I once was covering a cycling event and noticed how few women there were on the starting line. But they looked pretty cool, all sporting their team uniforms and riding some slick bikes. But before they set off, I overheard one of them telling her teammate who was complimenting her on how strong she looked and how she was likely to beat everyone else, “Mukha lang. Diba, ‘If you can’t perform, japorm!'”
For my non-Filipino readers out there, “japorm” is a slang form of the word “porma” which means “fashion” or “style”. If you are “ma-porma“, it means you look stylish or love being fashionable. So basically, the phrase in this context means “If you can’t be fast, look fast!”
Ever since then, I’ve managed to temper all my urges to upgrade bike equipment by stopping to consider whether it would really help me do better, or just look cooler. I can’t deny that the urges are there, though. Triathlon, especially bike-wise, is a sport rich in gadgets and gear and great salesmen, which is why there are people who have more than one bike of the same kind, more than one aero helmet, more than one set of race wheels, etcetera…
Some of it is useful for everybody, like how a proper bike fit changes how effectively you can engage your muscles and fatigue less quickly. Some of it is probably applicable only to the professionals, like how a sleeved fitted trisuit or even shaved legs can cut a few extra minutes off your bike split. A lot of it may be all in our heads and egos, which is why when we’re on our time-trial bikes wearing our cleats, we try our hardest not to be left behind on a hill by the construction worker on a fixie with flat pedals. (At least it’s brought the intended effect, which is to make us go faster!)
It’s probably similar to the car industry, but because we can’t soup up our engines (unless you can direct me to where I can buy a new pair of legs and lungs?!), we end up trying to buy speed in other ways. Hey, as long as it’s legal and ethical, I’m not going to stand in your way. I’m even going to use a swimskin, a tri bike, and aero wheels in a few weeks’ time for Challenge Philippines, despite some painful comments I’ve received online about the swimskin not going to help my awful swim form, or me not deserving to be on a tri bike because I can’t break 6 hours in an ironman bike. Points taken and I am working on those things, but why should only the really fast and talented ones have all the fun with the gadgets and thingamabobs?
At the end of the day, whatever you’re comfortable and happy racing in (and on) is what will make you perform at your best. So commit to your japorm! If you’re happy with your results, then it was worth it. Walang basagan ng trip.
The point of engaging in this sport is not to show how much better you are compared with everyone else; it’s to become healthier and to challenge yourself.
Meanwhile, I’m now seriously considering blinging my bike and helmet out with some pink decals.