All valid questions from people who don't put in road miles or spend an hour or more on a trail bike.
But I am going to cover a few things in this article that are totally relevant to people who actually do ride and will answer for those who don't ride at the same time.
First let's deal with "why wear Lycra" I prefer to call it technical clothing as the purpose is to wick moisture away from your skin. This does 2 things
- it aids in the evaportitive cooling process to keep you cool when it is hot and helps you to dry out quicker should you become drenched in sweat
- it keeps you dryer when it is cold outside, so on the other side of the coin helps to keep you warm.
But in order to fully enjoy the benefits of this magical clothing you must first be aware of how they work and how you should wear them.
The most common mistake that people will make with these is to wear underwear underneath. This is a big NO NO! These shorts are the underwear. There is a chamois built into them that must fit to your skin in order for it to function properly. It provides padding that no seat can compare to and it performs a wicking function to keep you dry in areas that are prone to chaffing.
If you do not think the look is flattering to your looks, WEAR THEM AS UNDERWEAR! You can wear just about any kind of clothing over the top of them (perhaps something more stylish) and these magical shorts will still function as intended.
Wear your baggy shorts over the top and no one will be the wiser,,,, except that nosy coach who cares about your comfort on the bike and will ask you what you are wearing underneath :)
These shorts are the most important and first part of cycling apparel that you should invest in. DO NOT THINK THAT A PADDED SEAT is going to make your rear end comfy. The only solution is a good pair of bike shorts.
Next on the agenda is a cycling jersey. I know people who resist and try to wear cotton T-shirts on top, but I am here to tell you that is one bad idea for the following reasons. Number 1 that shirt is going to get wet and stay wet, which will make you miserably sticky in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. Plus the fact that T-shirts pack no storage what so ever and do not have a full metal zipper.
Why is said zipper so important you ask? Because it allows you to better regulate your body temperature in both warm and cold weather. So do not be tempted to buy a jersey with a partial zipper as you will limit your ability to stay cool, dry and warm all at the same time. (not to women, sports bras are a good idea to take full advantage of this zipper vent)
The second thing about cycling jerseys is the tech material, just like the shorts, they wick moisture away from you skin and help to keep you dry
The third thing is storage, men's jerseys have 3 large pockets in the back that are great for stuffing a plethora of handy items like your cell phone, first aid kit, glucometer for diabetics, snacks, extra water bottles, layers you need to shed in route, tire repair stuff. Women's jerseys will frequently have a couple of not near as functional pockets as will sleeveless triathlon jerseys. In the case of the tri jersey this is understandable as you have to swim in this jersey, but the women's???? come on, wake up women's jersey designers and start making jerseys that fit women and also have adequate storage!!
For this reason alone, women may consider wearing a men's jersey. I stuff so much stuff in my jersey pockets that I often look like a hoarding hamster!
The next thing to consider is gloves. Start with the fingerless model. These are very important on hot rides as they will keep you from slipping when you do get sweaty. I resisted wearing gloves for a long time as I thought they were just a vanity accessory, until a few months in I got very sweaty on a ride and could hardly hang on to my handlebars. I personally like the Gore gloves as they fit very well.... like a glove :). they don't ride up between my fingers when I wear them for long periods of time and have convenient little loops to help remove them when I am ready. There are a number of good gloves, but Gore happens to be my favorite!
Socks, should be technical but don't have to be cycling specific as running socks will frequently work very well in cycling shoes and have many of the same properties as cycling specific socks.
These are the basics, feel free to ask any questions or make any comments as you see fit.
The answer to a lot of questions on what to wear can be found here The Rules #14 - 18
I will be doing a cold weather specific clothing expose in the very near future, with cold weather approaching and all