Friday, 15 August 2014

Cycling attire for the newcomer.

When I first started riding bikes a lot, I was pretty reluctant to look like a cyclist with the tight jersey and the tight shorts.  I wondered why anyone would want to dress like that and if all of the aerodynamics were really important.  Of course, I am referring primarily to road biking in this conversation, because mountain biking is a different world.  Many mountain bike racers also wear the spandex costume, but most recreational riders stick to baggy shorts and shirts.

The skin tight costume is something to embrace.  It is both a specifically designed tool for doing the sport and a feedback tool for how in shape you are.  The less wind resistance you need to fight from loose clothing, the faster and longer you can go.  This applies to anyone who is riding for any kind of distance at any pace.  Not to mention, there are 3 very convenient pockets in the back of your jersey for snacks, phones, tools, or extra clothing.  The shorts are also a godsend because they have PADDING (more on that next).  The other function of the clothing is the "fat test."  There is no hiding your fat in these outfits!  I have started to take an early season selfies just to take the fat test.  It is never to be shown to anyone, just filed away for motivation - and wow, this year was pretty motivating.  Apparently, it was a really cold winter here and I decided to pack it away as insulation.  Next year, less insulation = better climbing!! (mental note).

The spandex shorts can be a touchy topic.  There really is only one choice for most riders (men anyways) - the Bib Short.  They stay in place and don't show your plumber's trademark.  In addition, they should have a comfortable chamois for your private parts (VERY important for longer rides), a radio pocket for your iPod (because race radios are not something most of us will ever have to worry about) and compression and aerodynamics for better performance. I have tested many Bib Shorts - at least 10 different brands.  None of them are perfect yet.  I'm still searching and reading reviews ... none of those reviews really seem to help. The other two options for the bottom are regular cycling shorts (preferable by many women for nature breaks), and shorts that are intended for sports like sitting in a lawn chair.  I will never wear plain shorts for riding unless it's a short ride to the store and back.  Why subject your precious jewels to that kind of punishment?  And why would I want to show my crack to every cyclist I pass?  I'm pretty sure they don't want or need to see that.  Bib shorts.  End of discussion.

When it comes to cycling outfits - there are two main approaches: reserved and quiet OR outlandish and commercial.  This year, the trends are definitely toward the more reserved, unless you choose to support your favorite pro team and dress the part. 

Option 1: Rapha Classic Jersey

Option 2: Hi-vis, Pro Team Jersey

Of course there are other choices from companies like Capo, Castelli, Assos, and lots of boutique brands that offer cool kits.  Just try that Google thing.

Bib shorts on the other hand should be black, and only black, for a few reasons.  First of all, white Bib shorts are terrible - they show way too much detail if you know what I mean.  And any color other than black doesn't hide dirt.  As Canadian cycling legend, Alex Steida, told us one day as he held up his hands after changing a flat quickly for someone in the group, "where would I wipe these if my shorts weren't black?"  Good point.  No baby wipes in my jersey on most rides.

Finally, a few key points.  Make sure you look good out there and stay visible.  Wear a helmet and gloves, or you're an idiot.  Take the fat test in the spring.  If you fail the test, try to lose some fat, it's good for you.  Apparently long socks are in, so go spend some money.  Cycling shoes DO make a huge difference.  No underwear inside your cycling shorts.  And, don't forget the chamois cream from Assos or DZ Nuts for long rides!

Which cycling apparel companies do you like?  Who makes the best Bib shorts? 

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