Gear Guy

Zoic Calavares     Photo: courtesy, Performance Bicycle

Q:

Why are cycling shorts always black?

Why are all biking tights and shorts black? I'm not in mourning! Where can I get more colorful red or blue ones? Rob Fairbanks, Alaska

A:Cycling shorts and tights were black for the longest time for the simple reason that black was the best choice for hiding stains from greasy hands that had to fiddle with chains or other dirty components. You could wipe your hands on the shorts, and nobody knew the difference.

These days, bikes are generally much more reliable—one can ride for many days without having to repair a broken chain or even fix a flat. So black shorts are much less of a necessity, although I prefer them simply because they match everything. I do have some khaki touring and mountain-bike shorts, however, and they look a little more stylish. And khaki still seems to be the preferred "alternative" color for most loose-fitting mountain-bike shorts, such as the Zoic Calavares ($70; www.zoic.com). And they're nice shorts—low-bulk liner, pockets for stuff such as energy gels, tough cotton twill, gussetted crotch.

On the other hand, Zoic's Yuba shorts ($45) come in a dark blue, so that might cheer your spirits a little. And there's also the Nema Stone shorts ($75; www.nema-usa.com), which are black with dark red panels on the side for some real color. So it doesn't have to be black or khaki—a few makers are adding a little color to mountain-bike shorts.

Check out Outside's Gear of the Year winners in the 2005 Buyer's Guide , then get yourself a copy of the issue, on newsstands now!

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