What I wear while riding and why – Road bike edition

There is a moment when talking to new riders, or our children, when the topic of clothing comes up – usually starting with the questions “do I have to wear spandex?” or “can’t I just wear regular clothing?”

The answer, of course, is you can and should wear whatever makes you comfortable. But there are reasons for the clothing we wear when riding, so let’s break it down:

Terrible picture of me and Miss Daisy used to illustrate.

Helmet
You can be guaranteed that every list of things you need when on a bike is going to start with a helmet that is fairly new and fits properly. Even those of us with larger than average noggins can find a helmet that fits – for me, that’s the Scott Centric Plus, size large, in high vis yellow.

My Smith PivLok Arena Max sunglasses, which I found on sale at REI, come with interchangeable lenses, but I find the lightly tinted rose lenses work for most rides. You don’t need to spend a lot on sunglasses, just look for something that will protect you from debris and sun.

Bike Shorts
Lycra bike shorts are really the thing that throws most new riders, but I swear you will be a happier person for them. And while it does look slick to match the shorts to the jersey, it’s better to find a pair that works well for you, and buy a few pairs. My favorites are from Pearl Izumi and have a drop tail which makes it easy when I need to go to the bathroom.

If you aren’t comfortable wearing lycra bike shorts, consider padded liners which can go under regular shorts. And whatever you choose, remember NOT to wear underwear under your padded shorts.

Bike Jersey
While any athletic shirt will do (for the wicking), bicycle jerseys run help with aerodynamics and have pockets which are good for carrying food, cellphone, money, etc.

It should be said, you do NOT need to spend a fortune on a jersey – one of my current favorites is available on Amazon.com for $20. But if you are willing to spend more, bike jerseys can also be a fun way to support your favorite bike shop or small business, commemorate a trip, or promote a nonprofit organization.

There is one “rule” you should be aware of – it is generally frowned upon to wear championship jerseys. Why you may wonder, do they sell them? Excellent question! Unfortunately, I don’t make the rules, I’m just sharing them.

Shoes
To clip in, or not to clip in, that is the question. For those who are nervous about falling over because you won’t be able to unclip I say – relax, you will absolutely, positively, fall over, likely at the most embarrassing time possible. Hopefully, you won’t get hurt when it happens, and you will have a story to share with the rest of us.

In all seriousness, clipping into your pedals is something that gets easier over time and will benefit your riding. On my road bike, I wear Mavic shoes with Look cleats, which give me more power when pedaling, but are not that comfortable if I’m walking around. For Pan-Mass Challenge weekend, where I’m on and off the bike a lot, I switch to my Scott mountain bike shoes with SPD pedals.

My Scott mountain bike shoes with SPD cleats are (left) more comfortable for walking around, while my Mavic shoes with the Look cleats (right) give me a bigger platform when riding.

Gloves and Socks
Short fingered padded gloves help keep your hands dry (cycling is sweaty work) and, as most are padded, can help protect from road vibrations. I’m not very picky about my gloves, while our daughter finds the seams on many can bother her.

The socks I’m wearing in the picture above are shorter than those I usually wear (they are 3″). My favorites are 6″ and almost always feature a unicorn or a naughty word.

Face Covering
Not pictured here is my newest piece of clothing – a buff, bandana or other face covering. Whenever I’m riding, particularly if it’s during a busy time of day or in a location with lots of people, I wear something I can use to cover my face if passing, or stopping. You can absolutely make your own, or take this chance to support a nonprofit organization or your favorite artist.

That’s about it. There are other accessories I may need if I’m riding when it’s cold, or wet, but these are the essentials I wear on every ride.

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