The sport of bicycling can be compared to numerous other athletic hobbies or pastimes from an equipment point of view. You could simply own nothing more than a bike, or you can own as much as a garage full of gear that goes with the bike, or like me, be somewhere in between! Obviously, since bikes can be found for a few dollars at a yard sale, all the way to high end bikes in the tens of thousands of dollars price range, it’s also safe to assume the same is true for bicycling equipment.
Equipment would be defined as any accessory to enhance your bicycling experience, which can include, but is not limited to, helmets, clothing, shoes, pedals, reflectors and lighting, bike components, gloves, etc., etc.
Today, I am going to address some basic warm weather clothing equipment. As a road cyclist, I tend to only wear tight fitting clothing. This is for mainly for safety reasons and to help with wind drag. On a typical ride, Renaissance & Masher will spin up anywhere from 20-50 miles on the best back roads with the least amount of traffic as possible, and you will find both of us donning a helmet, cycle jersey, bib shorts, gloves, protective eye glasses, and clip-on shoes, which attach to the pedals.
As is the case with most sporting hobbies, there are brand name attire products, and also generics. The difference? Same as usual. You get what you pay for. What are you paying for? Comfort, fit, durability, and of coarse the look of a nice logo! Some of the big brand names include Pearl Izumi, Descente, Shimano, Sidi, Castelli, Louis Garneau, Giordana. The Masher seems to own more gear with the Pearl Izumi logo attached, not sure why, but I think it has something to do with the name. I will say this though, so far, my favorite and most comfortable bib shorts are another brand.
Okay, enough about the brands, let’s talk a little about the actual function of road cycling clothing. Most of it depends on whether you intend to ride around the subdivision with the family, commute to work, or in our case train for, and consequently complete century rides. I highly recommend one thing above all else on all of these rides. A HELMET! You never know when a fall could happen, and believe me, it only takes a split second for your head to make contact with the pavement.
Helmet: A device worn on your head to protect your skull and brain. Currently, both Renaissance & Masher wear Bell helmets. They are light weight, designed to allow good air flow, and comfortable. Masher has unfortunately also tested the durability of his once.
Cycling Jersey: The shirt worn on a bicycle ride. These are typically very light weight and tight fitting with zippers on front for extra ventilation and three pockets on the rear for storing important things that can easily be accessed, such as, maps, cell phone, snacks, money, etc. We both have various brands of jerseys, including a couple that were earned. Some of the big ride events offer a cycling jersey for sale, and we wear them as a token of an accomplishment. Others are plain, and a couple show our true colors (when it comes to who we root for in college sports).
Shorts or Bib Shorts: A spandex material lined with padding in the seat that are worn as shorts. This is one of the most important articles of clothing on a ride of any significant distance. RAM prefers to wear the bib shorts because they are more secure, don’t move around as much when in the saddle, and they also do a good job of assisting in forming the body which ultimately aids in support and comfort over a long trek on the bike. This is truly where you get what you pay for, especially in the comfort of the padding.
Cycling Socks: A high compression sock that is designed to wick moisture away from the feet, they come in all sorts of lengths and colors. Try to avoid cotton socks at all cost when cycling for more than a few miles, otherwise you may experience feet fungus and/or other problems associated with wet feet – all that equates to uncomfortable and possible even time off the bike. RAM prefers the ankle length, either way, you’re destined to get numerous tan lines that are impossible to hide at the beach, when you commit to wearing the full cycling gear.
Clip-On Shoes: The name says it all. Cycling shoes are true to the uniform in regards to weight, and similar to the bike frame in regards to stiffness. Road shoes are designed to be attached to the pedals in order to prevent foot slippage, and also to help provide more power to the pedaling process. Yes, you will forget to unclip from the pedal at some point and inevitably fall, stuck to the bike. Hopefully, you won’t get hurt, it usually happens as you’re stopping, therefor, at least you’re at a slow speed. More importantly, hopefully, you don’t have a huge audience when it happens, because it can be more hurtful to your pride than your body.
Other Accessories Recommended: Gloves – fingerless in the hot season, and preferably a wicking material with some light padding. It is important for your entire outfit to breathe, otherwise your body will overheat very easily. Head Beanie or Buff – similar to a do rag, it’s purpose is to keep the sweat out of you eyes, keep the head cool, and protect from sunburn. Protective Eye or Sunglasses – also, the name says it all. RAM always recommends wearing glasses to protect your eyes from bugs, road debris, rain, or whatever else may be in the air, and we recommend tinted lenses during high sunlight times, and clear or polarized during low visibility times. Last, but not least, RAM highly recommends wearing a Road ID – this is, as their slogan says, “It’s who you are!” In case of emergency, in any case, this will allow folks to help you without jeopardizing your health until paramedics can arrive on site. It could save your life.
Now we need your feedback. Please send us a message, and let us know what your favorite gear is, so we can try it out. In the near future, RAM Cycling intends to design some custom cycling gear and we want to use the best. So make a recommendation of a particular brand and we will try it out over the upcoming riding seasons, then we will rate them, and decide to make a brand “Our Brand.” It only takes a second to post a comment or drop an email, either way, let us know what you wear.
The right or wrong cycling gear, can ultimately be the difference in your enjoyment level while on the bike.
The information in this post may be a week or even a month overdue, however it is vital to surviving the cold weather on a bicycle. If you are anything like me, only so much time on the trainer, indoor bike, and/or treadmill is tolerable. Sure it’s a great way to stay in shape through the off season, but it doesn’t compare to the fun and freedom of being on the open road.
Luckily, there is gear available that will not only protect you from the elements of winter, but even enhance your riding experience throughout the year. I was fortunate enough to visit Norway twice while serving in the U.S. Marines, and the cold weather survival training I experienced as a result of those trips gave me a leg up on how to cycle in the winter. Utilizing the tips I will share with you, don’t be afraid to get outside and keep cycling through the dead of winter.
WINTER CYCLING TIPS:
1. Eat, Eat, Eat
2. Drink, Drink, Drink
3. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
5. Protect Extremities
6. Maintain Comfortably COOL
7. Use The Buddy System
First, and foremost, your body needs more energy in the winter to keep you going, therefor you need considerably more rest while consuming more food and water. Hydration is just as important in cold weather as in hot, and naturally you need more stored energy to burn to keep you warm, hence eat more.
Clothing should be kept simple, and are similar to summer cycling gear, with a few added layers. Closest to your body needs to be covered with a base layer of a tight wicking material to keep moisture off your body because you will sweat. I recommend poly propylene, this layer includes your head and feet. The next layer should be an insulating layer, but not too thick, and needs to be a breathable material such as polar fleece or wool. Finally, your outer most layer is your shield from the elements. This is a layer that will protect you from the wind, rain, snow or sleet, and gore tex is a great material for this. Full finger gloves, polar shoe covers, and insulating head wear covering ears are all a must. The extremities tend to get colder first, and can make you miserable if not properly protected. Remember, maintain a Comfortably Cool body temperature, not cold, warm, or hot. The last three will certainly lead to frost bite, hypothermia, and/or dehydration and overheating. Allow your layers to vent or simply remove and replace as needed. Listen to your body!
The last basic tip I can offer to help you continue cycling outdoors through the winter season is to do it with a friend. Your layers, when worn properly, will protect you whether you are moving or not, but in the event of an unexpected stop, it is always better to have an extra set of eyes to monitor. Another general rule of thumb to go by is try to avoid riding when precipitation is expected, for example rain, sleet, or snow, for obvious reasons. Keep it safe, check on your riding buddy often, just to make sure all riders are comfortably cool. Also, beware of salt crystals on the roadway for snow melting, as this is nearly as bad as riding over glass, not to mention, what it does to dry out and clog up your chain and cranks.
So get on out there, with your winter gear, rest, stored energy, and fully hydrated of coarse, and keep right on rolling through the depth of winter on your bicycle! I recommend centering your focus on time on the bike, base mileage, not speed and long distances. Keep it simple, keep your butt and legs in shape, and enjoy a spring season with less pain of getting back in bicycling shape.