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The Cycling Sock & Glove

This entry is part of a series: Cycling Cloth­ing»

Cycling Cloth­ing

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.

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

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.

The Cycling Helmet

This entry is part of a series: Cycling Cloth­ing»

Cycling Cloth­ing

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. Last up, the helmet.

Hel­met

The hel­met really isn’t a piece of cloth­ing and won’t be dis­cussed here except to say: wear one at all times! You never know when you could end up on the ground.

When wear­ing your hel­met, it’s impor­tant that it be adjusted prop­erly to fit you. (Par­ents: don’t let your child ride with one that is obvi­ously too big or too small.) The front edge of the hel­met should run across the fore­head, par­al­lel with the ground. Too many rid­ers tilt the hel­met back­wards (out of their eyes?) where it pro­vides lit­tle to no pro­tec­tion at all for falls toward the front. Adjust the straps while you’re at it, so the hel­met fits snugly but com­fort­ably and doesn’t move easily.

Even if you think you can han­dle your­self very well on a bike (“I won’t fall”), you never know. I remem­ber sev­eral times my hel­met unex­pect­edly pro­tected me. Once, I was rid­ing when my chain unex­pect­edly snapped. I went tum­bling over my han­dle­bars and dis­tinctly remem­ber rolling over the top of my head. While I broke my elbow, my head was fine. Another time, my crank snapped and I remem­ber that time slid­ing across the pave­ment on my side, and–you guessed it–my hel­met. My hel­met cracked, but I was fine (other than some minor bruises). And, at other times, I have had minor alter­ca­tions with cars–again, unex­pect­edly. The theme in all this? Unex­pected. You never know when you’ll be really thank­ful for a hel­met. So, wear one at all times!

Par­ents: in some cities, it is the law for chil­dren to wear hel­mets when on their bikes. Even if it isn’t, again, you never know when some­thing could hap­pen (God for­bid!). Get your young ones used to the idea of always wear­ing a hel­met while they are young. As they grow older, it will just be second-nature to them.

The Cycling Short

This entry is part of a series: Cycling Cloth­ing»

Cycling Cloth­ing

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, are shorts.

Shorts

Cycling shorts come in two basic fla­vors: tra­di­tional shorts or bib shorts. Tra­di­tional shorts are exactly what you’d expect: a pair of shorts (usu­ally) held up with a drawstring.

Bibs, how­ever, are shorts with built-in sus­penders. Almost uni­ver­sally, peo­ple who have tried bibs pre­fer them over reg­u­lar shorts. Peo­ple who don’t under­stand the opin­ions about bibs have (usu­ally) never tried them. The biggest dif­fer­ences: they are much more com­fort­able, they don’t show off a small crack on your back­side if your jer­sey rides up on you, and they stay where you put them.

Shorts are made from lycra. It is very form-fitting and some­times reveal­ing. There are pur­poses in this. First, and most impor­tantly, mate­r­ial from  loose-fitting shorts would bunch-up as you rode. And you do not want any large bunches (of any­thing) in your crotch as you ride. This would put unwanted pres­sure in anatom­i­cal areas that may be sensitive.

Sec­ond, loose mate­r­ial would chafe your legs as they slide up and down against the side of the seat and/or seat­post. The result­ing fric­tion can be very uncomfortable.

Third, the tight mate­r­ial serves as a sort of ther­a­peu­tic mas­sage as you move. This aids your recov­ery allow­ing you to exert more energy, ride longer, or ride easier.

Last, as with jer­seys, there is some aero­dy­namic ben­e­fit, allow­ing you to exert less energy as you ride.

Pads

Cycling shorts all have pads in the crotch. This pad is called a chamois (pro­nounced: sham-mee). Orig­i­nally, many years ago, it was made from a leather, chamois cloth. Per­son­ally, I still pre­fer this ver­sion. Today, to help cut costs and improve mar­ketabil­ity, man­u­fac­tur­ers use a syn­thetic pad made of closed-cell foams.

The pur­pose of the chamois was–and still is–to reduce fric­tion and chaf­ing. Again, many rid­ers mis­tak­enly assume it is to pro­vide padding for their bot­toms sit­ting on that nar­row, firm, and uncom­fort­able seat for hours on end. This think­ing is incor­rect. Again, if you have the cor­rect fit on your bicy­cle, and the cor­rect sad­dle for your anatomy, you should be able to ride with­out a pad at all. Except for the chafing.

The Cycling Jersey

This entry is part of a series: Cycling Cloth­ing»

Cycling Cloth­ing

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. First up, is the jersey.

Jer­seys

Cycling jer­seys serve a vari­ety of func­tions that make rid­ing more com­fort­able, effi­cient, and enjoy­able. Ath­letic t-shirts–or any other shirt for that matter–that you buy at Wal-Mart just don’t per­form like a cycling jer­sey. Oh, sure, you can ride with a t-shirt–and I have. It’s just that, over the long run, a jer­sey is bet­ter suited for the activity.

In the old days, jer­seys were made of wool. While wool is an excel­lent insu­la­tor when wet, the fab­ric inevitably would stretch out of shape and rip, and was warm in the sum­mer heat.

Today’s jer­seys are made from syn­thetic fibers that per­form just as well in the wet, main­tain their shape (dry or wet), don’t rip as eas­ily, accom­mo­date a zip­per of any length, and help wick mois­ture away from the body to aid in cool­ing dur­ing sum­mer heat.

Jer­seys come in two gen­er­al­iza­tions: “club” fit (or cut) and “race/euro” fit (or cut). Within these des­ig­na­tions are the usual sizes: XS all the way up to XXL or higher. (In Europe, they may be mea­sured as size 1, XS, to size 6, XXL.) Club fit jer­seys are slightly larger, usu­ally more accom­mo­dat­ing to us Amer­i­cans while the euro-fit is a lit­tle tighter, aimed at the smaller, ath­let­i­cally built racer. My per­sonal pref­er­ence is the race fit  if I can get it in the right size. Club fit jer­seys tend to be too big over­all and too long in the back. They feel as if they are wet and soggy, stretch­ing down over my bot­tom, catch­ing on the tip of my saddle.

Gen­er­ally, you don’t want your jer­sey to be too loose fit­ting: the wind cre­ated from your move­ment will cause it to flap. A flap­ping gar­ment for 3–4 hours can get really annoy­ing. There is also a bit of aero­dy­namic ben­e­fit, but, of course, this is not nec­es­sar­ily impor­tant for all cyclists. On the flip side, you don’t want it to be too tight, either: this can hin­der breath­ing and cir­cu­la­tion, and makes us larger folks look like sausages.

Cycling jer­seys are tai­lored to fit a per­son bent-over, rid­ing. They are not stitched together for you to stand around in. They are a lit­tle longer in the back to cover your back­side, and a lit­tle shorter in front to get out of your way as you’re hunched over. If you try one on, make sure you bend over, emu­lat­ing the rid­ing position.

Last,  cycling jer­seys reg­u­larly fea­ture pock­ets in the right places: the back. As you are hunched over rid­ing, you have easy access to the items in these pock­ets on your back. Most jer­seys fea­ture three pock­ets. Some fea­ture a fourth, smaller pocket, some­times with a zip­per small enough to carry keys, MP3 play­ers, or other small items.

Many rid­ers new to our sport will balk at hand­ing over (up to) $80 or more (!) for a jer­sey. I cer­tainly under­stand this frus­tra­tion. How­ever,  well-made cycling jer­seys will last for years, bring­ing the annu­al­ized cost of the jer­sey down to more real­is­tic levels.

Under­shirts

Some cyclists will wear shirts under their jer­seys at all times of the year. This is a per­sonal pref­er­ence. I gen­er­ally wear one when it is cooler and I don’t feel like putting on a jacket over the top. I also pre­fer the sleeve-less designed ones as even short-sleeved under­shirts can wad up inside the tight fits of my short-sleeved jerseys.