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Once you get over your initial, often negative, reaction to the look of bike shorts, you’ll be surprised by the comfort and functionality the comes with the tight spandex shorts. The main purpose of bike shorts is to provide comfort during long bike rides. Bike shorts are designed specifically for the needs of a cyclist. These needs include padding in the right places, strategically places seams, tight-fitting, flexible materials like Lycra and spandex that reduce air resistance and allow a full range of motion on the bike, and the right amount of breath-ability and wind block.
There are a variety of bike short styles and designs, including those that look like regular shorts with a padded inner liner. The best way to choose the right bike shorts for you is to decide the type of riding you intend to to most often and buy shorts for that purpose.
You don’t necessarily need special clothes to ride a bike. But having the right attire can make the ride more fun and comfortable. Learn more here about what to look for in different pieces of cycling wear, as well as reviews of the best and most popular products.
So some well-meaning person tells you that to stay warm in cooler weather, you’ve got to “dress in layers.” Well, what is that supposed to mean? Every time someone talks about layers I think about onions and how starting at the outside, you can see the distinct layers that can be peeled away to gradually expose the core. Layering your clothes follows the same principle, only without the strong smell and all the crying. Unless you’ve been on a particularly difficult ride.
When you dress in layers, you generally have three different types of clothing on your body, each with a distinct purpose. Let’s walk through them one by one and with each, talk a bit about what you’re trying to accomplish.
The base layer is the one closest to your body. Its purpose is to help you stay warm but not get too hot, and most importantly, should serve as a way to carry perspiration away from your core. Think high-tech long underwear. Believe it or not, wool is an excellent material for this, and some synthetic materials are suitable as well.
The purpose of the middle layer is to insulate and at the same time to still continue to move moisture away from your body. This layer is “fluffier” than the base layer if that makes any sense, keeping warmer air in close to your body yet allowing it to still circulate around you so that you don’t get too warm in periods of high activity.
Of the three layers, this one will vary the most depending on the temperature and the individual person. In addition to the actual air temp, your level of activity plus the amount of sunlight and wind combined with your level of fitness and metabolism will all factor into how much insulation you will require in this middle layer.
Polyester fleece is a good choice for an insulating layer. Wool turtlenecks or vests also work well. Some good examples of middle layer clothing are the all wool Castelli Armando Long Sleeve Jersey.
The outer shell primarily serves as a windbreaker and also works to thwart any precipitation you may encounter. This layer’s first job is to keep you dry; the warmth you’ll experience comes from what’s underneath. The outer shell should be breathable to help get rid of the moisture you’re generating through perspiration; strategically placed vents (such as under the arms) are a big help to this end. Nylon is the most common material for lightweight outer shell garments; heavier ones are going to be made from GoreTex or another one of the patented fabrics. A lightweight example of this type of outerwear is the Louis Garneau Winddry Jacket; the Cannondale Hydro Jacket is one that runs a bit heavier.
Every day is a great day for riding when you pair this principle of layers with appropriate coverings for your hands, head and feet. With the right gear you can safely and comfortably ride on days when the temperature dips well below freezing and take your bike out in weather that before you might never have considered for riding.
What’s the point of cycling gloves? Somebody asked me that recently in that tone of voice that implied bike gloves are one of those accessories that are more about image than substance. I mean, c’mon. Do you really need gloves for riding a bike?
Actually, many cyclists find that gloves are an important part of their gear and wouldn’t be found on the bike without them. Let’s take a look at the seven main functions that bike gloves perform.
You know that being out on a bike can make you pretty sweaty – especially if it is one of those warm and humid days. And that means your hands are wet, too. Like clothes with wicking technology, a good pair of gloves will help keep your hands dry, which means that you can maintain a better grip on the handlebars.
The gloves also serve to trap the sweat that would otherwise be likely to drip into your shifters. And over time, moisture – and especially perspiration because of its high mineral content – can cause those components to deteriorate.
If you’ve ever spent a couple of hours or more on a bike, you probably realized that, somewhat surprisingly, cycling can be pretty hard on your hands. From the constant pressure on your palms, to the wear on your fingers from running your shifters through the range of gears, it doesn’t take long for calluses or blisters to develop. A pair of bike gloves can give your skin the extra layer of protection you need to be comfortable, even on the longest ride.
You’ll notice that many pairs of gloves on the market today have some type of cushioning, such as gel padding, etc., built into the palms. The reason is that gloves with this padding serve a very useful function in absorbing shock from the road that would otherwise be transferred to the rider.
Think about it this way. When you’re riding, whether on a road or mountain bike, and you hit some bumps in the road, the shock and impact from that carries straight up from the front fork through your arms and into your shoulders. That’s why you may be achy in that area or your neck and back after a longer ride. When wearing bike gloves, the cushions in the palms act as shock absorbers, helping to dampen some of the energy being transmitted up from the bike before it gets into your body. Not only will this help the ride feel smoother as you go, but it will also help reduce those aches you feel when you are done.
Another reason many cyclists wear bike gloves is to keep their hands warm. (Bike gloves are still gloves, after all!) For cool weather riding, glove choices can range from regular bike gloves that just help break the wind, to glove liners that help add layers. For extremely cold weather riding are products like thick “lobster claw” gloves or Moose Mitts, which are thick, well-insulated mittens that attach to the handlebars of your bike and cover your regular biking gloves. This type of gear allows you to still grip the handlebars and work the brakes and gear shifters like normal.
What do most people do as they start to fall? They put their hands out to try and catch themselves, to break their impact as they hit the ground. If you’ve ever fallen like this, you know that you can really tear up your palms when they go skidding across pavement or rocks. A pair of bike gloves can give you the protection you need to save your hands and keep the gravel and grit out of your hands and on the street where it belongs. They may be completely shredded when you take stock of things after the wreck, but tearing up a pair of gloves is a whole lot better than wrecking your hands.
Granted, this is a secondary benefit of wearing bike gloves, but still a very important one. Think about it this way: if you knew you were going to wipe out, would you rather be wearing gloves or not have them on?
It mainly happens when you ride in colder temps. My buddy calls ‘em “snot rockets.” You know what it is: you’re on your bike and your nose starts running. So what do you do? Most of us don’t keep a hankie handy to pull out for a delicate toot. You wipe your nose on the back of your thumb, that’s what you do. And glove makers have taken this into account.
If you notice, many pairs of bike gloves have a fleece lining on the back of the thumb. That’s exactly what this is piece of material is for. One hand off the handle bar, one second, one wipe. Problem solved.
On top of all these other features, wearing a pair of snazzy bike gloves can make you look and feel cool. It’s like being a kid and getting a new pair of sneakers: instantly you feel like you can run a lot faster. And there is nothing wrong with buying a pair of bike gloves for this reason alone. Image is everything, right?
So, if you’ve never ridden with a pair of bike gloves, give ‘em a try. There are lots of things that can do to help your riding. And at the least, you’ll find yourself (like the kid with the new shoes), riding twice as fast as before you had gloves. At the very least, you’ll be so cool, it’ll feel like you are!