More room than 'suitcase of courage'

AP Photo/Laurent Rebours

Riding past the grocery store this evening, I stopped in for a gallon bottle of juice. I didn't have a backpack with me but that didn't matter. I just stuffed the bottle in the back middle pocket of my bike jersey and rode home. True, the jersey did stretch down almost past my knees, but no matter. I got my groceries home.

This is why bike jerseys are the best and most efficient jerseys in sports. Unlike a replica baseball, football, basketball or hockey jersey, a bike jersey is more than just a bad fashion statement. It's amazing how much you can stuff into those three pockets on the back of the jersey. A cell phone, spare tube, pump, bike lock and chain, wallet, spare rain jacket, sandwich, energy bar, book, camera, map, bottle of champagne -- I've carried them all in my jersey, if not all at once.

As my wife will tell you, my closet is overflowing with bike jerseys. What shoes are to my wife, bike jerseys are to me.

I have one that is a replica of the Cutters' T-shirts in "Breaking Away." A yellow jersey with a map of the Alpe d'Huez route and a gray one for the Col du Galibier. A blue jersey from the 2008 RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day). A Swiss national jersey. A 2008 Beijing Olympics commemorative jersey. A jersey for the Washington Huskies (my alma mater) and one for Indiana University (for a story on the Little 500). A scenic state of Washington jersey. A Wheels to Meals jersey (charity ride) and a 2006 Best Buddies Big Sur ride jersey. And a plain yellow jersey with no logos or ID whatsoever.

And those are just my short-sleeve jerseys -- I have several long-sleeve wool sweaters and jerseys for cold weather.

I'm not alone in this regard. Many if not most cyclists own more jerseys than they are likely to wear in an entire summer of riding.

Of course, when you do wear them, you must do so correctly. Here are the rules for wearing a bike jersey:

1. DIDN'T RIDE IT? DON'T WEAR IT. I bought my Alpe d'Huez jersey several years ago, before I had ever ridden the Tour's iconic climb. I felt a little self-conscious wearing the jersey, especially when another biker asked me what riding up Alpe d'Huez was like.

I rode Alpe d'Huez last year (as well as the Galibier) and can now wear the jersey with pride. But I should have waited until after riding the mountain before buying the jersey. That's a simple rule. If you haven't done the ride, the route or the climb, don't wear the jersey.

2. DON'T DRINK IT? DON'T WEAR IT. There are many fabulous jerseys with craft beer logos. But these jerseys carry the same requirements as a ride or route jersey. If you drink the beer, you can wear the jersey. If all you drink is Bud or Miller Lite, you can't.

3. RESPECT THE PRO. The Tour de France sells replica yellow, green and polka dot jerseys that look like the ones worn by the stage winners and race leaders. But don't be tempted to wear one. You have to earn those jerseys. If you aren't capable of riding 25-plus mph and 120 miles per day over 7,000-foot mountains for three weeks, you have no business wearing one of these jerseys.

4. AVOID TEAM JERSEYS. Replica jerseys are ubiquitous in the major sports but you rarely see recreational cyclists wearing a replica jersey of a pro racing team. And for good reason. A baseball replica bears the name of your favorite team and your favorite player's name and number. A pro cycling jersey bears only the name of a corporate sponsor (and rarely the cyclist's name). Do you really want to ride around with the name of a processed food producer (Sojasun) or the manufacturer of explosives and mining chemicals (Orica-Greenedge) across your chest?

(By the way, why don't teams place riders' names on jerseys? Sure, sponsors require their logos/names to be prominently displayed, but it sure would make following the Tour easier if you could also see the riders' names when they show close-ups of breakaways or the peloton. Sometimes I wish a rider would reach into his "suitcase of courage" and pull out a bike jersey with his name visible on it.)

5. STOP WITH THE JERSEY! If for some reason you do wear a team jersey, be sure to NEVER wear the matching shorts and leggings. Unless, that is, you want to look like the King of the Dorks rather than King of the Mountains. I mean, baseball players don't wear replica pants and replica stirrup socks.