But, as time goes on and your time and distance on the bike increases, you find yourself buying more gear. You realise that your favourite loose-fitting comfortable cotton t-shirt just isn’t cutting it for cycling – it gets wet with sweat, flaps around in the wind, and there’s nowhere to carry your phone and keys! And slowly but surely you start acquiring “kit” (a term used to describe cycling clothing and accessories).
So here is a bit of a brief run-down of what “kit” is available, the advantages of lycra, and different things to be aware of when considering what to buy and how to get the best out of it.
As mentioned above, lycra does have its advantages. Close fitting clothing won’t flap in the wind as much (once you get over about 15km/hr, this becomes very noticeable!), and the sweat-wicking properties are a definite advantage, so that the material stays dry, and depending on the brand and quality of material, won’t smell as bad either!
Cycling jerseys (shirts) also generally have pockets in the back, with elastic across the top, allowing you to carry useful things on the ride (phone, wallet, myki, keys, mini first aid kit, banana, energy bar, light rain jacket…) [see photo]. Some jerseys even have a little zip pouch incorporated as well.
Jerseys may come in short sleeve (most common), long sleeve (for winter), or sleeveless (less common). The zipper on the front may also vary between full-zip - opens fully at the front, and 1/2 zip – which only opens halfway down, meaning you need to take it on and off over your head. When choosing between these options, bear in mind you may have things in the back pockets, and may need to be taking the jersey off to use the toilet in your bib knicks… (see next section).
Welcome to the world of bike jargon! Generally speaking, bike shorts have padding (called a chamois) which gives a bit of protection between your sit bones and the saddle. The chamois will vary across brands, models, quality, price, men’s vs women’s… everyone has a favourite, and everyone is different!
Knicks are padded shorts, have a waistband, and go down to somewhere above your knees. Also available in 3/4 length, which go down to somewhere between your ankle and knee; and full-length which go down to your ankle.
Bib knicks don’t have a waistband, instead they have a singlet-like top attached to the short which goes up over your shoulders [see photo]. The advantage of this is comfort – you don’t have the tight waistband digging in, and also if your jersey rides up a bit while you’re bent over on the bike you don’t end up with a bit of flesh exposed (think of builders here). The disadvantage is that when you need to go to the toilet, you have to take your jersey off in order to get the bibs off your shoulders and drop the shorts. Fine if you have a nice private cubicle with a hook – less fine if you are ‘taking a nature break’!
Here’s a tip [see photo]: wear your base layer (see below) UNDER your bibs, then at least you still have something on your top half when you take the bibs off! For this purpose it’s also a good idea to have a full-length zipper on your jersey so you don’t have to take it off over your head and empty out the contents of your jersey pockets in the process. Bib knicks also come in 3/4 length and full-length options. A lot of people who try bib knicks won’t go back to plain old knicks… including me.
Chamois cream – for longer rides, this is essential to prevent saddle sores. A good cycling specific cream will have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal qualities as well as being anti-friction. It can be placed directly onto the chamois or onto the relevant body-parts. You will most likely want this as you start going on longer rides (duration more-so than distance!). Some brands are more “friendly” to females than others, though once again everyone is different, so it is best to ask around and try some out, and change brands if you are having difficulties.
Tip: as weird as it sounds, you DON’T wear undies under your knicks or bibs - the stitching will create unnecessary chafing and discomfort, and the fabric will hold sweat which may cause bacterial build-up.
So you have your jersey (shirt) and your knicks (shorts). The next thing to think about is your base layer. This is basically an undershirt! They may come in sleeveless, short sleeve, and long sleeve, and are made from a variety of materials depending on the purpose. [see photos, front and back]
Base Layers are great for added warmth in the cold –I prefer a merino base layer for this, as it gives me extra warmth without overheating, and is still quite breathable with great wicking properties, so I don’t end up like a big bucket of sweat.
Base layers can also be great in warmer weather, as an extra layer of wicking. I use a thin base layer in summer, and find it has a cooling effect.
When you get bike grease on your clothing (notice that I said “WHEN” and not “IF”…) – you will spend quite a bit of time searching on Google and asking friends about the best way to wash it out again. Trust me, I’ve been there.
So far, the best solution I’ve found:
- Get some Baby Oil and rub into the stain. The baby oil will absorb the grease.
- Make a paste of laundry detergent or stain removal powder, such as Napisan
- Rub the paste onto the stain and scrub away or use as a pre-wash soaker. The baby oil (with the bike grease absorbed) will wash out much easier than the grease on its own.
- Wash as per usual.
Do you have any better solutions (apart from buying new kit, haha)? Please email me!!
Another point to note with lycra – if you hang it out in direct sunlight for too long, it will deteriorate much faster. So try to hang in the shade where possible!
Questions, queries, suggestions, or just want to get in touch?
Cazz from Bike it Better also offers individual and group skills coaching, regular women’s training rides, and customised training programs. I also have very comfortable Bike it Better women’s jerseys for sale! Visit www.bikeitbetter.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Part II – clothing and kit to help you cope with various weather conditions and other accessories… coming soon!