Faithful gear deserving of respect and gratitude

People who run and ride eventually learn to appreciate the best gear they own. When speaking of gear, we are talking about clothing, shoes, kits, whatever you depend upon to help you go faster, longer and smarter when you run and ride.

Great gear testimonial

It can be said without equivocation that a great piece of gear is literally worth its weight in gold. For example, you may regret spending $38 on a fancy training top because you figure you could get by with a similar top for only $25. Yet when you put on the more expensive top and go for a run or a ride, you realize something about that piece of gear really is different. The expensive stuff doesn’t itch. Doesn’t bind or constrict. You’re liberated. You actually run or ride farther because it feels good to do so.

My dog Chuck sports his favorite brand of running shoes. They are minimalist, for sure.

My dog Chuck sports his favorite brand of running shoes. They are minimalist, for sure.

It doesn’t matter what brand you wear as long as you love wearing it. You could throw on a Nikeeboknewbalumadidasics shirt for all you care. As long as the garment wicks sweat, keeps you cool when it’s hot or warm when it’s cold, that’s what you care about. And when that great piece of gear lasts you years and years without fail, it becomes a faithful part of your training and racing program. You can count on it.

One classic set of gear

I own a New Balance mock turtleneck that I was given in a store promotion way back in 1990. It still fits. Still looks good as new. Even the New Balance logo humbly printed on the left breast area of the shirt does not look faded or broken up. That shirt is performance gear at its best. It wicks sweat when necessary and absorbs it when called upon to do so.

There were matching shorts that finally gave out about 5 years ago. The waistband elastic simply went “wuff” one day while pulling them on. Even the drawstring (which I LOVE in a training short) could not pull those shorts back together again. Had I tried to wear them it might have been Humpty Dumpty time with the old drawers. And that’s never good.

Chuck models his winter training gear, a grey nylon racing top with dark grey fleece trim with velcro stays.

Chuck models his winter training gear, a grey nylon racing top with dark grey fleece trim with velcro stays.

But getting 20 years out of a pair of running shorts is a pretty fair deal. If they retailed for $35.99 at the time, and 20 years have passed, that’s 7300 days of ownership. I have probably run in those shorts every 3rd day or so over the years, so let’s say there were 2433 days of wear. Divide the number of wear days by the cost and you get a raw cost of about 0.01479244 per day. What a great investment, and the height of faithfulness when it comes to a long-lasting pair of shorts.

Natural limits

Of course some forms of gear have natural limits, an expiration date as it were that should not be exceeded. One notably fickle brand of gear was the classic jock strap. A few athletes still wear these, one must suppose, but they were standard issue in the 1970s. Jocks were not cheap, so we tried to make them last a long time. However multiple trips through the caustic washing machines of high school or college laundries could reduce the most stoic brand of jock to a quivering triangle of dangerously weak threads.

So you had to watch it. You could never really tell when a jock might break, leaving you helpless and flopping in the proverbial wind, commando when you’re not supposed to show.

It happened that I pressed my luck with just such a jock. My main jockstrap was not yet back from the school laundry on a the afternoon of a cross country meet, so I grabbed a faithful backup jock that was clinging by a stretchy thread down there. I tested the strength with a tug. It seemed to hold, so it was a risk I had to take because I had these lucky silky shorts that I’d dug out of the old uniform closet and had won two straight races so I didn’t want to break the streak. But one definitely had to wear a jock under the silky shorts because they would sometimes rise up the side of your butt and show your underwear, which is never a good look.

Racy finish

Did Jimmy Carter wear a jock back in the day? Yuk! Who cares? Don't want to think about that.

Did Jimmy Carter wear a jock back in the day? Yuk! Who cares? Don’t want to think about that.

By the time I had the lead and was turning for home, I could feel the jock unraveling between my junk and my right leg. The faithful jock was giving out. Hoping to make it to the finish before disaster struck, I sprinted harder, only to feel it loosen even more. Then suddenly, that horrible sound of “wuff” happened just 100 meters from the finish chute. A quick draft blew up my shorts and a waving segment of jockstrap released behind my back leg, flapping like the tail of a sting-ray.

Panicking, I reached down and pinned my shorts to my thigh and finished with the other arm raised in victory, hoping the gesture would distract the crowd as I finished with nearly everything hanging out my shorts.

Lack of faith

That was a most unfaithful act by that formerly faithful jock. To make it worse, as I was walking out of the finish chute, I was accosted by one of those crazy freshman team members who does not know how to keep his mouth shut.

This dude could use a jock, for sure.

This dude could use a jock, for sure.

“Dude, your jock broke!” he called so loud everyone could hear.

Glancing at him in a fury, I was about to curse him out when my mom appeared in the field of view behind him. “Yeah, thanks for telling me,” I falsely smiled, hurrying off to find my sweats.

Faithful and unfaithful bike gear

Truly faithful cycling gear is pretty hard to find. You don’t think about it when you’re riding, but there are a lot of contact points on your cycling shorts or bibs and you can ruin a great cycling kit just by riding in too much of a fixed position for too long. One hole in your cycling kit butt area and the entire bibs are ruined.

Who repairs bike clothing? No one. There’s no market for that. I once took a pair of shorts to a local tailor for a patch job and she laughed. “Patch it with what? Throw them away. Get new ones!”

That must be what everyone does with old biking gear. In fact there are rumors of giant rafts of discarded bike gear floating in the Pacific right along with those giant rafts of plastic water bottles and discarded CDs from every band in the 80s. I hated that decade. It’s no wonder those 80s band CDs are floating in the ocean where no one can hear them.

Spandex and Lycra: Uneasy lovers 

Spandex and lycra and all those miracle fabrics we have now for cycling wear are notably fussy about proper washing methods. Hot dryers can turn great gear into an itchy kit in one pass. Ruined lycra, spandex and other wonder fibers are nearly unwearable once “washified” except as lumpy covers over base layers.

Thin is good, but not forever

Really thin cycling jerseys are wonderful to wear, but the minute you go to a race and put a pin through the fabric they are never the same. Their faithfulness is stretched to the limit by the smallest of perforations. All it takes is one small hole to start the process and everytime you pull on that favorite shirt that little hole becomes a bigger hole. It’s almost like they planned it that way, so you’ll have to buy another expensive European bike shirt. Because pretty soon there’s a hole the size of a quarter in your side and your faithfully engineered piece of Italian racewear looks like moths have been eating it. Holey cycling gear is never a fashion statement of any merit, unless you have crashed, and there is blood globulets clinging to the shredded fibers of your shirt. Then a holey shirt is very cool. Until you get home and have to cut off your shirt and then shower with road rash. But still, even that is cool. Road rash. That means you were doing something dangerous. Or stupid. It all feels the same in the shower. Which hurts.

Now back to fashion and faithfulness.

Accessories and such

Cycling shoes, helmets, gloves, socks, sunglasses, arm warmers, leg warmers; the list of cycling gear goes on an on. It is much more complicated getting dressed for cycling than it is for running, especially during the winter months. Then it is way more complicated. Tons more work to find your stuff before you ride, too. Plus you’re always cooking by the time you finish putting on all your layers. Then you realize your forgot that church meeting you were supposed to attend so you go out and pedal around for half and hour and sweat like you’ve been to a sauna. But the endorphins never arrive. They’re trapped down between your ass checks by six layers of spandex. If you fart in that kind of outfit, your angles bulge out. At least they seldom pop.

Faithful black cycling shorts

But you always need a pair of faithful black cycling shorts, or five. That way in darkness you do not have to make decisions. And you will also be obeying “The Rules” by wearing black shorts. Some of you may want to wear red or blue or yellow in protest of such cycling fascism, but that’s your choice. Black really is simple, distinguished and doesn’t show your junk in good light or bad.

In order to have a truly faithful cycling closet, you also need jerseys that go with everything. Nothing tests your patience on the dark morning of your group ride than digging around drawers where you keep your cycling stuff and can’t find things that match. Then you wind up panicking and show up for the ride wearing that pair of white shorts and everyone takes turns making fun of your kit.

You wonder why you ever bought those white shorts in the first place (they looked good on the rack!) but you just can’t bring yourself to throw them away because they were made in France or Italy or Spain and cost about $112 retail and were only $65.50 on the rack. What a deal!

So you toss them back into the drawer until the next embarrassing emergency or a ride. So those whites short are faithful in their way, because they faithfully embarrass your sorry ass every time you wear them.

Faithful gear takes on many forms, you see. Nothing will test your faith like bad gear, and nothing encourages your faith and loyalty to running and riding like a piece of gear that lasts 20 years.

Got any faithful in your life?

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About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and genesisfix.wordpress.com Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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