To Lycra or not to Lycra…

There’s no getting away from it, donning a pair of Lycra shorts and a tight-fitting jersey is making a pretty bold statement. It leaves people in no doubt whatsoever that you are a cyclist…

However, you do have to wonder if all that getup is strictly necessary.

Spandex, aaall Spandex…

Cycling kit leaves very little to the imagination, but there is a good reason for that. Being tight fitting it doesn’t catch the air as you ride, saving energy and reducing the effects of cross winds and head winds. Also, a good pair of shorts will have a thick, effective pad to keep your bottom in good shape on long rides & reduce the risk of saddle sores.

The material is also very breathable, meaning that it helps you to regulate your body temperature, wicks away sweat and dries very quickly. Jerseys also include pockets at the rear for convenient storage of food and other supplies. They’re a must on long rides and for anyone who likes to ride like the clappers.

However, for riding around the city, not so much.

‘Casual’ cycle clothing

Believe it or not you can actually buy “cycle clothing” that looks like the clothing that normal people wear. It looks like regular clothing, apart from the price tag of course. Companies like Levi’s do “commuter” versions of their jeans that are a little more stretchy than their regular jeans. Some will have a different seam arrangement around the crotch to avoid the inevitable discomfort of a rather large seam digging into your nether regions. Commuter versions are often hilariously expensive and harder to find though.

However, this is all frankly unnecessary. Anything you have in your wardrobe right now (within reason…) can be worn on a bike, even a road bike. The main issues will be around the ankles, but you can pick up a pair of clips very cheaply, or even tuck your trousers into your socks.

There are a few pieces of clothing from the world of Lycra that are worth picking up though. A thermal base layer for the winter months is always going to be a good investment. Not only will it keep you warm, it’ll soak up some of the sweat that might make its way onto your shirt.

Secondly, a pair of padded shorts is also a wise investment, particularly if you have a reasonable distance to travel, or you are going to be carrying any luggage on your back. They can be worn under your regular clothes too, but don’t sit around in them all day –that’s likely to result in sores & boils exactly where you don’t want them.

Lastly, a pair of gloves. Gloves are the one piece of safety gear people often overlook. In a fall your hands are often instinctively the first point of contact between you and the ground, meaning the skin that should be on your hands is now all over the asphalt. A pair of padded gloves should keep your palms protected at the very least. Not only that, having cold hands is a thoroughly miserable experience.

A change of clothes

Whether you wear Lycra or not, having a change of clothing handy is highly recommended. You may well get sweaty; you may get rained on or you may get into an altercation with a seagull. It’s good to have spares & to wear a different set of clothes on the commute than you do during the day –depending on how far you have to go, obviously. If you have anywhere at work such as a locker to store clothes in, you could leave some emergency supplies there such as spare socks (definitely spare socks —this is Wales and overshoes have their limits).

We do Lycra, but then we also enjoy long rides, hills and pushing ourselves to exhaustion. However, there’s a lot to be said for pootling around town in your normal clothes too. The main thing is that you are comfortable and that you feel good in what you wear. How you choose to do that is entirely up to you.

Gavin

Bike commuter, randonneur and cat wrangler

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