Dr. Hutch: Return of the winter cycling tights

The return of cold weather forces the Doc into the darkest corners of his winter wardrobe — with hellish results...

Such have been the vagaries of the weather lately that it was only this week that I got round to fishing a pair of proper winter tights out of the old Lycra mine. After less than half an hour of rummaging, I came across just what I was looking for.

Black, naturally, with zips on the ankles, a nice high bib, just the right thickness of fleecy-backed fabric, nothing cow-related adhering to them from last winter, and a pad with a pleasing lack of crispiness that suggested they might even have been washed at some point since 2011. Perfect. I pulled them on, and I sallied forth.

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As soon as my arse hit the saddle, I remembered. I do this every year. “I’ll get some tights,” I say, and I pick out this pair because they look so nice. And the instant I sat down, I recalled the reason why I once christened them my ‘crabs’ tights.

Not because of anything along the lines of the incident at a cycle jumble sale a couple of years back when my friend Bernard bought a pair of tights that had seen just a bit too much of the world; but rather because instead of providing the caress that was promised by the tag that came with the garment, two of the very hi-tech-looking ridges on the chamois pad seized my perineum with a grip reminiscent of half a dozen little crustaceans hanging on with their claws.

I can remember every little foible of every bike I have ever owned. For instance, my winter bike has a cassette that, for some perverted reason, goes straight from the 14t sprocket to the 16t, meaning it’s a little difficult to find a comfortable gear on a flat road on a calm day. And my spare winter bike (shut up at the back) has overly rigid carbon handlebars (again, shut up) that make my wrists hurt slightly on rides over four hours. Every detail of every bike is in there.

But can I manage to remember from one year to the next that to wear this particular pair of tights is to all intents and purposes to affix a bulldog clip to a place where no bulldog clip should ever be affixed? No, I cannot.

Beelzebub’s bibs
Even when I’d had my memory refreshed, did I go home and exchange them for something else? Of course not. If any aspect of my bike had been that much of a failure I’d have turned round, gone home, and sorted it out — slightly dubiously attached bar tape would have been something I wouldn’t have put up with for an instant. But the discovery that I had clad my loins in the tights of Satan? “Ah well, I’m sure I’ll get used to it,” I thought, and continued on my way.

Something else I’d forgotten was that the tights had a seam just behind the knees. The garment tag that had promised my rear end the time of its life had gone on to describe it as an ‘anatomical’ seam. It was clearly inspired by the work of the kind of 18th century ‘anatomists’, who dug bodies out of graveyards and cut them up with rusty saws.

With every pedal stroke, the seam cheese-wired its way through a little more of my leg. Normally it was the kind of thing that I’d have found quite annoying. As it was, it provided a useful distraction from what was going on a bit further north.

When I finally got home, hobbling yet unable to actually sit down, I took great pleasure in removing the tights and hurling them aside. But then, upon reflection, I carefully washed them, dried them, and put them away for next year. After all, it would be a shame to waste what was clearly an expensive piece of cycling kit.