We need to talk about kit sizing

Tried ordering cycling gear lately? You might as well pick sizes at random, for all the difference it would make, says Steve Williams

Humanity has decoded its own DNA, driven robots across Mars and invented phones so smart everybody just rubs them. Our technology would look, to a caveman, like magic. What we haven’t managed to do is create two pairs of identically-labelled trousers that are the same size.

Nowhere is this baffling inability to predict the shape of a piece of cloth more obvious than in the world of bicycle kit — with tight-fitting road gear being the worst of all. For example, I recently got fitted with a new jersey and bib shorts. The jersey was size Small. The shorts were XL.

They both fit well, even though I’m not, as you’re now imagining, shaped like a centaur, a pear or a traffic cone. I haven’t even had the sort of implants that leave people like this woman ’terrified her bum will explode’ (thank you, This Morning with Eamonn & Ruth, for your journalism).

No. I am just over six-feet tall, slim, and generically man-shaped. So why is riding gear harder to fathom than quantum mechanics? Seriously, a cycling ‘Medium’ is less reliable than a psychic medium.

With no recent shots, here’s an artist’s impression of how I totally look when riding (any resemblance to persons living or Geraint Thomas is purely coincidental)
With no recent shots, here’s an artist’s impression of how I totally look when riding (any resemblance to persons living or Geraint Thomas is purely coincidental)

I could just about excuse such a vast discrepancy if my new shorts and jersey came from different brands and countries, but not only are they both from the same (very popular) manufacturer, they’re from the same range.

Truth is not truth, and Large is not Large

This is obvious madness. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that if you’re, say, a Medium in the shorts, you’ll be a Medium in the matching top? Plus, what am I doing in XL when there are easily riders who are six inches taller and several inches wider than me?

Why does a size Small jersey even go around my 100cm chest? Which measurement — waist, inside leg, height — is even relevant to the fit of bib shorts anyway?

Will I wake up to find this whole farce was a dream?

Okay, this is actually me. Loose-fitting mountain bike kit is inherently easier to find, but just for the hell of it is still awkward
Okay, this is actually me. Loose-fitting mountain bike kit is inherently easier to find, but just for the hell of it is still awkward

The randomness of sizes is industry-wide. Most manufacturers claim to use the European standard body size regulations as their bible, and certainly the EN 13402 rules make for thrilling reading. Unfortunately, like the Bible, they lead to seemingly endless interpretations from different groups of people. If you’ve ever shopped online for new kit and concluded, ‘who knows what size I am,’ this is why.

And it’s not just me — or just men — either. Women’s cycling editor Aoife Glass confirms our baffling, Kafka-esque nightmare is at least not discriminating by sex. “It's a total nightmare finding kit that fits,” she says. “Cycling sizes seem to bear no relation that I can see to UK high street sizes, and are definitely not designed for women who are curvy.”

This may be your exact size. On the other hand, it may be a long-sleeved jacket in size UK20
This may be your exact size. On the other hand, it may be a long-sleeved jacket in size UK20

Now, I’m no fashion expert, but it strikes me that mimicking high street sizes would make an easy kind of sense, and that women tend to have curves. I would go further and say that this should be somewhere between ‘central to your thinking’ and ‘almost fluorescently obvious’ if you’re planning to make clothes.

Still, with logic and evidence-based thinking increasingly out of fashion, perhaps cycling is simply ahead of the (unacknowledged) curve? Truth is not truth, and Large is not Large.

Or perhaps it really is just me. Perhaps there are legions of EU ‘average’ riders out there enjoying the perfect fit, and I simply haven’t noticed, despite them clearly being part squid with human calves, fingers and feet. Perhaps.

Perhaps I can wake up NOW to find it was all a dream? Or at least before I need any more shorts? That would be really nice.

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