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The Cycling Clothing Rules of Engagement

I was riding a short recovery ride the other day. Usual route, an hour from home. All of a sudden I felt a ‘hitchhiker’ behind me. It got me thinking of my last Instagram post asking everybody’s preference: riding up front or in the slipstream, as suddenly he cycled beside me and partly out breath, complimented me.

He asked me if I was a professional cyclist, cause: a. I was riding a pretty fast pace (remember this is all relative) and b. I looked like a pro (I guess that is all relative too).

Well, with regards to looking like a pro (fake it till you make it ;-)) I can start by explaining the simple rules of Cycling Clothing Engagement:

Helmet

Use your head, wear a helmet. Sounds pretty logical but unfortunately I still meet the occasional cyclist without one. I have collected multiple helmets over the past three years of cycling (hey, I am a woman! Hell, I bought more helmets than handbags). And still have not figured out which one exactly suits my head best. But anyway, as long as you are wearing A helmet, you are pretty safe. And helmet hair? Don’t care! You have been out there. You have just enjoyed a great ride. You almost feel like a pro. Show everybody! Wear your helmet (hair) with pride! And for those without helmet hair: you look pretty cool with that helmet, so wear your helmet with pride!

BIB short

BIB shorts. Bib shorts are cycling shorts that are held up by a bib (integral suspenders/braces) instead of an elastic waistband. Pro and serious riders tend to prefer bib shorts over non-bib shorts due, to the discomfort that often occurs with an elastic waistband, such as tightness (digging into skin) and chafing. Don’t be fooled by the name, because BIB shorts can be long or short. If you wear leg warmers you are still able to ride short BIB shorts in winter. I prefer long BIB shorts when it is cold, as no hair on my head (under my helmet) will consider taking off my leg warmers during my winter ride.

According to Wikipedia, (BIB) cycling shorts provide a couple of advantages which will lead the way in you feeling like a pro when in the saddle:

  • Cycling shorts reduce wind resistance, increasing aerodynamic efficiency;
  • They protect the skin against the repetitive friction of the legs against the bicycle seat or frame;
  • They provide support to the genitals;
  • They draw sweat away from the skin to prevent chafing and rashes, and to cool the rider down through the process of evaporation;
  • They compress the legs, which can help combat muscular fatigue;
  • They do not get caught up in the bike chain or other parts of the bike;
  • They reduce the weight of a rider’s clothing (compared to wearing denim, gym shorts or baggy shorts); and
  • They improve comfort during long rides with extra padding in the seat area called cycling pad.

Historically, cycling shorts were made of knit black wool, which hides wear marks caused by sitting on an oiled leather saddle for extended periods of time, with a chamois leather padding inside the shorts in the crotch area, which reduces chafing from the bicycle saddle.

Those days are gone and modern cycling shorts are often made of spandex (Lycra) with a synthetic chamois which acts as an elastic interface between the cyclist’s body and the saddle, and are produced in a variety of shapes and styles to suit the needs of different riders.

There is a difference between men and women, BIB short-wise. As I started cycling, I was given a BIB short from well-known very expensive brand. Super happy with it, only to realise months later (outch) that this was a men’s BIB short.

After this personal word of advice, I would also like to advice you to do spend a bit more on a good pair of BIB shorts. You will earn this back by saving up on chamois creme needed. Chamois creme is also known as happy bottom bum butter or ass magic. I think no further explanation is needed.

Shirt

Want to look like a pro? Best to match your shirt and BIB short. You can wear your shirt quite tight. As tight as you prefer and still are able to move comfortably. But remember, you are wearing an all-over lycra outfit and the rest of us have to look at you. So do us a favour and look in the mirror before you leave the house.

Gloves

Gloves, love them or hate them. Or simply wear them as they have a multipurpose function. They keep your hands warm in winter time but are definitely not a winter-only accessory. They also keep you comfortable during bumpy rides as they can reduce the impact. Apart from that they are perfect to swipe off sweat or nasal fluids during your ride. Keep this in mind whenever you shake hands with a glove wearing cyclist, next time.

Glasses

Cycling glasses have evolved heavily over the past couple of years. From reasonable, mediocre size to windscreen proportions. Not everybody is a fan and ofcourse you are entitled to wear whatever you like. But looking at the pro-cyclists today, I can only say: size does matter!

Shoes

Cycling like a pro calls for the need for cycling shoes. And this, for a starting cyclist can be a thingy. Clicking your shoes onto your pedals asks for a lot of guts at first and focus thereafter. Don’t worry, you will not be the first and definitely not the last who forgot to click out with the following embarrassing not so pro looking moments.

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