The Cycling CostumeMay 19, 2006 · psu · 4 minute read
All fitness hobbies require appropriate accessorization. In many ways cycling is one of the most accessory-intensive activities that you can be involved in. As a public service, I will provide you with a list of things you need, and the real reason you need them. Gloves
There is no doubt that gloves are important. The gloves protect your hands from potential harm in a crash, and they have a thin and mostly useless layer of padding to shield your palms from too much pressure from the handlebars. But, none of these reasons are why you want the gloves. The truth is, you don’t crash much, and if you are riding the bike correctly, you should not have a death grip on the bars anyway. So, you may wonder what the real reason for the gloves is.
It is this. All cycling gloves have a little patch of soft fleecy material on their back. You use this area to wipe the snot off your face. That’s what the gloves are for.
There are a variety of cycling specific tops on the market. These clothes seem to serve two purposes. The first is to make you look like an advertising banner. If you are female, the second is to give the males in the group something to stare at. Or at least that’s what I assume the tightly cut sleeveless short mid-riff tops are for.
It is also important that the shirts are made out of plastic. This plastic is marketed as space age material that will suck the sweat and the wet off your skin and literally pour it out on to the road. Really it’s just plastic that absorbs less water than cotton so you don’t freeze to death in a cold rain.
Probably the only really useful thing that the cycling jersey provides is the pockets in the back. In the old days, these would hold tools, food, maps, and so on. These days, they can make the pockets smaller because all you need to bring is a cell phone and GPS.
Bike shorts make you look funny. And, they have that padded area around your ass. The padding is not there to make your seat feel softer. Nothing will do that. The padding is there to be something slippery against your skin on longer rides, when something not slippery would cause, er, damage to your sensitive skin.
The truth is that if you are younger or you are not riding long distances (more than 20 miles or two hours at a time) you don’t really need the shorts. But if you are going longer than that, they are really nice.
Shoes and Pedals
My first bike had plain pedals which I pedalled with plain shoes and no special attachments. Toe clips seemed tedious and annoying, and tricky to get in and out of. Then, one day I was riding to school, and my shoes were wet. My right foot slipped off the pedal, and an instant later, in one swift motion that I can still visualize in my mind, I landed on the top tube of the bike.
I got toe clips the next day.
There is a fundamental truth that it is more fun to ride the bike if your feet are bound to it tightly, and if you are used to this then having your feet dancing and slipping around on the pedals is just pure torture. These days, you can buy wondrous pedals that use spring loaded jaws to lock onto a special cleat and hold your feet to the bike like the it is an extension of the shoe. This is a great way to ride. You can get power into the pedals all the time, and clipping in and out of the pedals is much eaiser than toe clips. The nice ones even hide the cleats in the soul of the shoe, so you can walk around.
The only downside is that you need to buy special dorky shoes to take the cleats. You’d think that someone would make SPD compatible Birkenstock or something.
NIce sunglasses shield your eyes from the bright fireball in the sky that burns us. They also keep the wind and dust off your face and from getting into your eyeballs. These are all useful functions, but they are not worth shelling out the big bucks for fancy Oakley shades.
Really, people wear them so they can, er, observe the other people on the road and surrounding environment, shall we say, _ surreptitiously _.
In addition to all of these items, you should pick up a helmet, for the obvious reasons.
With this information in hand, head out to the REI or you local bike store and load up.