Why do cyclists wear such funny clothes? Their shirts and shorts are so tight-fitting; they look funny, and can they even be comfortable?
Actually, yes, cycling clothing, or kit, is not only functional, but comfortable. In fact, it’s primary function is to keep you comfortable! Having said that, it is designed to keep you comfortable while riding. Spending the day in cycling clothing while not cycling would not rate high on the comfort index. But how does cycling clothing keep you comfortable? I’ll break it down between shirts and shorts and discuss the merits of each.
I’ll start with the shorts. Cycling shorts are tight-fitting with a chamois pad in them. It does feel awkward the first time you ever put a pair on. But you’ll soon appreciate their benefits. Lycra shorts, even in black colors, help you to stay dry and cool because they’ll wick sweat and dry quickly. The chamois pad is designed to keep chafing from occurring, so that you won’t develop saddle sores. The form-fitting nature of the shorts also massages the muscles, helping to move lactic-acid along. Shorts come in several styles. There are your standard shorts, then there are shorts with shoulder bands built in, called bibs. Many people find them to be even more comfortable because they are not as tight around the stomach. There are also shorts that are baggy that have a liner with the chamois; basically, they are two shorts in one. These are great for mountain biking to provide a little extra protection from briers, etc.when you are riding in the woods. Not all shorts are the same, either. You’ll pay more for a short with a nicer cut or higher quality chamois pad.
Cycling shirts, or jerseys, are often overlooked. I sell a lot of shorts to people who understand their function, but then they wear a t-shirt while riding. But a cycling jersey will also help keep you comfortable while being functional. The wicking material will keep you cool and dry, just like the shorts. Most cycling jerseys have a zipper, whether just half-, three-quarter-, or full-zip. This allows you to open the front a bit (or all the way) for extra air flow and cooling. Finally, the pockets in the back enable you to carry necessities while you ride, like food, phone, spare tube, etc.
There are a few other pieces of cycling clothing that are important, even if less visible. Most riders find gloves to be a great benefit. They allow you to keep a firm grip on the bars, even when your hands get sweaty. They usually have a terry-cloth thumb for wiping sweat, and the padding keeps your hands from going numb. The back is usually made of wicking fabric to keep your hands cool.
Personally, I also never ride without a skullcap or headband. I use a wicking skullcap like this one from Headsweats. Terry-cloth liner around the temples keeps sweat from dripping into my eyes, and the wicking material helps to wick sweat away from my head and dries quickly.
There are of course, other articles of cycling kit that you’ll need depending on the time of year, though I did write a blog post a while back about those. Read that blog post here.
We’ve got a nice selection of jerseys and shorts, so stop in and pick some up. You’ll be glad you did on your next ride!