Look Pro: Flandrian Best

Hushovd shows his Flandrian Flair, even over the actual Flandrian, Boonen. Photo: Kris Claeyé

To Look Pro is to strive to Look Fantastic and to be at our ease on a bicycle. It is to walk the line between form and function and is based entirely on the premise that the professional peloton is far more experienced in this endeavour than we shall ever be. Their lessons speak through their actions on the bike, serving as a beacon to provide us the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and triumphs. But this is a dangerous game; being a Pro does not mean one Looks Fantastic. Because of the Commutative Property of Looking Pro, Looking Fantastic does not mean you Look Pro. The Pros are our inspiration, but care must be taken to choose your muse wisely.

Looking Pro in good weather is an simple matter; bibs, jersey, (white) socks, shoes, and helmet. Tan your guns, match your kit properly, and get on with it. But when the chill sets in and layers are added, the matter becomes quite complicated quite quickly. Rule #21 and Good Taste dictate that we dress in our Flandrian Best; we don knickers or knee warmers, gillets, arm warmers, Belgian Booties or shoe covers, slip caps beneath our helmets, and hope to encounter some good old-fashioned gritty roads.

The preference for knee warmers over tights distills down to one elemental fact: no matter how one might try to disguise them, tights are simply not an attractive garment. Not on cyclists. Not on skiers. Not on overweight women at the market. Not on fit women at the Yoga studio. Not on runners, not on swimmers. Not in a box, not on a fox.

As is customary, I will leverage the powers of photography to illustrate my point. A casual glance at this particular photo shows a collection of proper hardmen rattling over the muddy cobbles of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. It is plainly obvious that perennial hardman Tomeke Boonen was suffering from some kind of mental trauma, as he chose to don full tights rather than his usual knee warmers. These actions are not without their consequence, and you can plainly see he is ill at ease and destined to perform below his best for the remainder of the season. Eddy Boasson Hagen, in the blurry distance, suffered a similar fate and it took him until July to recover from his mistake. Boonen wasn’t so lucky, presumably because such an offense holds greater punishment for actual Flandrians as opposed to étrangers.

Then we have the others. Thor Hushovd, Lars Boom, and Philipe Gilbert all have two things in common: they all Look Fantastic, and they’re all dressed in their Flandrian Best. Hushovd has obviously already taken the safety off the howitzers, while Gilbert, if I’m not mistaken, is smirking – apparently at Boonen’s choice. Boom’s face can’t be read, but his posture is that of a Dutchman with intense Belgian aspirations.

When making decisions about how to dress for the cold and wet, keep the following points in mind.

  • Layering offers maximum versatility; forgo jackets and tights for the flexibility of arm and knee warmers which can be pulled up or down, and gillets which can be unzipped or doffed and tucked under your pockets. It is also to be noted that your Flandrian Best should always be close-fitting. Belgian Booties and shoe covers are to fit tightly over the shoe; gloves are to be tight and sleek. (Sorry, Lobster claws, despite your utility, there is no place for you in a rider’s Flandrian Best.)
  • Knee warmers are employed to keep the knees warm and protected from the cold, while at the same time allowing the shins to breathe like a fine bottle of wine after uncorking the magnums.
  • Maintain order; if it’s cold enough for knee warmers, it’s cold enough for arm warmers. First come arm warmers, then knee warmers.
  • While cycling caps may be worn in a variety of conditions for a variety of reasons, cotton cycling caps are to be worn under helmets any time the rain falls or knee warmers are deployed for use. In extreme cold conditions, a winter cycling cap may be considered. Skull caps, due in large part to their condom-like appearance, are to be avoided at all costs.
  • Tights are to be avoided whenever possible. If, due to some kind of genetic shortcoming, you find that you simply must wear full-length tights, ensure that they are are straight-ankled and not stirrups. (We’re Cyclists, not dancers.)

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298 Replies to “Look Pro: Flandrian Best”

  1. @Chris

    @girl
    That was I initially thought but the whole point of a race number belt is that they’re a quick and easy way of getting your number on in the transition area after coming out of the water – you don’t need pins to transfer between shirts or whatever. He hasn’t got to the transition yet otherwise he’d have his bike rather than his pink swim cap and goggles.

    A fine observation – but I don’t think that it is beyond the realms of possibility that this nuffy actually did the swim with his race number attached.

  2. @ BuckRogers: two thumbs up

    @bikemech3: just over the state line here in the ozarks, and yes, you have the wind, but we share the temps, like with wiscot, he probably has it colder in fact.

    I submit you can look PRO, ride in cold and be smart all at the same time. These are not mutually exclusive goals. Consider, if its in the single digits out there, no lame brain will go out in embro and shorts or knickers only. Its a base layer up and down, roubaix fabriced goods and a jacket w/glove et al. But, you can do that and get an 1-2 hr ride in safely, with the wind and all. Last year my coldest ride was single digits, and wind chill/ride temp creeping down to -20. Point being, keep it safe.

    We are all here, the keepers, very religious. Fervent. Legalists. But, also note, there are a few of us freaks that are here that break the rules, thus the need for pentance, atonement and acenting to the higher levels of PRO.

  3. @hungsolo
    Go with the really hot mad alchemy (comes in three levels)… you will never be cold! Just make sure you put the chamois creme on before the embro… I like the Tea, but haven’t tried the coffee version yet.

  4. Thanks, Frank! Yep, was directed at you. Ha, I was running out the door to go for a ride, didn’t see my mistake.

    That’s been my experience as well – waterproofs just don’t work when you are really out riding. Yep, around town or commuting when you are going half the speed, sure. A simple gilet does a pretty good job in most rainy conditions for me.

    AND, we need to cut down on all this talk about tri folks, regardless of if they are Chong or not.

  5. @frank

    …you will not Look Pro riding in jackets (with the exception of all-black rain capes to be used only in torrential downpours)…

    How about Panatani-esque clear rain jackets – surely pro?

  6. I humbly submit that as while as Velominati we must Obey the Rules, there’s no rule requiring us to submit our wardrobes for Keeper approval. Below 10, I’m wearing tights. Under the bibs. Got some new Castelli’s to go with the V-Kit I’m going to break in this weekend.

    And a white skull cap. So there.

  7. @Chris
    Gentlemen, let’s not waste our time trying to justify this man’s choices of activity or apparel. He’s wrong on all counts.

  8. @sgt

    I humbly submit that as while as Velominati we must Obey the Rules, there’s no rule requiring us to submit our wardrobes for Keeper approval. Below 10, I’m wearing tights. Under the bibs. Got some new Castelli’s to go with the V-Kit I’m going to break in this weekend.
    And a white skull cap. So there.

    A-Merckx, brother. I’m sure Frank has better things to do than adjudicate on multiple variations and permutations of kit. If you have to ask, the answer is probably no.

    Or ask WWJD. (What Would Jens Do?)

  9. Proposed Rule #998:

    When replying to a post that includes an unsavory photo of Budgie Man, Lampre Man, or Cipo molesting a pair of White Ladies, USE THE REPLY BUTTON not the quote button.

    Those who care to see Budgie Man five or more times can scroll up and find him.

    Failure to use THE REPLY BUTTON will receive an immediate one level demotion of their avatar badge.

  10. @DerHoggz
    Not a cap but I have this. It’s rather fine and not at all condom like under a helmet but I’d also like to give this a go. Merino is the way to go.

    @wiscot
    There was no attempt at all to justify the man’s actions, although I have a sneaking suspicion that he may be quite handy.

  11. @frank

    @Ron

    Farnk – what do you wear on your body is say 40*F and raining? A gilet? A rain cape? I always find that waterproof jackets get you wet from the inside out. I do know some have suggested the Assos jacket, but I don’t have the funds for one of those this winter.And great write-up and comments. Only wearing what you must is key. And, always important to remember it’s best to be a bit cold when starting out, lest you overheat mid-ride.

    I have to assume that you’re asking me a question, although I have no idea who the fuck Farnk is. I personally don’t wear a raincoat unless its absolutely raining buckets – you know, the kind of rain that I assume the bible talks about. Otherwise, as you say, you just get wet from the inside. I do, however, have a Curve custom rain jacket and it is phenomenal.
    I don’t worry about getting wet. I’ll get wet one way or another if I’m riding in the rain. You get cold from wind on your chest, so I look at windproof products – usually a gillet, which I also use in the mountains for descending.
    In my opinion, waterproof gear is most practical for commuters – it doesn’t really matter for riders out training. We get wet from rain or sweat, and should be generating enough heat to keep warm. Wearing something that breathes well is much more important.

    @Farnk (!) has a point here. However, there is a *huge* thermodynamic difference between the wet coming from the sky at 40degF and the wet coming from the 98degF + from inside. Keeping the cold water off you while riding reduces the amount of work your body has to do to warm the muscles. The effect is not small. Energy spent warming muscles is energy wasted that could be used to generate V. And the Merckxdamn V is it.

    OK, I am now going back to Couch Surfing where I am much more comfortable, and where I still feel great shame.

  12. @G’rilla

    Proposed Rule #998:
    When replying to a post that includes an unsavory photo of Budgie Man, Lampre Man, or Cipo molesting a pair of White Ladies, USE THE REPLY BUTTON not the quote button.
    Those who care to see Budgie Man five or more times can scroll up and find him.
    Failure to use THE REPLY BUTTON will receive an immediate one level demotion of their avatar badge.

    This.

  13. Hopefully this makes up for the picture of Marcus’ hairy, tan cousin running a triathlon.

    One kickass Olympian, Victoria Pendleton:

    You’re welcome.

  14. I was on my way home from a 50 k ride today and half a block from my apartment I flatted out my front tire(damn thorns, but this is the desert). since I was so close to home I decide to walk it. A homeless guy on a bike rides by, asks me if Im ok and if I need bus fair. that really made my day.
    It was a awesome day, 7 degrees and sunny. No warmers to be seen on me, just sporting the V-jersey.

  15. @marcus

    @Chris

    @girl
    That was I initially thought but the whole point of a race number belt is that they’re a quick and easy way of getting your number on in the transition area after coming out of the water – you don’t need pins to transfer between shirts or whatever. He hasn’t got to the transition yet otherwise he’d have his bike rather than his pink swim cap and goggles.

    A fine observation – but I don’t think that it is beyond the realms of possibility that this nuffy actually did the swim with his race number attached.

    Excellent point. He is a tool. He would be thinking it would save loads of time in transition.

  16. @girl

    @marcus

    @Chris

    @girl
    That was I initially thought but the whole point of a race number belt is that they’re a quick and easy way of getting your number on in the transition area after coming out of the water – you don’t need pins to transfer between shirts or whatever. He hasn’t got to the transition yet otherwise he’d have his bike rather than his pink swim cap and goggles.

    A fine observation – but I don’t think that it is beyond the realms of possibility that this nuffy actually did the swim with his race number attached.

    Excellent point. He is a tool. He would be thinking it would save loads of time in transition.

    Enough with the cricket talk. Or maybe I am confused and you are talking about Austrialian Rules Football?

  17. Nothing, NOTHING, will make you feel like a Flandrian the way a patch of grit-covered flesh exposed between the kneekers and shoe covers. See below, taken during my 4C rainy ride this afternoon.

  18. @frank
    What is that stuff on the back of your calf? Looks like you either need to clean the lens on your iPhone camera, or spend some time meditating on Rule #33.

  19. @scaler911

    @frank
    I’m disappointed you even knew how to find that image sir. Damn you!

    About a year ago, I was researching (I know, I’m not supposed to do that per my model) an elaborate Rule #42 explanation and my googling turned him up. He’s never left me, for obvious reasons. Hence, when @girl mentioned a hairy dude tritard, I went for the jugular.

    It was remarkably hard to find, actually.

  20. @frank

    @scaler911

    @frank
    I’m disappointed you even knew how to find that image sir. Damn you!

    About a year ago, I was researching (I know, I’m not supposed to do that per my model) an elaborate Rule #42 explanation and my googling turned him up. He’s never left me, for obvious reasons. Hence, when @girl mentioned a hairy dude tritard, I went for the jugular.
    It was remarkably hard to find, actually.

    ha!!!

  21. @Souleur

    @ BuckRogers: two thumbs up
    @bikemech3: just over the state line here in the ozarks, and yes, you have the wind, but we share the temps, like with wiscot, he probably has it colder in fact.
    I submit you can look PRO, ride in cold and be smart all at the same time. These are not mutually exclusive goals. Consider, if its in the single digits out there, no lame brain will go out in embro and shorts or knickers only. Its a base layer up and down, roubaix fabriced goods and a jacket w/glove et al. But, you can do that and get an 1-2 hr ride in safely, with the wind and all. Last year my coldest ride was single digits, and wind chill/ride temp creeping down to -20. Point being, keep it safe.
    We are all here, the keepers, very religious. Fervent. Legalists. But, also note, there are a few of us freaks that are here that break the rules, thus the need for pentance, atonement and acenting to the higher levels of PRO.

    Very well put. And also note, if you’re out riding, good on ya. Period. You just might not look like a Pro. And, as another note, this article is on dressing in your Flandrian Best, not about dressing for fucking winter or snow.

    If you can layer instead of a jacket, do it. If you can do knickers instead of tights, do it. If not, chuck that shit on and get out on the bike. Just realize you’re not looking like a Flandrian. But Flandrians don’t ride in the snow (usually).

  22. @redranger

    Front flats are scary… I had one the other month, and when I went to turn I could feel my tube and tire starting to roll onto the side of my rim! Thankfully I was going slow (had missed a turn and was just going to do a u-turn on a side street to get back on track) and was not flying down a 400m hill like I had been an hour earlier.

    Awesome how you were offered bus fair by the homeless gent! Good karma for sure… probably because you were looking PRO.

  23. @mcsqueak

    Hopefully this makes up for the picture of Marcus’ hairy, tan cousin running a triathlon.
    One kickass Olympian, Victoria Pendleton:

    You’re welcome.

    In knickers, not tights, I might add.

  24. @redranger

    @Nate
    My guess its road grit. and I assume he meant grit-covered and not grid-covered.

    This.

    @Nate

    @redranger
    Ah. I have never seen such hairy road grid.

    Really? Do you really – REALLY – think I don’t shave my legs on a daily basis? I refuse to ever leave the house with even the slightest hint of leg stubble.

  25. @frank
    I am suprised no one has yet to note the proper spelling of Vlaanderen with the native V.

    Not to undermine the look you are promoting of being dressed properly for the task, but I find it also ironic that it was in west Flanders that I was taught to wear full thermal gear; hat, jacket, tights (over bib shorts) long gloves and booties for training in temps 26c and lower. Yeah, nearly 70 fucking F’s in styrofoam kit head to toe. The embro and arm warmers for races only.

  26. Perhaps I didn’t see it in the comments, but a Roubaix fleece type bib short paired with knee warmers will get you down to the mid-30’s F (near 0 C). You can go below freezing a bit if you put leg warmers with them. I can tell you from personal experience that winter bib shorts, while seeming like an oxymoron, are THE BOMB and should be an essential component of any Hardman’s wardrobe. On those days that start below freezing and rise to sunny warmth, you can strip off layers and still be comfortable. Also, with leg warmers, they are no more restrictive than standard bibs, unlike most tights….
    From what I understand, they are standard issue to ProTour riders, thusly: PRO.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if some of the bibs shown in the top photo are a Roubaix fleece. Heck, maybe even Chewbacca the Triathlete’s Speedo too

  27. @jimmy

    I am suprised no one has yet to note the proper spelling of Vlaanderen with the native V.

    I’m afraid I’m not sure I understand. Lots of results on the proper spelling,, including one called the Ever-present V: Ronde van “V”laanderen.

    West Flanders is close to the water and awfully close to those sissy Waloons. That’s probably why they’re wearing thermals!

    (That cold feeling you have right now is my thinly veiled jealousy of the fact that you’ve ridden/raced with the hard bastids in VVV. That’s THREE FUCKING V’s, because a W for West is just two V’s put together.)

  28. @redranger

    I was on my way home from a 50 k ride today and half a block from my apartment I flatted out my front tire(damn thorns, but this is the desert). since I was so close to home I decide to walk it. A homeless guy on a bike rides by, asks me if Im ok and if I need bus fair. that really made my day.It was a awesome day, 7 degrees and sunny. No warmers to be seen on me, just sporting The V-jersey.

    Things like this reaffirm my faith in the human race. Nice.

  29. @frank
    I meant in the article title similar to the VVorkshop article.

    The jealousy is mine for your upcoming trip. I experienced zero art, good food or history up close. Someday though, I’ll take my boy, maybe watch the Ghent 6 get him his first bier.

  30. @jimmy

    @frank
    I meant in the article title similar to the VVorkshop article.
    The jealousy is mine for your upcoming trip. I experienced zero art, good food or history up close. Someday though, I’ll take my boy, maybe watch the Ghent 6 get him his first bier.

    Oh, I’m pickin’ up what you’re layin’ down now. We’ll miss you in Vlaanderen.

    Raised as a European, I had my first beer at home with my dad after a 16-hour mountainbike ride in Sun Valley – I’m guessing I was maybe 12. Campfire-side. I had it in a goblet from Grumpies, but I’ve lost the glass, unfortunately.

    I think that if you serve him his first beer when he’s under-age and after a rockin’ ride (like the six-days), you’ll make alcohol such a different thing to him than all his douchebag friends that he’ll never abuse it the way those kids do. It will just be a cool, mellow thing, not some crazy shit to get pissed on.

  31. @frank
    Next time, just ask, I could have linked it in seconds. He has a personal website where he boasts about his average performance in races and blames everything/one for not doing well.

    I hate to think about the variety of down right scary images you came across when searching for that one.

  32. @frank

    @scaler911

    @frank
    I’m disappointed you even knew how to find that image sir. Damn you!

    About a year ago, I was researching (I know, I’m not supposed to do that per my model) an elaborate Rule #42 explanation and my googling turned him up. He’s never left me, for obvious reasons. Hence, when @girl mentioned a hairy dude tritard, I went for the jugular.
    It was remarkably hard to find, actually.

    Of course. Just fucking with you.

  33. Anyone want to know what I just did?

    Sold my tubular wheels online. Packed and sent this morning.

    On TradeMe, NZ’s fleabay, I just bought NOS Ambrosio Nemesis rims. 2 for 30 bucks from a local.

    Universe is telling me something.

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