He's Probably A Large

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.

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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.


7 thoughts on “Sizes

  1. While I feel your pain as a fellow large man in the world of cycling fashion it is not hard to explain. If you look at the sizing chart you may notice the more difficult it is to pronounce the name the smaller their measurements for any given size. Europeans are less fat on average than Americans and many of us are used to relaxed fit, “catalog sized” clothing which is about a size bigger then what the tag says.

    Another possible explanation for the really small sizes is that cycling clothing, especially by racing oriented brands, is fit and marketed to a small segment of the overall population that just happens to be smaller.

    • While it is certainly true that Americans tend to be more obese than Europeans (with corresponding jokes at our expense), the average size difference is not as big as you may think. Fun Fact: the average American is nine pounds heavier than the average German (source: Wikipedia). This doesn’t account for up to nine inches in variance on waist and chest sizes. Nine inches!

      Cycling is clearly a small person’s game, as any inspection of the peloton will confirm. I suppose it is a tad embarrassing for the “giants” of the sport to be wearing clothes sized “Extra Petite” to “Small,” which would probably more accurately describe their size relative to the general population. However, as I watched a TV broadcast of an Ironman competition in New Zealand this weekend, I noticed the rather large body types this sport produces and wondered what sizes were prevelant – probably a lot of XXLs, if you ask me.

      Regardless of the size, I just wish everyone would get their act together and pick a standard. I can handle be a XXXL (I guess) if that is what I am. It’s just sometimes I am a XL and other times I am off the charts.

  2. yeah no doubt seems like the tri folks are bigger, one thing if you decide to go on an Oreo/chicken wing binge and gain 100 pounds, aerotech designs makes clothing sizes up to XXXXXL

  3. Steve, I hear you. When I lived in Japan I was always a Large, where I was M or even S sometimes back home in Canada. Same thing here (and I’m talking regular clothes for the moment) in France. If the thing is sized for Europeans (except maybe Germans…) then I’m usually still a Large, although I’d like to think that’s changing with all this training!

    Cycling clothes are similar, but I’ve found that what seems too small for me, i.e. tight, is actually my size. This is especially the case with jerseys, which are made to fit skin tight. If you have a little extra ‘lardon’ on the gut, like I do, you naturally want to hide it from the world. Jerseys weren’t designed to bag over that roll, unfortunately.

    But back to your gripe, I’ve noticed the same thing when looking for cycling wear here. Internet shopping is NOT an option.

  4. Yeah, I hear you….and I’m a pretty small guy (the 32 inch waist you mentioned) at about 160 lbs. I’ve had to exchange the last two jerseys I bought because a large was too small!

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