Bicycle Commuting: Do I Really Need To Wear Those Unflattering Shorts?

Image by carljohnson, Flickr

Image by carljohnson, Flickr

So now that you’ve found the bike that’s right for you, you need to figure out what to wear. Don’t worry – you don’t have to wear those really unflattering bike shorts (although they’d certainly help). Here’s a list of some of the essentials, and tips on how to wear those cycling shorts without anyone noticing:

  1. There’s nothing more miserable than cycling when you’re cold or wet. Rain gear is essential for keeping you comfortable and giving you the motivation to continue cycling.
    • Galoshes: rubber moulds that go over regular shoes
    • Gloves: waterproof, padded and reasonably warm
    • Pants: slip-on waterproof pants that are lightweight and easily stored in a bag or pannier
    • Jacket: similar to pants, make sure it’s wind and waterproof, lightweight and covers your lower back
    • Hat: can be worn under your helmet
  2. Warmth is all about layering, which traps warm air close to your body. It’s amazing how quickly the body warms up, and if you start sweating and don’t have adequate ventilation, it will actually make you feel colder than you really are. Be aware that any exposed skin may lead to frostbite, so wrap up well.
    • Socks: cold feet are sad feet. Wrap up well with warm socks or double up on regular socks
    • Gloves: something warm that still allows you enough finger movement to work your brakes and gears
    • Base layer:
      • Cycling shorts (which are padded)
      • Long johns: don’t worry; wear them under cycling pants so no one has to see them
      • Thermal top: it’s tight and sits close to the skin to wick away sweat and trap warm air
    • Pants: something comfortable that stretches. Wind and waterproof is advisable
    • Some kind of long-sleeve cotton sweater or t-shirt to trap warm air. However, cotton should not be worn against the skin
    • Jacket should be worn over a warm base layer: look for something lined and warm, but also breathable. Cycling jackets are specifically designed with the rider in mind
    • Hat: warm toque to protect your head and ears
    • Face mask: if it’s really cold out, covering your face is a good idea to stop frostbite, especially when there’s a nasty headwind
  3. Summer is a great time to bike to school or work. The only thing you have to worry about is humidity and sweating.
    • Socks: ankle socks are best here. Something lightweight and breathable is preferred
    • Gloves: fingerless gloves are great because they allow a breeze but still deliver padding to your palms
    • Shorts: cycling shorts are great because they wick sweat away from your body and dry quickly. They also have built-in chamois (padding) in the bum area. If you’re uncomfortable wearing something that leaves little to the imagination, aim for a pair that are lightweight, quick-drying and breathable
    • Top: cycling tops are great for the same reason as shorts. They also have front zippers in case you get hot. Most cycling jerseys have pockets in the back
    • Shades: firstly, and most obviously, they keep the sun out of your eyes. Secondly, they stop dirt and debris from getting in your eyes

Remember, this is just a general guide. You’ll find from experience what works for you and what doesn’t. Dress for the conditions outside, and try not to get caught out in weather you didn’t prepare for. The Weather Network has now become your new best friend.

This is Part Three of a four-part series on Bicycle Commuting. Also check out:
Part One – Bicycle Commuting: The Benefits for Students
Part Two – Bicycle Commuting: Which Bike Is Right For Me?

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