09 February 2011

Cycling Apparel

Appearance matters, at least to me

Buying the right cycling apparel makes a huge difference. I often ride a bike alone, but when I ride in a pack or with a few others, I spend my time noticing every little detail about the rider in front of me. How clean is their cog set, do they sit square on their saddle, what past injuries are showing up in their pedal stroke, did they inflate their tires, are they relaxed or nervous? I notice all these details, but what I notice most is - does their gear match, is it good quality, and am I enjoying the view?

Sure, the bike is part of the look. Last season I daringly added flashy yellow Look pedals and yellow Fizik handlebar tape to my black and yellow Scott road bike frame which has carbon looking black and yellow Mavic Cosmic Carbone wheels. I feared I had gone a bit over-the-top, but my guy friends circled in awe and raved about the new look of my bike. It was a proud moment indeed. Made better because everything on my bike was hand picked and added by me. It is not a stock bike. It is unique, and flashy. I swear my bike is faster because of it. And I know my friends are fine riding behind me - because my bike is nice to look at.

Okay that is the bike, what I am really talking about today is bike apparel.

So you've got the nice bike; it is time to dress the part. How you dress matters, well, at least it matters to me. Especially on those rare occurrences when I am riding a bike behind you. Not just the jersey and shorts, but the socks, the gloves, the helmet, the vest, arm warmers, and jacket. I used to tease my friends on backpacking trips that I appreciated them buying that purple pack and bright green jacket because it looked so nice to hike behind in the forest for 8 miles.

On a bike, we could be talking about 80 miles - and I like looking at beauty for 80 miles. It makes it fun! Fun is not riding behind a yellow playboy bike jersey, or a jersey with any words that I might likely reread 100 times over, like the "flotation device is located under your seat cushion" label on an airplane seat. I encourage good design, good colors, good fit and good looks on a cyclist.

Please think of me, think before you dress:
  • Buy quality, wear quality, ride quality
  • Build your own unique cycling style so I can recognize you quickly at high speeds
  • Mix brands to collect the best gear. Not every brand makes every item well.
  • Go for matchy matchy - you will look so Pro

You don't need that much gear for cycling; buying smart while collecting good gear will allow you to get out on your bike no matter what the temperature. I admit I am a traditionalist, I also live in Colorado, I also have preferences, but mostly I go for comfort, safety, and usability. You - I'd like you to go for STYLE! I want to see you looking good, because you are worth looking at!

Other apparel tips:
  • Pick a color scheme, and don't buy gear unless you need it for the temperature, and it works with your other gear.
  • Buy on sale. Yes a $200 pair of shorts is totally worth it, but even more so when you buy them for 50% off.
  • Know your clothing: practice what works best for you in different climates and stick to it.
  • I actually prefer a couple of good layers versus layering on a bunch of clothing.
  • Socks matter, don't buy cheap socks. There are socks that will be fine for 30 miles, but only a few brands that are fine at 100+ miles.
  • Dress warm, warm muscles function, and later recover much better. Recent studies indicate that keeping the legs moving gently and warm after riding will aid in recovery equal to those now popular ice baths.
  • In Colorado I dress like the locals in team apparel with logos galore, but in Europe I now dress like a woman in nice colors and feminine cycling apparel. In Europe I feel awkward looking too masculine in team clothing. However, a note for American men riding in Europe: leave your all black shorts at home, in Europe, wear your team kit!

Here is the cycling apparel layers and gear you will need for differing temperatures: (this information is for beginners, or those planning to travel and ride in new climates, or planning on purchasing additional bike clothing).

Basic apparel layering guide for road cycling by temperature:
(In Colorado, and in the Pyrenees, we experience the complete range of these temperatures!)

What you should wear while riding your bike in temperatures from hot to cold:

Temperature 100-105°
Short Sleeve or Sleeveless Jersey
Light summer Socks
½ gloves

Temperature 80-100°
Short Sleeve Jersey
½ gloves

Temperature; 72-80°
Arm Warmers until warmed up
Vest until warmed up
Short Sleeve Jersey
½ gloves

Temperature 65-72°
Vest until warmed up then put in your back jersey pocket
Arm warmers (on and off as needed)
Knee warmers &
Short Sleeve Jersey
Fall Socks&
½ gloves to full gloves

Temperature 55-65°
Jacket or Vest combo
Long Sleeve Jersey or SS Jersey with Lycra Arm Warmers
Leg Warmers or knee warmers
Wool Socks / shoe covers optional
Full finger gloves
Ear band (optional)

Temperature 40-55°
Jacket or Long Sleeve wind jersey/Vest combo
Long Sleeve Jersey (1 to 2)
Long Lycra tights over knickers, or Long thicker Knickers
Wool Socks / shoe covers (optional)
Full finger gloves
Ear band (optional)

Temperature 25-40°
Warm Thermal Jacket
Long Sleeve Jersey
Thermal singlet (if below 32°)
Long Lycra tights over knickers, or Long thicker Knickers
Wool or thermal Socks!
Full Winter Shoe Covers
Full finger thick Winter gloves (possibly 2 layers)
Clear lens sunglasses or rose lens sunglasses
Skull Cap

Temperatures under freezing
Be sure to keep your upper legs and hips warm. You'll need 1-2 layers of gloves, wind proof garment on your upper body, thicker full tights, a warm hat, wool socks, and full winter booties. Fenders for winter training are also helpful (yes even the pros use them).

Carry a rain jacket (rain cape) in your back jersey pocket in case of rain. Put it on before you get wet. Buy a good breathable rain jacket, one that will not allow your sweat to build up on the inside of the jacket. In cold rain, use lycra arm warmers and leg warmers for some (limited) warmth, although embrocation products do a much better job of creating a barrier between your skin and the wet rain. Also wear water proof gloves and shoe covers if the weather forecast is for a cold rain all day.

Long Descents
Put your arm warmers & vest or jacket back ON at the top of the descent to stay warm in the wind during the descent.

My Top 10 Favorite pieces of gear. Totally worth the purchase (buy quality, take care of your gear):
  • Giro MIPS helmet
  • Specialized Adaptalite sunglasses (light changing lenses, road or mountain specific) (I also like Oakley, and Maui Jim for casual wear)
  • Assos Evo long sleeve wind jersey
  • Specialized gloves - any and all, summer to winter!
  • Castelli Shorts (the reliable 100-mile+ shorts)
  • Sugoi RS Zero cycle jacket, or Pearl Izumi rain proof/wind proof winter jacket
  • Mavic socks and Defeet wool socks
  • DeFeet knit arm warmers for dry days, breathable and comfortable
  • Specialized knee and arm warmers - cool days

For anyone curious, the weather in the Pyrenees is very similar to the weather in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. We need a variety of cold to warm weather gear to be ready for any riding conditions.