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.
Working towards my personal goal to add more bikes to the road in my area, I had yet another coworker and good friend that called me this week inquiring about cycling. Exciting news to me, as I love to converse about cycling with anyone, especially someone that respects my opinion about the sport and wants to start riding. So now that I’ve recently been through this scenario more than once, I thought, it would be real helpful if new cyclists, or people considering cycling as a hobby, had a point of reference to get them started.
That’s the vision of this blog. Hopefully, it will prove helpful to anyone considering the opportunity to begin cycling, and more importantly, help them find a new passion. RAM Cycling is living proof that all it takes to become passionate about bicycling is to get started. I will address the introduction to cycling in an outline format with some FAQs to follow. As always, feel free to send any additional questions by posting a comment below, and we will do our best to find the correct answer for you!
RAM CYCLING: INTRO TO CYCLING
I. GEAR NECESSARY
A. Must Have
1. Bicycle (mountain, road, hybrid, commuter, etc. . . it’s your choice)
2. Helmet (please take our advice on this, I promise)
3. Air pump (inflate tires to proper pressure before every ride)
4. Bike All-Purpose Bag (mounts under seat or on handlebars)
5. Water (stay hydrated on every ride)
6. First Aid Kit (keep in AP bag for emergencies)
7. Compact Bike Tool Kit (needed for minor bike adjustments)
8. Spare Tube/Tire Repair Kit & Compact Pump or CO2 Inflator
B. Enhancement Items
1. Shoes & Clip-less Pedals (get comfortable with the bike first)
2. Cycling Shorts or Bibs (with built in chamois or padding)
3. Cycling Jersey (with front zipper and rear pockets)
4. Gloves (fingerless for summer, full finger for winter)
5. Lights/Reflectors (not just for seeing, but for being seen)
6. Sunglasses (or protective glasses to keep out flies, bugs, etc.)
7. Bike Computer (for tracking stats and knowing your speed at all times)
8. Money & Snacks ( store in AP bag or jersey pockets)
II. WHERE TO RIDE
A. Mountain Bikes
1. Trails or Trail Parks
2. Roads (not recommended)
B. Road Bikes
1. Paved Trails
2. Roads (and bike lanes in towns)
III. WHO TO RIDE WITH
A. Group Rides
1. Local Clubs (great way to learn road rules and safety habits)
2. Private Groups (not organized, but still a group)
B. Solo Rides
1. Alone (bicycling gives you freedom to ride anytime)
IV. FAQs SECTION
Q: Where can I ride on the road, and when?
A: Ride on the roads at any time, just be sure to be highly visible, especially in low lighted times of day, and follow the rules of the road as if you were driving a vehicle. Use arm signals in traffic and make eye contact with drivers. Not permitted to ride on parkways or interstates, everywhere else is fair game!
Q: What kind of bike should I buy? New or Used?
A: Consider what you plan to use the bike for most and start there. If you want to ride dirt tracks, get a mountain bike. If you want to commute to work, get a touring or commuter bike, and so on. I recommend starting out getting a used bike until you find the passion of cycling that interests you most, then spend the big bucks for the bike of your dreams.
Q: Where should I buy my bike?
A: Used bikes, you can find good deals on the Internet, just be sure to check out the seller’s background. New bikes are also on the web, but I recommend finding a local bike shop close to you and developing a relationship with them for buying and servicing your bike. They sometimes have used bikes for sale, as well.
Q: I want to ride a road bike, but the traffic scares me. How can I get over the fear of riding on the road?
A: Road fear affects us all to some extent. Join a local cycling club if possible, the group riding experience will help create a confidence for road riding. It will also teach you safe riding and group ride etiquette. Find a route and time of day for cycling that feels safe and comfortable, then plan to ride accordingly.
Q: What do I do if I have a flat tire on a ride?
A: It’s not if, it’s when. That’s why I highly recommend keeping an AP bag attached to your bike with all the necessities for bike or tire repair on the go. You can carry CO2 inflators or buy a compact pump that mounts to your bike’s frame.
Q: Do I really need cycling shorts, jersey, clip in shoes, and pedals?
A: If you are riding as a commute to work, no. For pretty much all other aspects of cycling, yes. Without going into a lot of detail about each enhancement item, once you get each, you will see and understand the difference.
Q: When is the best time of the year to start cycling?
A: TODAY! The sooner you start cycling, the sooner you may discover your hidden passion for the sport.
Hope this info helps you get started into cycling, and allows you to develop a love for the bike and the experience. If you have additional questions, please feel free to post a comment on this blog. I definitely recommend joining a local bike club if you have one available, because of the wealth of info they make available to you, as well as the experience and knowledge you gain by riding with groups. If you are in or near the Lexington, KY area, check out the Bluegrass Cycling Club at bgcycling.org . I also recommend finding a local bike shop to cater to your needs for clothing, gear, and more knowledge. Now get out there and get started CYCLING!!! *Masher