The Fit Life Guide to Cycling Apparel
Much like running, cycling doesn’t require any specialized gear. Just like in your carefree childhood days, you can hop on board a bicycle as-is and still get the benefits.
However, if you want to take up cycling as a boost to your fit life aims, or get ahead competitively, there are a few things that will make your efforts easier.
Firstly, cycling is an outdoor sport and, like anything that takes place under the blazing rays of the sun, you should take steps to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Sunblock lotion, sunglasses and a hat or cap are important for all outdoor sports.
Next, an approved cycling helmet is essential to protect you from head injuries during a fall, or heaven forbid, an accident while out on the road. While shoes might be one of the most important things to consider for running, a well-fitting helmet is the number one priority for cycling. Although mainly seen in mountain biking, many helmets do come with a detachable peak.
There are specialized cycling clothes to suit each and every type of cycling from road cycling to mountain biking, so choose wisely. What’s suitable for one isn’t necessarily ideal for the other.
The main thing to remember with cycling gear is that it’s designed to make your ride more comfortable for longer. If you’ve ever ridden a bicycle for an extended period without cycling apparel, you’ll know what we mean. Cycling clothing is designed to fit well, without riding up or down, while you are leaning over the handlebars.
Cycling shorts are designed to protect your legs from chafing and to provide some extra padding against your posterior and the bicycle seat. Sitting on a narrow, hard bicycle seat can be excruciating when you’re at it for hours at a time and the constant motion of your legs while pedaling can cause severe chafing on your thighs.
For this reason, cycling shorts are designed with smooth seams to reduce friction and are tight fitting so that they move with your body instead of against it. Lycra is the most popular fabric used in cycling shorts because it’s aerodynamic, lightweight, breathable, soft and elastic. Nylon is also a good fabric for cycling shorts.
To further reduce friction, don’t wear underwear with cycling shorts. With regard this, the main thing to remember for reasons of modesty, decency, and in the name of all things holy is “never wear white cycling shorts’’!
There are two kinds of cycling shorts. These are waist shorts with an elasticated waistband and bib shorts. Bib shorts have soft, built-in braces that go over your shoulders and can be a little cumbersome for the ladies when a ‘pit stop” is needed!
For those who are not fans of super-tight fitting shorts, you do get ‘baggier’ versions of cycling shorts. These are favored by casual cyclists and mountain bikers.
You also get shorts known as ‘shy shorts’, which consist of a pair of waist shorts with an outer layer that looks like a pair of ordinary shorts. This means you can go from your morning workout straight to the coffee shop afterwards without a wardrobe change.
Apart from shorts, you can also purchase cycling tights for cooler conditions. These are available in both ¾ and full-length versions.
Just like their nether-region counterparts, cycling jerseys are designed with comfort, aerodynamics and breathability in mind. They’re available in a range of fabrics from merino wool blends to fine mesh, as well as water and windproof fabrics.
Cycling jerseys are available in short and long-sleeved versions with a high neck and a zip up the front. Vests are a popular option for very hot conditions. Some cycling tops have pockets in the back.
Most cycling shirts and shorts come with built-in vents that allow sweat to evaporate.
Depending on the weather, you can choose to layer your cycling clothing with breathable vests, gilets and waterproof jackets worn under and over the basics. Detachable arm and leg warmers are another option for chilly starts. These can be removed and stuffed into a pocket as the weather warms up.
Cycling Shoes and Socks
Stiff soles with attachment points for cleats that clip into racing pedals are the thing that distinguishes cycling shoes from other footwear. They are snug-fitting and usually held in place with ratchet straps or Velcro instead of shoelaces, which can unravel and cause havoc while cycling.
Racing shoes with raised cleats can be awkward to walk in, while mountain biking shoes usually have recessed cleats which mean you can stroll about in them after your ride with ease. Cleat covers are a pre-requisite for racing shoes if you like to have a social coffee break mid-ride or plan to walk around in your kit post-event or training ride.
Thin, sweat-wicking fabrics are the best choice for cycling socks. In winter, merino wool is a good option. A pair of socks with padding on the sole of the foot makes peddling for miles much more comfortable.
Stocking Up on Cycling Gear
Don’t let the long list of options or rows of choices at the sports shop put you off your fit life cycling ambitions. Start with a few essentials and build up your collection from there. As long as you’re comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing, you’ll enjoy every minute out on the road.