Mar 2016 02



After blotching this concept pretty good on my rides this past weekend, I thought I’d offer some “how to dress” advice, or maybe how not to while cycling. In my defense, I was raised on a couple of sayings from my beloved Marine Corps … “Pack light, freeze at night!” and “If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training!” I don’t recommend utilizing these ideas in the everyday civilian world of cycling.


Pack light, freeze at night basically means that if you don’t want to be bogged down by excess weight, simply don’t carry or wear it. Because whether you choose to wear or carry it, you’re stuck with it for the duration of the ride … Unless you’re a pro with a team car following you on every ride or if you plan to drop it and drive out to get it after, which wastes time and gas, etc. Given that information, I recommend wearing or carrying what you may need to keep your body temp between comfortably cool and warmed up (and dry during wet weather). Contrary to our saying in the Marines about training in the rain, I’d suggest skipping cycling in it. The roads become more dangerous due to less visibility for drivers, slippery surfaces, and the chance for an accident is obviously higher. Riding in the rain is also a good way to get sick which just delays training progress in the long run.


There is a very thin line between comfortably cool and uncomfortably numb. The same is true between warmed up and overheated. The goal on any ride is to maintain a feeling of comfortably cool to warmed up, no matter what the temps are when you ride. It’s just as important to protect yourself from extreme heat in the summer as it is extreme cold in the winter, and it’s also just as important to eat and drink thoroughly in the winter as you do in the summer. Theses concepts will keep your riding safe and enjoyable throughout.


Regarding how to dress, the key to success is in layers! Base (bottom) layer needs to always be wicking so that your attire pulls moisture away from your body. The best material for this is poly-pro, polyester or dry-tech. This layer should also be ventilated. Your bottoms, whether shorts, knickers, or full legs, need to accomplish the same thing: vent and wick. I recommend a chamois seat, but not too bulky. More than likely, that’s all you’ll need in the summer, but in the winter or during times of the year that we go through temperature changes, the layers become very important for a successful ride. Remember that layers should be added or removed as needed to maintain the goal of being comfortably cool to warmed up.


Additional layers on on top of the base include insulating, outer shell for wind and/or rain resistance. The best insulating layers are fleece (lightweight and heavy) or wool, but no cotton! The outer shell material can also be heavy or light (depending on temps) and should be something that blocks wind and keeps precipitation out. Gore-Tex is a great outer layer. Don’t forget the extremities! We lose a lot of heat through our outer most body parts, so it’s also very important to protect your head and ears, hands and fingers, feet and toes. Choosing clothing that’s designed specifically for cycling usually provides the best results, but it’s not mandatory. In colder temps, I incorporate layers that make sense and accomplish the goal (comfortably cool to warmed up), whether their cycling attire or not.


I was pretty much beyond comfortably cool on my rides this past weekend because I don’t always practice what I preach, and I dressed for the higher temps that we enjoyed later in the day, but my rides were earlier during the lower temps. The worst part about overheating or becoming too cold is that once it sets in, it’s nearly impossible to overcome during your ride, unless you are able to add or subtract layers. Adding and subtracting is most important this time of year because if you go out for a ride early, you’ll most likely experience a temperature rise up to 30 degrees (here in Kentucky). Similarly, if you ride later in the day during the season changes, that potential 30 degree swing can be dropping. Also remember the importance of nutrition, eating and drinking properly! So don’t be like me, get out and enjoy the ride no matter what the thermometer says, when you layer up properly.