Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Full Metal Zipper - Cycling Clothing Revealed

So I am frequently asked about clothing for cycling and get questions from non cyclists like - why do you guys always wear Lycra?  Why do you wear stuff on your head that makes you look like a bug? What's up with those shoes that make you go Clop, Clop , Clop?

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
  1. 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
  2. it keeps you dryer when it is cold outside, so on the other side of the coin helps to keep you warm.
Going a little further with the skin tight shorts, I know that there are people who are simply embarrassed to wear said shorts but let me tell you now that these shorts are far and above way more important to the comfort and well being of your nether parts than any large padded seat that you could ever possibly imagine.

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

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Getting Started in Cycling for anyone

I started working with complete novice cyclists in 2009 with my wife. 

At first I did not realize that she was a complete novice as I made the mistake that a lot of coaches make by not asking enough questions. She told me that she had ridden bikes as a child and my next wrong assumption was that she had ridden like I had as a child.... at least on some level.

My intial assessment on our first ride, opened my eyes to a lot of things that have since helped me to help a lot of beginner and some not so beginner cyclists.  In this post, I am going to share a few of these lessons with you.

If you are more experienced and think some of this is ridiculous, please keep in mind that what is now obvious to you may not have been in the beginning, so please use my experience to help beginners over some hurdles that are really easy if only we give them a little help and encouragement.

The first thing that I am going to address is seat height and stand over.
Seat height should be adjusted for the length of your legs to the pedals and not to the ground. In other words when you stop your bike for stop signs, stop lights or any other reason, get off the seat and stand over it.
      Like This

Not Like This
This does a number of things for you
  1. allows you to have your seat at the proper height to get a good leg extention
  2. makes you more stable when you stop
  3. gives your butt a break from sitting on the seat
  4. you can take your hands safely off of the handle bars with out danger of falling
  5. you can use said hands to get a drink or eat a power bar
  6. you will look like you totally know how to ride a bicycle
So if you seat height seems to high for you because you can't sit on the seat of your bike when stopped, then it likely is closer than you think.
On the other hand if you can sit comfortably on your seat while placing your feet flat on the ground, you are definitely to low and will suffer the following consequences
  1. cycling will be a lot harder for you than it needs to be and will not be as fun
  2. you will be at risk of injury due to placing excess pressure on your knees
  3. you will be less stable while riding and more likely to have an untimely meeting with the ground - read - Will be in danger of falling
  4. you may be hungry and thirsty all of the time if this set up causes you to not feel comfortable letting go of the handle bars with one or more hands
  5. you will totally look like you do not know how to ride a bicycle and run the risk of becoming a laughing stock....
This is a good place to start even though I know that it will be a bit elementary for many of you.  But we definitely need to lay down a solid foundation for all of our future cycling brothers and sisters.
Please feel free to leave comments, with questions, topics or products that you would like for me to pontificate about in future blogs!