If you’re going to be riding a bicycle for any length of time, you’ll eventually be wanting some cycling-related clothes. There are many schools of thought on jerseys, shirts, shorts, bibs, etc… but almost everyone will want at least one of these items. It will therefore be necessary to shop for the item of choice, which brings us to the subject of sizes.
Sizes for cycling clothes are about as standardized as snow flakes – no two brands are alike. And we’re not talking about small variations. There are, in fact, shockingly large variations between manufacturers. Descriptions such as Small, Medium, and Large have virtually no meaning unless one knows the particular brand’s size guidelines.
To illustrate my point, I draw your attention to the attached sizing chart, borrowed from the good people at Nashbar. If you have a 36 inch waist, you will find that you are a DOUBLE EXTRA LARGE (!) when shopping for Santini products, while you are a mere LARGE when purchasing Bellwether items. And that is hardly the only example. People with chest sizes from 42″ to 51″ can find themselves wearing XXL jerseys, depending on the manufacturer. This can make shopping for clothes a dicey proposition, to say the least.
I can think of no good reason for this situation. As a discipline, cycling is known for its precision. Talk to anyone about bicycle maintenance, caloric intake, or training regimens and the minutiae immediately comes to the surface. Why it is not possible to achieve a similar level of detail in the textile industry is beyond me.
And while I have your attention, let me share another oddity in cycling clothing sizes: the designers come from a mythical world of dwarves. There is no other explanation for the criteria used to describe their sizes. Think of a “large” man. Does this person have a 32 inch waist? I grant you there are plenty of men with waists of that dimension, however I would not describe any of them as being “large.” Is this some sort of demented program to make cyclists suffer from poor self-esteem? I struggle for any other explanation. I have never bought a XXXL article of clothing in my life, until I lost 25 pounds cycling THEN went shopping for shorts. Now, that’s a kick in the ego!
Complicating matters further is that virtually every bicycle shop I have entered caters almost exclusively to S, M, and L customers. Clearly, there is no market for the heavy-set crowd, let alone the large-but-well-built class of cyclist. “No worries,” I say to myself, “I’ll just order online.”
And then I remember the sizing chart. At this point, I usually just sigh and go for a ride with whatever clothes I’ve managed to acquire.