QUESTION: What is the meaning of cycling kit? I see it mentioned, but it’s unclear what they’re talking about specifically. —Jason B.
RBR’S STAN PURDUM REPLIES: That’s a fair question because it reminds us cyclists that many of the terms related to our sport are jargon and have different meanings from how they are used in general English vocabulary.
In fact, your question reminds me of the time a friend of mine was doing some remodeling work in his home. His wife was going out shopping and asked him if he needed anything. Yes, he said. He needed a nailset. Would she mind stopping at the hardware store and getting him one? No problem, she said. When she returned home, however, she presented him with a compartmentalized plastic box containing an assortment of nails. He wanted a nailset, which is a metal punch for driving the exposed heads of finishing nails below the surface of the wood, but she heard nail set, and thus brought home a set of nails.
Since in standard American speech, “kit” refers to a collection of items gathered for a specific purpose, and often organized into a container, like a first-aid kit or a box containing all the parts for a ceiling fan, one wonders what a non-rider might think goes into our kits.
In cycling, kit is a synonym for “outfit,” “uniform” or even “ensemble.” The term comes from Britain, where, for example, in the military, it refers to the standard equipment and attire issued to each soldier. The word probably drifted into cycling since bicycle racing is a much bigger sport in the UK than in the United States.
In bike racing, a kit is the matching cycling clothing and helmet each member of a team wears while competing. In professional racing, a team’s kit is often adorned with the names and logos of the companies and other entities that sponsor the team. The full kit issued to each team member usually includes jerseys and bib shorts for warm-weather riding as well as arm- and leg-warmers and windbreakers for cooler weather, skinsuits for the time trials and any other team-specific garb — even gloves and socks.
For enthusiasts and recreational riders, kit is the outfit the rider choses to wear, though we usually mean cycling-specific clothing; It’s unlikely anyone would seriously refer to the cutoff shorts and T-shirt that a casual rider might choose as their kit, but technically, it is.
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.
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