by CycleChick on June 12, 2014
I don’t know about you, but if there is anything that keeps me up at night, it’s the mystery of what length of cycling socks will make me look as Pro as possible. Since I have no hope of ever actually attaining Pro status, the best I can hope for is the admiration of my fellow amateur cyclists and maybe one day being mistaken for a Pro by someone who follows tennis.
I searched far and wide on the interwebs for a definitive answer to this mystery, and came up with not much more than than a bunch of know-it-all forum dorks doing their best to out-dork each other. So I turned to my roadie friends, who take the subject extremely seriously, but apparently can’t have a discussion about the length of anything without turning it into something dirty.
And so I decided to take matters into my own hands and create this diagram (and associated notes) to help guide us in our collective quest for sock enlightenment.
Zone 01: The Triathlete Zone (i.e. sockless)
Unless you want to be mistaken for a triathlete at a group road ride (hint: you don’t), you must always wear socks. Period. While roadies are notorious weight weenies, triathletes are time weenies, forgoing the comfort of socks in lieu of the three second time loss it would cost to put them on. I suppose several hours of excruciating pain followed by a week of oozing blisters is somehow preferable to the humiliation of those precious three seconds added to your T1 time.
(Photo: Paris Al-Sultan by Howard Gadsby)
If you think I’m being hard on triathletes, believe me, it’s all in good fun. In fact, some of my best friends (including my sister) are triathletes. Plus, anytime I catch myself looking down my nose at them, I remind myself that to most other cyclists, roadies are nothing more than triathletes who can’t swim or run.
Zone 02: The Tennis/Gymnast/Cheerleader Zone
Itty bitty ankle socks should only be worn by gymnasts, female tennis players, and cheerleaders. Even if you do happen to fall into one of these categories, get your sports straight and wear some proper socks when you ride.
If you do choose to play in Zone 02, preserve a shred of dignity at least and remove the pom pom. Another possible implication of wearing socks this short is they might not be immediately visible and you may therefore be mistaken for a triathlete (see Zone 01).
Zone 03: The Pro Zone
The Pro Zone starts approximately 1 inch above that ankle bone that you bash on your crank or pedal when you don’t clip in properly, and extends to just above the bump where your calf muscle starts.
Rowr. (photo from Betterbiking.com)
Within this basic zone, there is much debate among the roadie masses about what is an acceptable height. In addition to the fickle winds of fashion and trend, my sense is that where you feel comfortable has a lot to do with the era you started following cycling. Purists from the Merckx era tend to favour shorter socks, while later adopters start to creep dangerously close to Zone 04. Personally, I prefer higher socks as they tend to minimize my calves, which are not unlike those of a Russian shot putter.
Zone 04: The Schoolgirl Zone
I love knee socks. There. I said it. But there are times and places for that particular look, and a road ride isn’t one of them. High socks can be helpful on mountain bike rides to combat poison ivy, but if you are in the bush on your road bike, you likely have bigger problems to deal with than the length of your socks. Part of the resurgence in knee socks may be attributed to compression technology. The jury still seems to be out on this, but research is tending to favour the argument that with the exception of ridiculously long efforts, compression garments are best used for recovery, rather than performance. So unless you are ten hours into an ultra anything, or on your way to biology class, leave the knee socks at home, because they do not look Pro.
Zone 05: The Stripper Zone
If your socks end anywhere above your knees, there are several possible reasons: 1) you are a stripper or prostitute; 2) you are dressed for Halloween as a Sexy Nurse, Vampire, or Witch; or 3) your socks are actually leg warmers, and are too big. Whatever the reason, when you are riding a bike, Zone 05 must be avoided at all cost.
Someone posted this gem (albeit for amateurs) in a discussion following this article by Gianni about sock colour on the Velominati site – the definitive masters of the Art of Looking Pro. Like Gianni, I think nothing shows off off a nice tanned and muscular set of gams like a perfectly white pair of cycling socks. So hot. However, I cannot shake my natural abhorrence of seeing white socks with black shoes. Or black socks with white shoes for that matter. It’s just not right.
That said, sometimes we do need to loosen up and not take ourselves so seriously. Case and point, my current favourite socks are these Sriracha Socks from Sock Guy, or as I like to call them, Cocks on Socks.
So in conclusion, while I will reluctantly concur with Velominati Rule 29 that states “socks can be whatever damn colour you like”, I would also respectfully submit that length does indeed matter.
Stay in the Pro Zone my friends, and we’ll all be better for it.