extremely comfortable once they were actually on.
*Is Daniel Craig still considered a sex symbol? I think he is, right? He played James Bond, maybe still does. Feel free to replace this with another name if he doesn't do it for you.
As it turns out, Lycra shorts are absolutely smashing. Once you've got them on — and I have to admit that I deliberately made that sound like more of a struggle than it was — it's like having your behind hugged by a particularly relentless but supportive octopus. Everything's held in place, though the nappy bit in the crotch area does make you walk a bit like a cowboy. Much like the head of an octopus would, if it were to jump up tentacles first and hug your bum, I guess.
The larger lesson
Having finally given in to my fear of wearing Lycra, I set off on my first ride to work just two days ago. It went absolutely swimmingly, and I arrived 5 minutes before Google Maps' estimate*. 12.3 kilometres and 161 metre elevation in a whopping 44 minutes!
*Should I be entering cycling competitions? I feel like maybe I'm a natural. Hit me up if you want to race.
With that one ride, I've found out that I actually quite enjoy cycling — all I needed was the right gear, something I've never had before. This leads us to the larger lesson, which is that this very fact has become a bit of a recurring fact in my life since moving to the Duchy.
Cycling wasn't the only area of life where, early on, I noted a difference in how people at large seem to do things here. I also saw far more proper walking boots and trousers worn by people who were just out for a casual forest stroll or walk with the dog, and even casual joggers seemed more prone to wear compression leggings and what not.
I must admit that I now own all of the above as well, and wouldn't go back. Part of it is likely that people on average have more money here*, which explains why they are able to afford it. But I don't think that's the whole truth, as it's also something that seems more ingrained in the culture — and that's a good thing.
In short, long live Lycra! Let's get the rest of the world on board, one pair of nappy-tights at a time.
*Note that I said on average. I don't think earning more money than e.g. the average person in the UK is a prerequisite to having gear like this. Let me be the first to tell you that part time freelance editor/journalists are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, yet I can afford it. Just about.
Martin Jonsson is a freelance journalist and produces Lëtzcast, a podcast about Luxembourg.