One of the first things a beginner cyclist wonders is what do I wear to cycle? Do I really have to wear the Lycra shorts and the jerseys and such? Well the truth is no you don’t have to but you should want to. Cycling apparel has evolved to help (or at least not hinder) a rider on a bike ride. All of the pieces serve a purpose, yes especially the shorts. So with that said today I am going to talk about basic cycling apparel.
Cycling ShortsYes those very revealing shorts serve a few very important purposes. One they are tight to reduce friction and rubbing with between your body and the saddle preventing rashes and soreness. Being skin tight also helps the shorts wick away moisture and keep your body cool. The key component of bike shorts is the Chamois (pronounced shammy) which is a pad that helps to cushion your butt for long rides on the saddle; which is the reason you never see road cyclists using a seat pad that you can buy at Wal-Mart as their shorts have them built in. The big thing that surprises new cyclists about cycling shorts, other than the cost, is that you do NOT wear anything between the shorts and your body; period no exceptions. Putting clothing between you and your bike shorts completely undercuts their purpose so just accept it even if it sounds weird you’ll be way more comfortable.
Now this is probably the most flexible piece of cycling clothing when it comes to choices. The standard cycling jersey has t-shirt like sleeves, is pretty close to skin tight, has a full length zipper in the front, and three pockets on the back. There are also sleeveless jerseys and full length jerseys; other types of athletic tops are also pretty common but do not wear a cotton t-shirt please. Again, like shorts jerseys are made the way they are for a reason; short sleeves give you a pretty wide range of temperature wear options, being tight allows the fabric to wick moisture and it also does not flap in the wind, the full zip allows the jersey to be partially unzipped on climbs giving your body more air when your not moving quickly, and the pockets in the back are awesome places to store snacks and other goodies for your rides.
This is commonly an overlooked piece of gear at the beginning of a cyclist’s journey and it most definitely should not. Not only do sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun and reduce glare improving vision which really does matter on a multiple hour ride; but they also protect your eyes from dirt and debris that can be thrown up at you. Most cyclists wear traditional athletic sunglasses yet this is one area you can save money by going with a cheaper pair as long as they are UV protected and instead not just really dark so they seem to work but fail to protect your eyes.
Cycling GlovesAre usually half fingered and have a padded palm to dampen road vibrations and reduce soreness in the hands and palms from riding for an extended period. Cycling gloves don’t vary a huge amount, mostly in the amount of padding, so this is a good area to save some money when you first start by going with some cheaper but still decent Pearl Izumi gloves for around $20.
Cycling ShoesNow this is actually a pretty expensive piece of equipment that is combined with cycling pedals (pedals will be a whole other article). Cycling shoes have a hard sole so as to transfer all of the energy from pedaling through to the pedal and not lose energy in the bending of the sole. They usually have vents on the bottom to allow air into the shoe to keep your foot cool. Most importantly of all they have holes in the bottom where the cleat that goes to your pedals can be attached with bolts to them. Needless to say this doesn’t make sense to you right now but it becomes extremely important as you progress as a cyclist and can be one of your biggest early upgrades to your bike (Clipless Pedals).
I am not going to cover helmets because that is an article in and of itself yet it is the most important part of your cycling attire and NEVER EVER ride without it!!!!