Once you have been riding a while and tried a few things to wear through summer, spring, autumn and winter, you begin to appreciate the finer details that make a difference.
For me, the enlightenment came last Sunday when I started the day at 15 degrees C and finished 5 hours and 100kms later at 33C, still wearing my undershirt with my bike shirt zipped up. How is this possible? Two layers of clothes yet I didn’t want or need to remove them. They almost felt like another skin and I felt better for having them on.
So my #1 accessory pick is the undershirt. A purpose designed shirt that breathes, feels soft and doesn’t rub even when it’s under another tight shirt. I have no idea about the technology behind it but my two undershirts have been there with me through rain, cold and shine over the last 8 months, keeping me cool in the heat and warm in the cold. If only they could use the technology on my helmet as it’s a heat generating sweat machine.
My #2 pick is easily the arm warmers. What a brilliant idea. If you start in the morning in the cool and the day warms up, you can either untuck them a bit, roll down the sleeves or take them off completely and put them in your shirt. Simple but effective.
During the winter, I worked out when I would need accessories by constantly checking the weather on my phone the night before a ride (or even in the morning). If 10C or above I would need arm warmers, 9C I would need the long legs, 8C the jacket and 7C the winter gloves which I hated
I got to wear the shoe covers twice and never had to put on the head band to keep the ears warm as in Sydney near the ocean, it just doesn’t get that cold. But during the whole winter, it was the arm warmers that made the difference. I am yet to try the leg warmers as I bought long pants instead. Maybe next winter.
#3 in the list are my summer gloves. They have been my work horse. Padded palms for impact absorption, soft back to wipe the sweat, no finger tips so I can do stuff. I am sure they will be one of the first things I wear out.
#4 is the surprise. Cycling socks. So much better than normal socks. Tight, soft, breathers. Happy to buy the good ones and pay extra.
Lastly, #5 is the Knicks or Bibs. At first, I was hesitant but after getting them I see the attraction. They, well, just hold you in and keep everything in place. For my long rides I wear the Knicks but for my shorter mid week rides I wear the shorts (so I don’t wear the knicks out) and even on a short ride, they don’t seem as comfortable.
There is something about riding a road bike and having tight clothing. It just feels better to have a second skin. I did notice that on the Sydney to Wollongong ride where thousands of people rode, that there were all shapes and sizes and some of them definitely didn’t look good in tight fitting clothes. But, at least they are out there doing something about it.
I can also see the attraction for mountain bikers to wear baggy’s. It’s like roadies dress formally like the army and mountain bikers dress like the militia – it’s street cred.
As a final note, I have to give the honourable mention to the clip in shoe. They are incredible and a must have because it provides the joining of you to your bike to be as one unit, and they work for road bikes or mountain bikes.
Actually, my shoes are mountain bike shoes. They may not be the coolest thing for road bikers but at least I can walk in them and use them when I go mountain biking (which I have only done once so far). I may buy proper road shoes in the future but for now, my buying decisions have all been about versatility.
But, I haven’t included clip in shoes in the list of clothing accessories, because like the helmet, to me they are the necessity, not a choice.
So what’s your favourite piece of kit?