Of course, cyclists in tight-fitting lycra and spandex look terribly silly. You know this. We know this. It’s not like the joke is on us. We understand. If we see our reflection, we all tend to think, “What a dork” or some other unflattering thought.
Fortunately for us, we have valid reasons for wearing the clothing we do. And the reasons are good enough to overcome our self-consciousness concerning the sight we are as we ride down the street.
For what it’s worth, while the internet may give me a better deal on the exact same item, I usually don’t buy my clothing online. I prefer to buy my clothing from a local bike shop (LBS) where I can try it on before I buy, to ensure it fits properly.
In this series, I’m discussing each of the items in a cyclist’s closet from the top down, why we use these items, and how to use these items. Next up: gloves and socks.
Amazingly, cycling socks are worth their cost. It is very easy and understandable to balk at the cost of one pair of socks costing $10 or more! But, their build really does help your feet feel much better. And after 6–8 hours on the pedals, this is a good thing.
There are as many varieties of socks as there are manufacturers, and then some. Some socks are light-weight that breathe very well and help cool your feet in hot summer months, others are more firm and keep your feet warm in cool conditions. Some have cuffs that ride low in your shoe, others ride high. Some have a base-white color, others black.
Regardless, you should look for socks that feel almost as if they are giving your feet a massage just sitting still while wearing them. Also look for reputable cycling names in the socks, as these will be specifically designed for the cyclist and not some generic brand that you could wear to any function.
Gloves serve two purposes in cycling: protecting your hands in the event of a fall, and wiping your tires off if you accidentally ride through debris. Many riders mistakenly consider gloves to be a comfort issue, helping alleviate the vibration of the road. They are not intended for this comfort. If they do help, that is icing on the cake.
If you are experiencing too much buzz from your handlebars or numbness in your fingers, you need to look into how well your bicycle fits your body, not how thick the gloves are. If you are fitted to your bike well, you should be able to ride all day without gloves. To help prevent hand tingling, you should constantly be changing your hand position and moving them about on the bars while you ride.
Some gloves have leather palms. Most nowadays have a synthetic, leather-type material. Some have this palm material extra thick, others use a gel layer in the palm, while others just leave one layer and call it a day.
Generally, I don’t like gel pretty much anywhere near me or my bike. This also applies to gloves. Gel gets squished and, over time, stops rebounding to its original shape and placement. Instead, I prefer just an extra layer of leather in the palm to help in the case of a fall.
One other thing gloves do well: they help wipe off your nose when it’s running because of cool temps (or allergies). A well-placed strip of terry-cloth on the back of your thumb is an excellent feature. In this area, watch out for the fastening velcro strips. If the edge of the hard velcro is facing up, you may well poke yourself in the nose or scratch your cheek with it (as I, unfortunately, have done). This does not feel well on cold mornings.