One of the more interesting side effects of developing an obsession with road bike riding is that quite suddenly, everything matters. Whether it’s appraising your once perfectly suitable (but oh so heavy) bike with withering contempt as you squeeze past it in the hall, to laughing nervously along with your friends about how girly it is to shave your legs; suddenly your life begins to change. Nothing satisfies like a glorious day on the bike, but whether your local roads are flat and straight, lumpy or herculean, there are certain road bike riding apparel basics that you should be aware of to help you get the most out of bike time, and this article will hopefully point you in the right direction. Let’s get started……
Feel a touch cool starting a ride? – perfect! You will warm up very quickly, so never start a ride already feeling warm.
The Cycling Base Layer
Like an Alpine St Bernard, a cycling base layer is your constant long suffering and steadfast companion. What else would put up with being sweated on day after day, and not take a running jump out of the bedroom window en route to the washing machine? Coming in all shapes and sizes, a base layer should be worn year round, as its main job is to regulate your body temperature as the first layer against your skin.
The key to an enjoyable ride is to change your base layer with the weather. Warm conditions demand something extremely cooling, whilst chilly conditions allow a little more freedom, so look for something either merino, or a man made slightly heavier weight fabric. You can of course also wear merino in warmer weather, but look for a sleeveless super fine blend, as sleeves will feel very claustrophobic.
Ideally, keep at least two base layers for cool and warmer weather in your cycling wardrobe at all times. Relatively inexpensive, having two will allow you to ride on consecutive days without having to do a wash each time.
Bib Short Boogie
No road ride can be even contemplated without bib shorts, as they are really as important as the bike itself. All road cyclists wear bib shorts, and choosing your pair will come down to a simple analysis of how often you ride.
However, the world of bib shorts can seem initially perplexing. What is that bloody ugly nappy doing in it? It may be unattractive, but that ‘chamois’ or ‘pad’ is actually highly engineered, and will safely ensconce your assets in a quite delightful way. The secret to choosing the correct ‘bib’ for your ride is to think about how much bike time you can afford. As a rough guide, less than 100 miles a week will require a bib around £60-£80, whilst more than 100 miles in the saddle will require a bib costing around £100 – £200. It does all depend in the sort of distances you expect to cover.
Cycling Jersey Japes
Cyclists can wax lyrical about their favourite cycling jersey all day, possibly because cycling is a sport so defined by its history, hence the ever developing ‘retro’ movement that plays on this love affair. However, that is for another time, right now we are going to dissect your ride and choose the most appropriate jersey.
Like the bib shorts, a jersey is an essential item in your cycling wardrobe (if you haven’t already dedicated space for your riding kit, you soon will. Prepare your arguments well – your better half has many superfluous garments!). For most rides, we would recommend something functional and well fitting. Coincidentally, these two attributes usually bring along their friend ‘style’ into as well, which is a welcome addition. By functional, we mean that the jersey should have 3 rear pockets, and ideally a 4th that is zipped for valuables, whilst the front zip should be a good length to aid ventilation during moments of strain. An ideal cycling jersey is fitted around the chest and sides, with arm sleeves that allow ease of movement without restriction. The neck should never feel restricted, and this is where a good zip and zip garage (the material that covers the zip at the top) are ideal features.
Style issues abound in cycling, but the simple way to look good is to keep the colours both simple and matching. Like a good suit, simplicity is key – once you start adding too many contrasting lines and colours, all hell breaks loose.
The Cycling Cap – a tasty piece
A rider’s cap completes the look, and worn under a helmet signals to the world that you are serious about the ride. Allegiances to teams long gone, statements of fashion, or functional pieces with scant regard to their origin, anything and everything seems to be the rule of thumb when it comes to caps. However, peel away the culture and a particular rider’s habits, and certain constants come through. The first is that the cycling cap is designed to aid comfort and protect the rider from the rigours of the road. Sun, grit or sweat, a good cap will keep these at bay. Secondly, that peak at the front not only looks good, but acts as a shield against the wind, rain or excessive sunlight when the rider’s head is bowed. For something so small, it is surprisingly effective, so it is worth searching for a good one.
A Cycling Sock Story
Overlooked, and often peeled off post ride with a mixture of horror and disbelief at their honking odour, socks are the un-sung workhouse of your new found hobby. Despite their size, the importance of a good pair of cycling socks is hard to overstate. Ever had a hot spot in your foot from inappropriate footwear? It is painful off the bike, but imagine that pain after cycling 100 kilometres in the heat – it can feel like someone is sticking a dagger into your sole. Of course, a good pair of shoes is the most important part of the mix, but get the socks right and you’ll be riding for hours.
What constitutes a good sock? Material aside for now, the key is fit. Not too tight, but they must fit without wrinkles or creases on the sole and sides. Low, mid or high cuff, these are style and weather considerations, but be careful of the ankle area which is very sensitive to changes in temperature. For the material, many riders favour merino as this wonder fabric’s anti bacterial properties are well known, but synthetic fabrics are often just as good, and very long lasting.
Buy those cycling socks in bulk, you can simply never have enough. Low cut, high cut, merino or synthetic, you will be amazed at how many you use once the miles start racking up.
We hope you have enjoyed our introduction to the world of road bike riding apparel, and if so, don’t forget to visit the home page to browse our entire collection of cycle clothing & accessories.