Old kit ought to be one of the pleasures of having been in the sport for a long time

The Doc celebrates the joy of owning 'no longer cool' short socks

Top of the pops stage with short Cycling Weekly socks
(Image credit: Alamy/Future)

There was a cold and foggy ride last week where I can honestly report that the best thing about the entire experience was my gloves. The gloom came all the way to my eyeballs, the air smelled metallic and a little fishy, and every mile was a little longer than the one before. But my hands were warm and dry.

The gloves are old, at least fifteen years, but they stopped making them and I like them so much I only wear them to brighten that sort of day. Like a man preserving an immaculate MG-B sports car, I keep the mileage low.

Dr Hutch profile
Michael Hutchinson

Michael Hutchinson is a writer, journalist and former professional cyclist. His Dr Hutch columns appears in every issue of Cycling Weekly magazine. 

Old kit ought to be one of the pleasures of having been in the sport for a long time. People should have respect for someone who shows up to a club run with a tatty old pair of overshoes. They ought to greet you with, “I can see from the way your overshoes are barely clinging to your feet that you have deep experience and are wise in the ways of the back road. You have much to teach us, master.” They do not.

Cycling does not admire the battered and careworn as it should. Cycling’s main concern is about looking as if you’re riding home after a splurge at the bike shop. You know that confident glow that pro riders have? You can buy that with money.

My gloves left me thinking about other old stuff I still use. I’ve got a pair of very heavy winter tights. They have a strange property – when I put them on at home, they look fine. If I ride on my own, they look fine. But as soon as I ride with someone else I look like I’ve arrived straight from winter training with Eddy Merckx in about 1975.

I hardly ever use the tights – they’re designed for sub-zero rides and I don’t do a lot of those these days – so it’s not a major problem. But there are other things which are more irritating. In the 2000s there was a national race series sponsored by a company that made (among other things) socks. If you rode the entire series and weren’t a total donkey you finished each year’s campaign with about fifty pairs. Like everyone else who rode that series, I still have maybe 30 pairs unused, still threaded to their little display cards.

They work fine, they’re just socks, but they’re so short that it’s impossible to pretend otherwise than that they pre-date the cancellation of Top of the Pops. They’re not weird enough to be a talking point, they’re just sufficiently off-kilter that present day riders look down on both them and me. I still use them, but I can feel people judging my ankles. If I’m going for a group ride I wear something else.

The oldest thing I still use pre-dates even my taking up cycling – it’s a small, red woollen hat from Brittany that someone gave me when I was about twelve, and which fits perfectly under a helmet. I’m pretty sure it was on my head by about the fifth or sixth ride of my career. The moth holes just add a much-needed degree of breathability.

None of the old bits of kit really works better than a new version would. I’m not using them because I think they’re better, or because of a sentimental attachment, I use them because they’re what I’ve got and they work just fine.

If you want to head out the door with the full pro look, I say go you. And if you want to head out looking exactly the same as you did in 2010, or 2001, I say exactly the same. And if you want advice on the best local roads, I’d be prepared to bet you’ll do better asking the guy in the knackered overshoes, but you probably won’t.

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