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Dear Frank: Correct short length

Correct short length for cyclists
Frank Strack
15 Aug 2016

Long, short or somewhere in between? The debate over bibshorts length has cyclists divided, but Frank Strack is here to offer guidance.

Dear Frank

What is the correct length for bibshorts? Some brands stop just above the knee, while other (mainly Italian) brands are barely more than hotpants.

Richard, by email

Dear Richard

The Rules are about cultivating a passion for riding our bikes to gain the maximum enjoyment possible. This requires humility, for one thing, and devotion, for another. It requires a balance between focusing on progress and enjoying the journey. It demands a reverence for our history paired with a hunger for evolution. The Rules teach us balance, to embrace the contradiction of opposing forces for the positive that each can bring us.

And so it could be said that The Goldilocks Principle is one of the fundamental tenets of Rule Holism. Along our journey to La Vie Velominatus, we will swing like a pendulum from left to right before we find our natural resting place between two extremes, whether in our training, our position on the bike, our kit or even our very commitment to cycling itself. No one can tell another where this point of balance lies or how to find it. We may be shown The Way, but the path is ours alone to walk.

The Goldilocks Principle applies to many aspects of the sport, and the wearing of our kit – in particular the length of sleeves, shorts and socks – is no exception. 

Lance Pharmstrong, whose racing record was more easily expunged than was his influence on style, started a trend by riding in longer and longer bibs and socks as his career progressed. Armstrong’s relationship with bibshort length was a challenged one throughout his career – early on he was influenced by Sean Yates, who rode with his bibs pulled up high to avoid showing off his tan lines while wearing Bermuda shorts around his house. This strikes me as a preposterous goal, but nevertheless this is where his ambitions lay and he passed them on to young Lance. It wouldn’t be until after his return from cancer that Armstrong’s shorts length pendulum would swing in the other direction.

The downward trend has continued after his exile, and riders today are wearing them nearly down to their knees. I can’t understand this trend as I’m much too vain and proud of my legs to be willing to cover them up. But on to the basic question at hand: how long should your shorts be? The answer is, of course, not too long and not too short.

Whether worn with kneewarmers or not, the grippers on the legs of shorts must fall somewhere between the midpoint of the thigh and the base of the rectus femoris. This is the muscle on your thigh that, together with the vastus lateralis and vastus medialis, form the shape of a V on your guns. Under no circumstances should your shorts cover this point, as it is one of the primary focal points of The V. The more massive your cannons, the higher the accepted line can be, although it should be noted that the reverse does not apply to lowering the line to cover up a pair of pins like little starter pistols. 

Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault on Alpe D'Huez

Look to the likes of Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon and Greg LeMond for the gold standard in choosing their bib length to maximally show off the impressiveness of their guns.

A final note is that you’re not hostage to the length of the bibshorts as they are sold. It seems to have escaped the public’s awareness that Lycra is stretchy, which means you can place the grippers wherever you choose. If they’re longer than desired, simply place the grippers where you want them and smooth out the excess material. It’s OK if the fabric bunches a bit at the hip as it will make your thighs look even more massive than they are.

I would have included a photo of myself getting dressed properly but the editor wouldn’t have it. Something about retaining readership and nudity.

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