Bicycle Clothing

It’s time we address an important topic: What does one wear while riding one’s bicycle? The answer, of course, is just about anything you want. There seems to be a whole movement of people who are adamant about wearing regular clothing while cycling – actually, they seem to take it a step further in their admiration of people (mostly women) who look especially dashing or fashionable while riding a bike. (Lovely Bicycle just had a post about the problem of wearing a skirt while cycling, what with the Male Gaze and all.) Well, I’ve never been much for fashion, so that doesn’t interest me so much. Nonetheless. People should ride for transportation wearing whatever they like. For my commute (in dry, moderate weather), I just wear whatever clothes I’m planning on wearing at work. For hotter temperatures, I wear my work clothes on the way to work (it’s usually cooler, and my ride is almost 100% downhill). I bring a pair of shorts for the ride home when it’s hotter and I need to work a little to make it up the hill. There are some times, however, when one wants to ride for the enjoyment of riding, or even for exercise. These times are often in the warmer months, thus causing the rider to sweat. In times like these, it’s a good idea to wear something appropriate for an exercise activity.

Like these Polish gentlemen:

Thanks to Beany at Brown Girl in the Lane for posting this on her blog. Thanks also for sending me straight for the eye bleach


So, maybe you don’t want something quite so… clingy.

I’ve never felt like I needed cycling shorts like those pictured above. Because of my special seat, I don’t need the additional taint-protection afforded by some types of cycling shorts. Instead, what I need is some support and something that wicks away sweat. These two things are well accomplished by your average pair of running shorts.

This pair from Target does the trick okay, but they kind of stick to my legs.

I prefer this pair from EMS. They are obviously of a higher quality and they allow enough freedom of movement for me to even practice yoga in them.

A t-shirt will get the job done for me when biking while exercising, but with some significant sweat, they can tend to stick a little bit. Plus, it’s not comfortable to carry a wallet, cell phone, etc. in one’s pants pockets on a long ride. So I finally broke down and got myself a proper bike jersey. Again, from EMS – it’s pretty no-nonsense:

BTW: the color for this men’s bike jersey was listed as a “princess blue” which is an odd choice from a marketing perspective. Note the lack of sponsorship logos. Just a little reflective EMS logo on the sleeve.

Bike jerseys are useful for wicking away sweat and all that sort of stuff you’d expect from athletic apparel. The best part are the three drop pockets in the back. These are useful for holding your cell phone, camera, wallet, cliff bar, etc. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to grab something quickly and not have to fish around in a saddle bag. If one is a blogger, it’s especially useful to be able to whip out a camera to take a picture of that awful bike parking place (once one can wake up the iPhone, go to the camera app and wait while it loads -arrrgh!)

I just bought this jersey about 6 weeks ago, but I’d actually owned a jersey for a few years. For some reason, I bought a long-sleeve bike jersey which is an item of clothing with a very narrow temperature band in which it is actually comfortable. I bought it while living in Canada, so I guess I can blame my preconceptions of the climate there for this purchase. Then again, maybe I’ll find myself cycling this fall when it’s 50-60 degrees out, you never know.

Finally, a confession. I haven’t told you about a purchase I made about 2 months ago that has changed my cycling. It all started when I was cleaning out the boxes of cycling bits and pieces that have accumulated over the years in our basement. In one of these boxes I found this:

Hmmm. What could be inside?

Clipless Pedals! To be fair, Spouse had told me that she had a pair of these kicking around, but I had forgotten. She hadn’t used them much because she had stopped doing much distance riding right around the time that she got them.  I’d talked with a few people about the advantages of clipless pedals, but I was a little reluctant to try them out. After confirming with Spouse that they didn’t fit her style of riding and I could feel free to install them on my bike, I headed down to Large LBS #1 to see if I could find some shoes that I liked. I ended up with a basic pair of Shimano SPD shoes.

The shoes have recessed cleats, so they are pretty easy for walking around when I’m not on the bike.

The clipless pedals that I installed have the cleat platform (or whatever they’re called) on one side, but they are flat on the other side, meaning I can ride my commuter bike in any pair of shoes, if I should so choose.  But ever since installing the pedals, I’ve worn the shoes 98% of the time. I know that the retrogrouch school would heartily disagree, but everything just feels much more connected when I’m using the clipless pedals. I can’t prove that I’m more efficient, but it feels great, and more fun than the old pedal clips.

For the uninitiated: the metal cleat you see in the picture above “locks” into a spring mechanism on the pedal – not unlike a ski boot locks into a binding. To remove your shoe from the cleat, simply rotate your heel outwards from the bike. Ah yes, “simply.” Everyone will tell you this fact about clipless pedals: you will fall at some point during your first week of riding – but it will be a low speed fall. The problem comes at stop lights and stop signs – do you remove your foot from the pedal? Or hope that the light turns green so you can keep it in? If you come to a complete stop and you have not yet removed your foot, you can get in trouble.  For me, this happened on my second day of riding clipless. After mounting my bike behind my house (heh heh), I clipped my left foot in, but left my right foot free. I rolled to the end of my driveway and slowed to check for traffic. I started putting my right foot down so I could wait for an opening, when I noticed that I was off balance and slowly tilting to my left. I panicked and tried to pull my left foot out, but no luck, I fell to my left side, my cleat popping out of the pedal as I hit the ground. Since then, I’ve had a few close calls, but no real falls. At first it seemed a little inconvenient to be constantly clicking in and out of the pedals in order to stop and start. But it makes commuting more fun.

I’ve come to realize in the two months that I’ve been riding clipless that I have crossed a particular line: I bought specialized footwear for an athletic activity. This is something I haven’t done since I last played basketball in 8th grade. Shortly after getting the pedals I went on my first metric century and since then I’ve been lusting after road bikes. I have a couple more suprises I haven’t gotten around to blogging about yet. Basically, I’m a bike nerd now. As a friend of mine would say, a VSB – very serious bicyclist. I may have made fun of bike shorts at the beginning of this post, but I’ll have to admit – they might not be far over the horizon.


5 responses to “Bicycle Clothing

  1. Even on long rides, I don’t wear jerseys. I just wear a cheap running shirt. I don’t have a funny saddle, so for longer rides (say, 10 miles in a go of things) I wear either mountain bike shorts (baggy shorts with a taint-protecting liner, kind of like swim trunks) or I wear clingy bike shorts beneath something else, like cargo shorts, jeans, or quick-dry athletic shorts.

    It’s not so much of a big deal now that my commute is only 6 miles each way, but when I was riding 15 miles each way every single work day, the clipless pedals were a must-have. I still use them now on my shorter route, but mostly because I am too lazy to go find a pair of decent platform pedals for the road bike.

  2. You’ve crossed over to the dark side, you’re transformation will soon be complete.

  3. I’m glad you brought that up. I protect my junk with DZnuts,works great. Any rides over 30 miles,I slather it on.

  4. Thanks for sharing Paul!
    The first time I’d heard of DZnuts was on Lovely Bicycle:

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