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. @girl

    I’ll take your word for it and retract my statement that he might be quite handy, no need to actually go and read of his exploits.

  2. @minion

    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.

    Sure, rub it in! Bastard! Guy doesn’t happen to have another set laying around the house, does he?

    By the way, congrats on a great deal!

  3. @wiscot

    @BikeMechNo3
    Remember, in what was quite possibly the greatest example of being a “hardman” in cycling – Bernard Hinault’s 1980 win in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, it was so cold and wet that he lost feeling in the tips of several fingers permanently. He was a pro and paid to do what he did. We’re not. So I say exercise caution and commonsense when the temps get very low. (I live in WI and will go out when the temps are in the low to mid 20s, but if it’s really windy or the roads are shitty, I’m staying put and safe).

    Wow, what a GREAT topic for discussion: what was the greatest single example of being a hardman in cycling history. I need to think about that one for a while but definitely worthy of more discussion!

  4. This discussion & this time of year have me kind of annoyed that it’s going to be 67*F here today – I’d like some cold rain and road grit, please!

    Coming from the NE U.S. I find it completely unacceptable to be sunny and warm in mid-December. Not a huge Christmas fan, but jeeze, some snow and cold might help me get in the spirit.

    Well damnit, Anjin-san, I had just whittled down my “bike wants” list & you put up that rain cape. That would be sweet to have for really wet days. And I want the gilet as well. Thanks. I’m trying to not spend money on new bike gear. But, it’s just so damn nice to have the perfect gear for the conditions.

  5. @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot

    @BikeMechNo3Remember, in what was quite possibly the greatest example of being a “hardman” in cycling – Bernard Hinault’s 1980 win in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, it was so cold and wet that he lost feeling in the tips of several fingers permanently. He was a pro and paid to do what he did. We’re not. So I say exercise caution and commonsense when the temps get very low. (I live in WI and will go out when the temps are in the low to mid 20s, but if it’s really windy or the roads are shitty, I’m staying put and safe).

    Wow, what a GREAT topic for discussion: what was the greatest single example of being a hardman in cycling history. I need to think about that one for a while but definitely worthy of more discussion!

    great one, i submit the easy…Andy Hampstens pass over Gavia in 88.

    but, i also reserve the right to sit and drink another espresso remembering the harder ones in the distant past that we simply don’t remember, like Bartali’s rides, Gaul’s…et al.

  6. @Souleur
    Yup, a few articles worthy of writing up. I’ll be happy to take a stab at them. While Hampsten’s ride was epic, it was part of a stage race and, I think, but I’ll check, the stage was shortened. Hinault’s L-B-L was full length (approx 260 kms). He attacked 80kms from the finish and won by 10 minutes.

    I guess we connect more to Hampsten and Hinault’s rides as there is some TV coverage still extant and they happened during (most) of our lifetimes.

  7. @Ron

    This discussion & this time of year have me kind of annoyed that it’s going to be 67*F here today – I’d like some cold rain and road grit, please!
    Coming from the NE U.S. I find it completely unacceptable to be sunny and warm in mid-December. Not a huge Christmas fan, but jeeze, some snow and cold might help me get in the spirit.

    Ron, our high in WI will be 33 tomorrow. Happy to swap that for your 67 degrees. Please send by overnight FedEx!

  8. @Souleur
    Definitely worthy, in my short memory, and in my opinion. Still one of my very recent favorites has to be K-B-K when Ian stannard took third. But that is very recent. Really need to start combing the books and find some great older ones. We need Oli to weigh in on this one!!! But such a cool topic. I, also, will hit the expresso and contemplate this one!

  9. 1994 Paris Roubaix maybe? Something like 45 finishers, Tchmil wins more crusted over than a Krispy Kreem, also I think Hincapie’s first P-R.

  10. What’s the definition here… hardness of conditions ?

    If it is just being a hard bastard then Tyler Hamilton and his broken shoulder in the Giro has to be way up there.

  11. @ChrisO

    What’s the definition here… hardness of conditions ?
    If it is just being a hard bastard then Tyler Hamilton and his broken shoulder in the Giro has to be way up there.

    I think both conditions and “hardness” have to be considered. To try and place one above the other is just asking for endless argument. (A common theme around these parts1) For example, on a dry, warm P-R there are many finishers. When the conditions are nasty, not so many, so clearly bad conditions create a special situation where the toughness of the rider comes to the fore. When conditions are good, it can be the “hardness” that comes into greater significance (Hamilton, Magni, etc)

    I guess nominations with supporting facts and justification are required. Just saying Bernard Hinault, 1980 L-B-L won’t cut it.

  12. @RedRanger

    @Buck Rogers

    @redrangerTritard.Yes! Love it! That was your term, right redranger?

    I still say that was a collaboration. But it’s an awesome one.

    Yeah, any chance to give shit to tritards is definitely a chance not to be missed!

  13. @wiscot

    @ChrisO

    What’s the definition here… hardness of conditions ?If it is just being a hard bastard then Tyler Hamilton and his broken shoulder in the Giro has to be way up there.

    I think both conditions and “hardness” have to be considered. To try and place one above the other is just asking for endless argument. (A common theme around these parts1) For example, on a dry, warm P-R there are many finishers. When the conditions are nasty, not so many, so clearly bad conditions create a special situation where the toughness of the rider comes to the fore. When conditions are good, it can be the “hardness” that comes into greater significance (Hamilton, Magni, etc)
    I guess nominations with supporting facts and justification are required. Just saying Bernard Hinault, 1980 L-B-L won’t cut it.

    Completely agree. Anything that adds to a hardman definition is included. We’re talking EPICS here!

    I have to admit that I really love the “cycling revealed” website and this one strikes me as a ture hardman’s ordeal:

    http://www.cyclingrevealed.com/Top_20_Clsscs/top20Cl_10.htm

    I’m sure there’s others. This is inspiring me to read and learn more of the foundations of the true hardmen upon who’s shoulders we try to stand.

  14. @RedRanger

    @Buck Rogers
    @mcsqueakThe homeless guy was cool but rife with rule violations. ;)

    Hopefully you told him to keep the money and put it toward a V kit. Dude has to get his f’king priorities straight!

  15. @wiscot

    @Souleur
    Yup, a few articles worthy of writing up. I’ll be happy to take a stab at them. While Hampsten’s ride was epic, it was part of a stage race and, I think, but I’ll check, the stage was shortened. Hinault’s L-B-L was full length (approx 260 kms). He attacked 80kms from the finish and won by 10 minutes.
    I guess we connect more to Hampsten and Hinault’s rides as there is some TV coverage still extant and they happened during (most) of our lifetimes.

    We’ve done a few in the “Unforgettable Rides” section, but it certainly needs filling out with these ideas. Great stuff!

    I suggest, though, that perhaps it was Eddy’s descent of the Mente in the downpour that caused Ocana to crash. The Mente, if you’ve not ridden it, is a terrifying descent from that side. Let alone in the rain.

  16. @ChrisO

    What’s the definition here… hardness of conditions ?
    If it is just being a hard bastard then Tyler Hamilton and his broken shoulder in the Giro has to be way up there.

    I’d have to say one follows from the other, yes? True hardness comes during the worst weather, when the others retire to the team car.

    T-Bone was a hard bastard, for sure, but unless you win, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? That aside, I’d say Magni outdid T-Bone?

  17. @itburns

    Innertube – teeth – Magni. See Rule V and note VVVV of Rule V.

    Oh, yes. This.

    @Buck Rogers

    @RedRanger

    @Buck Rogers
    @mcsqueakThe homeless guy was cool but rife with rule violations. ;)

    Hopefully you told him to keep the money and put it toward a V kit. Dude has to get his f’king priorities straight!

    +1

  18. @Nate
    Ohhh man! Santa’s been good to you this year!

    Looking forward to trying to acquire a set sometime in the next 12 months. I have been toying with the idea of going back to sew-ups, at least one wheelset’s worth, and all this Ambrosio stuff has inspired me.

    Man, I think that this site can actually be bad for my health, well, at least the health of my bank account!

  19. @Buck Rogers

    @Nate
    Ohhh man! Merckxy-Claus been good to you this year!

    Fixed your post.

    These would be great for the health, i.e., form, of any velominatus. I feel like I took a big loan out of the sufferbank to get them, and I need to repay it quickly with some serious riding this winter.

  20. @Nate

    @frank, @itburns
    In case anyone forgot:

    Love that pic – especially for the super-cool spectator to the right. “Hmmm . . . gpoing to watch a bike race, better look suave.” Mission accomplished.

  21. @Nate

    @Buck Rogers

    @NateOhhh man! Merckxy-Claus been good to you this year!

    Fixed your post.
    These would be great for the health, i.e., form, of any velominatus. I feel like I took a big loan out of the sufferbank to get them, and I need to repay it quickly with some serious riding this winter.

    Touche’! Well played!

  22. @wiscot
    Are you kidding? That dude is the mafia hitman who owns his contract. If he doesn’t win, he makes him “sleep with the fishes”.

  23. @Buck Rogers

    @RedRanger

    @Buck Rogers
    @mcsqueakThe homeless guy was cool but rife with rule violations. ;)

    Hopefully you told him to keep the money and put it toward a V kit. Dude has to get his f’king priorities straight!

    That made me giggle.

  24. @frank (#177)
    Stupid question: how do you choose shoe covers? There are a million varieties out there, but which are ones are good/recommendable? Are those Castelli Diluvio’s?

  25. @Bintang
    There are a million varieties and consequently you need several pairs. I have the lycra covers, the knit socks, the wind-proof fabric, the thin neoprene and the heavy duty fleece-lined neoprene. So, no matter what the temperature, I’m (literally) covered. Unless you live in a dual climate zone (very hot or very cold, in which case you only need one pair) you have to get the spectrum.

  26. @Nate
    Damn…@frank switches gear and everyone follows suit.

    I’ve heard that he recently started using Charmin 2-ply extra soft at home and is drafting a reverence on the product. Please adjust accordingly.

    Also…jealous! I was thinking about buying some tubulars for next cross season.

  27. @Bintang

    @frank (#177)
    Stupid question: how do you choose shoe covers? There are a million varieties out there, but which are ones are good/recommendable? Are those Castelli Diluvio’s?

    Yup, Diluvios – the gloves, too. They’re pretty great, but once neoprene is wet, they suck ass at staying warm. I’m experimenting with thick gray wool socks over the shoes for colder rides right now.

    My approach is to keep trying till I find something good. Most of the stuff sucks. I hear good things about the Endura stuff.

  28. @frank

    @Bintang

    @frank (#177)
    Stupid question: how do you choose shoe covers? There are a million varieties out there, but which are ones are good/recommendable? Are those Castelli Diluvio’s?

    Yup, Diluvios – the gloves, too. They’re pretty great, but once neoprene is wet, they suck ass at staying warm. I’m experimenting with thick gray wool socks over the shoes for colder rides right now.
    My approach is to keep trying till I find something good. Most of the stuff sucks. I hear good things about the Endura stuff.

    Which model do you ride during the summer?

  29. For winter riding, do not pass go, do not collect $400. Go straight to the Sidi Diablo or Hydro winter boot.

    Waterproof, warm, great for riding boldly in all kinds of cold and wet. They look great.

    Actually, you’ll need that $400 because they cost about that much.

  30. @G’rilla

    For winter riding, do not pass go, do not collect $400. Go straight to the Sidi Diablo or Hydro winter boot.
    Waterproof, warm, great for riding boldly in all kinds of cold and wet. They look great.
    Actually, you’ll need that $400 because they cost about that much.

    You know, you posted a comment earlier about wearing tights, and I was going to say, “Fine, so long as you don’t wear stirrups together with insulated MTB shoes.”

    You have come far, Pedalwan, but you still have something to learn.

  31. @wiscot
    That’s good to know. At the moment I don’t have any, but I’ll probably end up with a bunch to cover the spectrum. In the lowlands it’s never really hot (20-25 degrees in summer, and a few days of 30-35 if we’re lucky), but it can get quite cold.

    @frank
    Never heard of Endura, but I’ll check it out. Thanks.

  32. @frank

    @itburns

    Innertube – teeth – Magni. See Rule V and note VVVV of Rule V.

    Oh, yes. This.
    @Buck Rogers

    @RedRanger

    @Buck Rogers
    @mcsqueakThe homeless guy was cool but rife with rule violations. ;)

    Hopefully you told him to keep the money and put it toward a V kit. Dude has to get his f’king priorities straight!

    +1

    Homeless guy interpretation of Rule #7

  33. @Harminator

    @frank

    @itburns

    Innertube – teeth – Magni. See Rule V and note VVVV of Rule V.

    Oh, yes. This.
    @Buck Rogers

    @RedRanger

    @Buck Rogers
    @mcsqueakThe homeless guy was cool but rife with rule violations. ;)

    Hopefully you told him to keep the money and put it toward a V kit. Dude has to get his f’king priorities straight!

    +1

    Homeless guy interpretation of Rule #7

    Wow, Floyd’s really let him self go, eh?

  34. @frank

    Endura gloves are fabulous (as is their other stuff) but when it’s below 10F/-12C they don’t make gloves that work–their pants on the other hand… In fact, as an aside I challenge anyone to dress in their flandrian best when the temps head toward 0F/-18C.

    That said Endura clothing breathes like crazy and seemingly lasts forever–satisfied owner of two pairs of Endura gloves and a pair of pants and have purchased various Endura jackets for one sister, two aunts, and one stepmom and they love them.

  35. @frank

    Nod-Snob – “You are wearing tights on a day that knickers will do, or shorts on a day when you should wear knickers or tights.”

    well today is a tights and thermals day, so I would get a nod from you :) I only saw one other bike in two hours riding yesterday so am probably safe to wear anything I guess.

    btw – you mentioned that you own an Assos jacket but they always seem to come up short for me (and seeing your seat post I guess you need long sleeves too). Gore bike wear is good if yr tall and they cut for a tight fit.

  36. @Bintang:
    I am toying with the same thing
    I currently have some toe covers only, cause thats all that bothers me unless its down less than 15

    I am going to pick up some castelli’s covers soon, just because i have never had a bad thing from castelli.

    layer up in the shoes, lite socks base, then a wool, and a cheap trick is sandwich bags between, like over the toes only, it works!

    Frank, great minds think alike, i was going belgian with the wool, thick socks over the entire shoe, for cold cold days! Haven’t had any yet but when she comes, i am all ready

  37. @Souleur
    I did a ride this morning and I saw a lot of shoe covers. I never saw so many before, but to be honest, I did not pay any attention to them before. I’m picking up some diluvios this week – they’ll match with my sorpasso.

  38. @G’rilla
    that was some fine racing! we just didn’t really get that kinda mud this year in PDX cross except maybe twice in 3.5 months o racing. one steep steep hill there too. thanks for the link!

  39. @G’rilla

    Sven Nys flats twice. Niels Albert returns from breaking a wrist after being hit by a car less than a month ago. They duke it out for the finish earlier today. That’s cyclocross, bitches!

    I’ve created a monster! I love it! The only thing better than your ‘Cross updates is the fact that you exclusively link to Dutch/Flemish sites. +1

  40. @Nate
    These wheels are the absolute tits. They ride beautifully over any surface. The 25 mm tires effectively give the bike a tiny bit more trail and suddenly the steering is not just good, it’s approaching perfection. The sew ups make me feel like I am stuck to the ground. But most of all, at any moment of doubt, I can look down at the wheels and find myself suddenly inspired with the V.

    @frank, get yours built up.

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