What to wear to get the most out of your cycle

Most people wear normal clothes when taking short bike trips. Unless there’s a shower outside, it’s jeans, a shirt and maybe a sweater or a jacket for me. However, if I go for a longer cycle, I will wear my cycling gear. If you haven’t tried this type of clothing yet and want to take longer bike rides to develop your fitness or discover an area, here are some tips on cycling clothing.

Most cycling shoes have a bottom cleat that looks a bit like a ski binding. You “click” into the pedal and this connection ensures an even distribution of power through the pedals. It can be hard to get used to and you will invariably fall at some point (probably surrounded by onlookers), but once you get the hang of it the shoes will work great. The only downside is that the cleat makes walking very difficult, so cycling shoes aren’t the best option if you plan to explore on foot during your ride.

Shorts

Good quality cycling clothing should do an important job for you: making sure you enjoy your spin on the bike. In other words, you shouldn’t have to think about your clothes. There’s nothing worse than being too cold, too hot or feeling like you’re in a parachute floating in the wind while riding your bike. What you wear on your lower half of your body will be the most important decision you make when choosing your gear for a long ride.

Cycling shorts are usually made with Lycra fabric, a material that is, to say the least, a trigger point for many people.

I used to think Lycra was so controversial because it’s form-fitting, but even with the growing popularity of yoga pants and GAA tracksuit bottoms, it still stands out as a garment that puts people in anger.

I would hate to think that all the societal baggage attached to Lycra cycling clothing is turning people away from wearing bike shorts. They are, after all, a great choice of clothing for long rides when you spend hours in the saddle.

Lycra shorts are usually padded with padded foam to keep the lower regions comfortable and healthy.

If you are thinking of investing in a pair of bike shorts, I recommend going for bib shorts as they conform better to the body and also cover the lower back. I bought a pair of Rapha bib shorts last year which have side pockets; very convenient for quick access to your phone.

Rapha bib shorts have a padded chamois insert that varies according to the size of the bib shorts. The material is equipped with a thick foam that provides the right amount of seat bone support.

Tops

Cycling jerseys are no different than football or Gaelic football jerseys in Ireland. You’ll see people wearing the colors of their local cycling club, the best team in the world, and everything in between.

Much like bike shorts, a good jersey will really add to your cycle. Rear pockets offer room for snacks, your keys or wallet and a spare inner tube. The jerseys are designed to fit snugly to limit the amount of aerodynamic drag created when cutting through the air.

General clothing trends tend to be reflected in cycling clothing and you can find jerseys that help raise money for good causes, jerseys designed here in Ireland or low carbon jerseys. Big international brands like Rapha and Assos in Switzerland sell jerseys between €80 and €150, with Irish brands like Velo Revolution and Victory Chimp being around the same price.

Jackets

Cycling jackets have taken a huge leap forward in terms of quality in recent years. Before that, it was not uncommon to see even professional riders wearing simple rain capes in the pouring rain of a spring day in the Netherlands. Now you can buy cycling jackets that offer extremely high levels of waterproof protection while keeping you cool or warm inside. I invested in a Castelli Gabba jacket about eight years ago and it’s still my “go-to” jacket if I go out and the sky looks heavy.

You may choose to wear a ‘hi-vis’ jacket, but it is worth remembering that ‘hi-vis’ does not offer total protection from motorized traffic; you can be dressed up as a Christmas tree, but it’s no use if a driver stares at their phone or misjudges an overtaking maneuver.

Castelli's Original Gabba Jacket is water resistant and contains cooling technology to prevent you from overheating while cycling.
Castelli’s Original Gabba Jacket is water resistant and contains cooling technology to prevent you from overheating while cycling.

Helmets

The helmet debate is complicated and probably deserves a fuller explanation but for short trips I often don’t wear a helmet, as is the case with most people who cycle in many European countries.

However, for long cycles, I always wear one and I do so knowing that wearing a helmet does not give me a protective bubble. I still need to make good decisions about cornering and braking and hope the people I share the road with drive in a way that doesn’t compromise my health and happiness. It’s worth checking out guides online before investing, as you might as well get a helmet you’re comfortable in and happy with. Please try to buy from your local bike shop and support local merchants!

About Robert James

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