Throwing Together a Bike Kit (Cycling Outfit)
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But beautiful cycling fashion is in the eye of the peloton.
It’s hard these days to throw together a decent cycling kit and get yourself out the door in time for your club ride. At Ciclismo Classico, getting your cycling gear ready the night before is a good way to make sure you’re on time. You wouldn’t want to miss any of the action on our Bike Across Spain or Bike Across Belgium itineraries.
But what do you put together? What are the essential ingredients to a fully-functional cycling outfit?
Bib shorts are your friend. These lycra bike shorts have a suspender-type material holding them in place. Some non-bib shorts (those with a cinch around the waist) will slip down your lower back as you ride. Although you may want to show-off your “tramp-stamp,” getting wind on your lower back is not comfortable.
Where does the underwear go?
Back in its drawer (or on the floor if you’re single). These days the shorts come with a padded insert (called a chamois – or “shammy”) and that is all the cushion you need on the bike. The shammy breathes and the lycra wicks away perspiration.
Underwear (especially nasty cotton tighty whities) traps sweat underneath the lycra, creating extra humidity where you don’t want it. Underwear will chaff and create sores. Not something you want on long rides.
How about an Undershirt?
It is more important to protect your torso than put on a pair on undies. Sweat (when chilled by a breeze or cold weather) takes the heat away from your chest. This could weaken your immune system or expose you to rhinoviruses known to thrive in lower temperatures and create sickness.
Personally, I always wear a microfiber mesh underneath my jersey, even in the warmest weather. First, it protects me on cold descents. Second, it wicks away the sweat from my body. There is nothing I like less than havening a soaking wet cycle jersey stuck to my body.
Baggy or fitted? This is a personal choice. Some people like to wear their favorite pro-team kit or support their local microbrew. Obviously, if the jersey is too tight you can’t move in it (or breathe); if it’s too lose you sound like a flag in a wind storm on the downhills.
The important thing is to have a jersey with at least three back pockets. These are handy for your phone, your wallet, your route notes, and anything else you made need in a pinch.
A quintessential piece of equipment. You cannot ride any Ciclismo Classico tour without a helmet. In fact, you can ride a bike in tennis shoes and cargo shorts. But a helmet will save your life.
Make sure the helmet fits like a baseball cap – right over your brow. The strap should be secure under your chin. Not so loose that you can stick your hand through it. Most of the helmets these days have a micro-adjustment dial in the back that helps with the fit.
Remember: always pack your helmet in your carry-on bag when traveling.
What Goes on your Feet?
Again, microfiber socks are the way to go. They are thin, breathable and come in lots of different colors (of course the socks need to match the jersey and the pants…and the bike!). DeFeet is an American brand making excellent cycle and running socks. Check them out – your feet will thank you.
If this is your first time on a bicycle in years, tennis shoes or sneakers work perfectly. However, if you’ve made the switch to clipless pedals then bring the shoes and pedals that you presently use at home. New cleats and/or pedals are often stiff and they need more force to unlock the cleat. If it is something you aren’t used to, give yourself some time to get used to the new setup before going on a long ride.
Don’t forget to take off your cleat protectors. Better yet: don’t use them at all. If you don’t start using them, then you’ll have one less piece of equipment that will drive you crazy when you lose it.
This is another fundamental component of your cycling outfit. Obviously, sunglasses help protect your eyes from the harmful UV rays that you’ll get during sunny days. But they will also protect your eyes from the same rays even when it is cloudy (remember its UV rays that damage your eyes).
These days you can get prescription sunglasses – even bifocals – to help you see what’s in the road. And with interchangeable lenses, even cloudy days seem bright and cheery.
Sunglasses also protect your eyes from debris. Sand, pollen, and insects can easily get in your eyes as you bike along. Putting on high-quality, cycling-specific sunglasses will even protect your eyes from the wind, preventing them from drying out.
Gloves come in handy when you’ve been spreading sunscreen all over your arms and legs. Keeping your hands dry (and not slipping off the handlebars) is a good safety tactic.
However, I never use fingerless gloves. I have lost more pairs of cycling gloves over the years than I can count. Plus, halfway through the ride, my gloves would become a sponge for sweat and bacteria. Again, one less item I need in my bag is one less item I won’t lose.
Some people may comment, “Well, if I fall, this way I can protect my hands.” To which I reply, “Well, if you don’t fall, you won’t need gloves.”
When I Do Wear Gloves: In the Cold
However, I will wear long-fingered gloves in the winter, or on cold rides. Having the appropriate cold-weather gear (booties, leg- and arm-warmers, wind and rain jackets, etc) is very important. It is better to have that material in your quiver for when you need it, than not have it at all.