Occasionally someone asks me about clothing or gear for cycling so I thought I’d provide a bit of a basic “bike ride outfit” update. Generally, I don’t do cycling-specific clothing unless I’m on a rando ride or bike touring because I don’t find it to be necessary. However, on rides od a century or longer, my body becomes more sensitive to and, over time, I have come to use certain gear as my “go-to” pieces.
I’ve written some on this topic before, but since it’s been a while I’m doing an updated post with a summer riding head-to-toe focus.
During the summer, caps are a mixed bag. A cap can easily become too warm to wear on hot humid days, but a cycling cap’s bill can be just the thing to keep the rain from pelting my face and coating my glasses. For summer riding, I’ve been using Rothera cotton caps, as well as Walz technical fabric caps. Both are lightweight and made in the USA, although I find the Rothera caps have a reinforced brim, as well as a bit more style to them.
A lightweight Buff is a versatile touring piece. It can be used to cover one’s head and neck, and it effectively prevents sunburn on these areas– helpful, since our necks are so exposed to sun throughout the day on a bike.
You could also use a Buff to protect your mouth from dust, if need be, or wear one around your neck if it’s a bit cool. This has not been the case in our neck of the woods this summer, given that it’s hot every day and raining practically every other day around D.C.
First, let me tell you what I don’t like so you have a sense of my biases. I dislike jerseys with a lot of multi-color design or art on them so I tend to look for mono-color jerseys. I’m also not a fan of sleeveless jerseys for all-day riding, but other people love them. I ALSO don’t like jerseys that have tight elastic along the waist or shirt sleeves.
I like three rear pockets, especially for brevets. I’m a fan of wool jerseys, especially for touring and randonneuring. They don’t require the same sort of washing as a polyester fabric, and when they become wet from rain they don’t develop the same icky clamminess as a synthetic. That said, wool is rather unforgiving and it will cling to every curve– especially if you are wearing 100% merino– so that can be tough on my vanity. It also doesn’t dry as quickly as a light synthetic.
I generally use Ibex summerweight wool for summer touring and for late-spring brevets. However, I know that wool is not for everyone. Also, I notice that Ibex does not seem to be offering cycling jerseys this year, which is unfortunate.
While Ibex sometimes attempts to overly style their offerings, they make (or at least they did make in the past) reasonably-priced, well-fitting, 100 percent merino, solid color, USA-made jerseys.
The Road Holland summer jersey is really quite nice– lightweight, not overly detailed, fitted but not too snug. When will you be running a new batch of the Nantucket Red, Road Holland? People (i.e., me) want to know! Road Holland is also made in the USA.
I’m actually on the hunt for another quality lightweight synthetic jersey that doesn’t break the bank to buy, so if you have discovered one I’d love to know about it.
4. Biking Shorts
The Sugoi RS shorts continue to be my favorite. A fellow randonneuse recommended that I try them a few years ago, and ever since, they have been my go-to shorts for long rides.
The compression they offer is good, but not too much, and my legs don’t feel like their squeezed like sausages. The Sugoi RS chamois is not thick, but provides adequate padding where I need it AND it does not dry out and chafe like other brands I have used.
I also apply Chamois Butt’r to those areas subject to chafing or discomfort. Like jerseys may be to some degree, the ideal cycling shorts and chamois combo varies from one person to the next.
I’m currently at a loss for cycling gloves. I used to wear Specialized gloves, but they turned against me one day. I have been unable to use them for rides longer than a century because they cause blisters along my palm. Since then I’ve tried other brands, including Pearl Izumi and Canari, but have met with similar results.
During the summer months, I like to wear gloves on long rides because my hands sweat up and this can make them a bit slippery on the bars. And it’s always a bit of insurance if, say, you know, you fall down. So in conclusion, I’m on the hunt for new cycling gloves. If you have any to recommend, please let me know.
Forever Smartwool. That is all.
7. Cycling Shoes
Over time, I have acquired more cycling shoes than I ever imagined. Not that I have a ton, but I have several shoes that I use for commutes and long rides. My cleat system is SPD. SPDs are easy to install and widely available. I use SPDs because they were the first cleat system I tried, and I never had any problems with them, so why switch?
For brevets and multi-day touring I use Sidi Dominators. They are stiff in the sole, but not so stiff that you can’t walk around in them. You would probably not want to walk around in them all day, but for little jaunts they’re perfect. Sidis are expensive, but they are also incredibly long lasting. They last for many miles and years!
I also have a pair of Giros, which are really good, but which I do not like to use them on brevets or hilly rides because I don’t find the platform stiff enough. This leads to foot pain along the balls of my feet during rides longer than a century.
I tend to like the triple strap shoe models because you can customize the fit more specifically to your foot. I think laces are a pain when it comes to cycling shoes, and you cannot adjust them on the fly.
Everyone’s preferences are different. What have other readers found works for them on a century-plus ride? Also, if you have any insight on the women’s specific summer-weight synthetic jersey, please let me know!