Jerseys, Shorts, and Shoes for Long Rides

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.

1. Caps

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.

Road Holland jersey and Rothera cap on me. Not sure what's on Chris, maybe Vulpine? Photo by Felkerino
Road Holland jersey and Rothera cap on me. Not sure what’s on Chris, maybe Vulpine? Photo by Felkerino
2. Buff

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.

Colorado tourin'. Photo by Felkerino
Colorado tourin’ in Ibex and a Buff. Photo by Felkerino
3. Jerseys

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.

Ibex on tour. Photo by Felkerino
Ibex on tour. Photo by Felkerino

My preferred synthetic brand of late has been Road Holland. They don’t have a lot of color choices, but I like the fit and feel of their women’s jerseys, particularly the Aalsmeer.

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.

Road Holland Aalsameer and Sugoi RS shorts. Photo by Felkerino
Road Holland Aalsmeer and Sugoi RS shorts. Photo by Felkerino
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.

5. Gloves

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.

Can't resist, but it does show Sidis!
Can’t resist, but it does show Sidis!
6. Socks

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!

32 thoughts on “Jerseys, Shorts, and Shoes for Long Rides

  1. For gloves – the Ibex cycling ones are great for cold days. Otherwise for summer I use variety of road ones, but with good padding, Giro are stand out brand. For shorts, Pactimo, Voler, Primal in that order of quality / performance.

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    1. Thanks for that. I haven’t had good luck w/ Voler shorts (found that the chamois dried out too much on me. I am going to be on the lookout for some of the Giro gloves you mention…

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  2. well, gypsybug….as you know, i comment from time to time on how fashionable and downright CUTE you look in your biking and running gear and clothing. you are always safety-conscious, as well.
    continue on….!

    x

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  3. I’ve found my fingerless sailing gloves work very well. Since I had a couple pair I’ve never c ones feted bicycling gloves. I bought mine at West Marine. Any good boating store should stock several brands. Mine have leather palms and once broken in are quite comfortable.

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  4. I am surprised you don’t wear bibs, particularly for the longer rides. I find shorts cut into my waist and are annoying. There are many on the market today designed specifically for women. I have never tried a Buff but they make sense.

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    1. I’m with PrateQueenKate on the bibs. Too much hassle. Also, I haven’t found that regular shorts really cut into my waist (although I did eat a lot of tater tots this evening, so I may be revisiting this statement soon).

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  5. I actually wrote to Ibex a couple of months ago to get an idea of when their cycling jerseys for women would be coming out and they said that they are “retooling” their cycling offerings and will bring them out again in 2016. I love their cycling jerseys, so I was disappointed as I need a couple additions, but I’ll hold out until next spring/summer and deal with what I have. I’m interested to see what they bring to the line.

    Also agree that Road Holland has some great options. I wish they had more colors to choose from in their full zip line of short sleeved for women, but I also understand that they are small and cannot retain the quantity of larger organizations.

    As for gloves… I struggle finding gloves that fit properly. I have long palms which seems to cause problems between the fingers with gloves. If I get a larger size, I get blisters because the fabric moves too much; if I go smaller then I have the in between the fingers pulling. Ugh. I’ve been using Giro Monica fingerless gloves because they seem to work the best (though still not perfect). In reality, I’m often better off not wearing gloves at all, but I like the extra cushion because of my hand issues.

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    1. Thanks for the update about Ibex! I’m glad to know they’ll be back with more cycling jerseys. I was a bit concerned, since they’ve been my favorite. I also have the same issue with the gloves… both scenarios you mention are quite painful! Based on your comment and one above, I’m going to look into the Giro gloves.

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  6. On the topic of gloves, I find that if I wear absorbant wrist bands (such as for tennis), the palms inside my gloves stay a lot drier. Also useful for wiping the nose, etc.

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  7. i wear pearl izumi gloves and will wear an extra pair of regular gloves over them when i’m cold [which is whenever it goes below 50 degrees] almost all my jerseys are from charity rides, but i’m fond of tritops with built in bras. i LOVE LOVE LOVE my hincapie skort! next are my skirtsport skort and my zoic skort [detachable liner so i can wear it with anything] i like a minimal pad, very flat and smooth. my favorite extra piece is a swobo merino wool full zip jersey in royal blue. matches my eyes, goes with everything, can be worn up to 80 degrees. shoes, keen’s cycling sandals. hey, this is FLORIDA! rain water just goes right through them, no soggy feet.
    related to gloves: i keep my saddle about an inch lower than recommended. i have serious wrist and hand issues, this puts a little more pressure on my bottom [god bless my selle italia diva gel saddle, 20,000+ miles on my first, just got a replacement] but no wrist or hand pain

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    1. I have some SkirtSport cycling shorts and have been really happy with them. They’re a bit shorter than the Sugois, but not too short. I also have one of their skirts that has no built-in shorts to throw on over my cycling shorts if I wan to look a bit less spandexy during a ride. I run in the regular SkirtSport skirts and have been quite happy with this brand. I love that your Swobo jersey matches your eyes :).

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  8. Assos summer gloves are very nice if other gloves feel heavy, constricting, or hot. They really do ‘disappear on long rides’. Unfortunately they also cost twice as much as other gloves, so I’ve switched to the slightly heavier Specialized SL-Comp. I find Pearl Izumi and most brands annoyingly heavy and thick. I hesitate to recommend Assos because of the crazy pricing, but if you can’t find anything else that works, and/or you can find them deeply discounted, they might be worth trying.

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    1. Have not tried the Specialized SL-Comp so perhaps I will do that. Yeah, Assos can be fairly cost prohibitive, BUT I’ve also found that gloves are slow to wear out…

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    1. I actually use Ibex for the colder temps, and lobsters when it’s really cold. I’ll check into the Terry gloves as well. So many great suggestions from people!

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  9. Simply can’t find a glove to fit my bear claws. Most 2xx won’t fit. Too tight – have to turn them inside out to get them off! Still looking.

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  10. I wear spandex shorts on long-ish rides. I say “ish” because it’s not usually a mileage thing but time in the saddle. On our latest tour, we were doing 65 miles in 10-11 hours because we stopped so much. The caveat is that I always… I’ll say again, always cover my spandex shorts. I have recently purchased a stylish riding short from REI that has a detachable padded short. I may use the pad included, or wear a pair of regular spandex shorts and cover them with the outer REI short.

    Cotton shirts are fine for putzing around town and I usually don some kind of poly shirt for longer rides. Like you, I prefer shirts without too much color or designs.

    It is an event when someone sees me wearing a helmet. I have lots of caps and hats ranging from cycling specific to athletic and just plain old Waltz, Kangol Army Cadet or Brixton hats.

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  11. I love Buffs! They can also help keep bugs out of your hair (add another to cover your face, if it’s really bad).

    I’m currently enjoying my Endura gloves but I’ve never really had too many issues with my gloves regardless of brand. Although strangely – I too, had issues with my Specialized ones that I used to like.

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  12. Hi Mary! I’m right there with you on the jerseys, especially as a plus-sized rider. There’s not a whole lot out there that fits flatteringly. I have a Road Holland Nantucket Red Aalmseer but it’s a bit big for you 🙂
    For gloves, I really like my Rapha Pro Team Mitts (http://www.rapha.cc/us/en_US/shop/pro-team-mitts/product/PTM03). They’re just enough protection to prevent blisters with mesh on the top for breathing and a little terry spot for wiping sweat.
    For socks, while I do love me some Smartwool, I’m really digging my DeFeet low cuff socks in these hot summers.
    See you around town!

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    1. Are the DeFeet synthetic? I actually find that synthetic are in some ways better for touring because they dry faster after washing (or rain) than the wool does.

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  13. Castelli gloves are my go-to for long rides. Not much padding, no seams in places that bother me, and a lot of them don’t have velcro at the wrist (which drives me nuts). The exact pairs I have seem to no longer exist, but several in the lineup look similar. The only thing they lack is a sweatwipe, but I haven’t found any good sweatwiping gloves lately — either the fabric isn’t actually successful at wiping, or it’s tiny and surrounded by scratchy seams and will shred chapped or sunburnt skin.

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    1. Yeah, I don’t need much padding for gloves. It’s actually the padding that will cause chafing in some cases. Rather, I need/want the protection on the hands. Sweatpipes (I just learned this word, thanks to your comment!) are definitely handy, but not a necessity for me.

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