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  1. #1
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Cycling-specific clothing: myth vs fact

    I am keenly aware that wearing too much lycra on is a real turn-off when you go to the grocery store. Particularly in my case

    All over BF, even in the Commuting forum, you get the message that you need to wear something with a chamois. That clipless shoes are the more efficient way to go. That Louis Garneau wind stopper fabrics are the only way you will survive the winter wind.

    Mostly I only wear what I consider to be "safety" bike clothing like screaming green/yellow tee shirts and jackets. (And a helmet and gloves.)

    But I'm wondering if even this is too much. And I also wonder how effective this clothing is in alerting cars to my presence.

    Reason I ask this is that I suspect a lot of people would seriously consider riding a bike, but they are seriously put off by the clothing cyclists wear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    I am keenly aware that wearing too much lycra on is a real turn-off when you go to the grocery store. Particularly in my case

    All over BF, even in the Commuting forum, you get the message that you need to wear something with a chamois. That clipless shoes are the more efficient way to go. That Louis Garneau wind stopper fabrics are the only way you will survive the winter wind.

    Mostly I only wear what I consider to be "safety" bike clothing like screaming green/yellow tee shirts and jackets. (And a helmet and gloves.)

    But I'm wondering if even this is too much. And I also wonder how effective this clothing is in alerting cars to my presence.

    Reason I ask this is that I suspect a lot of people would seriously consider riding a bike, but they are seriously put off by the clothing cyclists wear.

    Frankly, I don't know anyone who wouldn't ride a bike because they think certain clothing is required. Of course, I don't know many people who didn't ride bikes as kids in jeans and t-shirts.

    Personally I'd say the top reasons (not necessarily in order) folks don't ride are:

    1. Just don't want to exercise if they don't have too.
    2. Afraid of falling and injuries
    3. View a bicycle as a toy, not a means of transportation
    4. A bicycle seat is simply not naturally comfortable. After all even experienced riders experience discomfort at first if they have been off the bike for a while.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    For shorter rides in town, I don't need specific clothing aside from a helmet, which is not an option. I will often use the shoes for my clipless pedals, but these are also comfortable for moderate amounts of walking and they don't look too far out of place.

    When I do the longer rides, the cycle specific clothing comes out. The shorts, however, are not the traditional skin-tight cycling shorts. Instead, I use touring shorts, which have a looser fit and can pass for walking or jogging shorts.
    Life is good.

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    Lycra and chamois definitely have their benefits when riding long distances, or on a fast pace for longer periods. People just starting to ride for fitness and sport seem to begin with regular sports clothing and sooner or later getting lycra and whatnot. Most of the people just riding around usually just wear plain clothes, as dictated by the weather.

    What's getting more common is regular looking clothing specifically designed for cycling. Jackets and shirts have longer sleeves and backs and the shoulders are cut so that they don't constrict when arms are extended. Same with pants, there are chamois liners to use with regular shorts etc.. This kind of clothing that doesn't look out of place off the bike seems to attract a lot of people that want cycling-specific clothes but don't want to be associated with the lycra crowd.

    So it does seem that clothing manufacturers are aware of this issue too.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    When I did a bike trip in cool weather earlier this fall, I wore cycle specific clothing next to my skin, but the jacket and sweat pants I used were not cycle specific. When I bought them, I had paid attention to the arm length, leg length and overall fit to ensure they'd work on the bike. This turned out to be a good combination.

    Before I made the switch to clipless pedals and cycle-specific shoes, I would carefully buy shoes that would work on the bike. I looked for a comfortable fit and firm soles.
    Life is good.

  6. #6
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    All over BF, even in the Commuting forum, you get the message that you need to wear something with a chamois. That clipless shoes are the more efficient way to go. That Louis Garneau wind stopper fabrics are the only way you will survive the winter wind.
    So you've missed the countless posts by myself and others that maintain that the only requirements to ride a bike are a bike and a rider...and beyond that, to use whatever works best for you?
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  7. #7
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    I work in a setting where "business casual" is the normal dress. I mostly commute my 8 km (five miles) to work in work clothes. However, on hot days I wear shorts (over normal underwear) and a T shirt, and change to work clothes after I cool off, or (rarely) shower.

    If I go for a ride on the weekend for exercise (30-40 km), or do a longer charity ride, I wear mountain bike shorts with a chamois.

    I stopped using clipless pedals because it's too big a nuisance to have to deal with changing shoes at work, and I may want to ride in boots on really cold days. The advantages of clipless are greatly overstated and they are really only necessary for hardcore racing or intense off road riding. However, I might put them back on my best bike, which I only use for recreation and not commuting, just to maintain that technique.
    Last edited by cooker; 10-27-10 at 10:44 AM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    II stopped using clipless pedals because it's too big a nuisance to have to deal with changing shoes at work, and I may want to ride in boots on really cold days. The advantages of clipless are greatly overstated and they are really only necessary for hardcore racing or intense off road riding. However, I might put them back on my best bike, which I only use for recreation and not commuting, just to maintain that technique.
    I'd strongly suggest campus pedals, which can accommodate cycle specific shoes and street shoes.
    Life is good.

  9. #9
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    Myth....If I was REALLY worried about my safety,I would wear leathers and a full face helmet and boots,not styrofoam on the top of my head,lycra and glorified tennis shoes.

    Just wear what you feel comfy in,if your turn is up,it doesn't matter what your wearing,the driver won't be paying attention anyways.You could be wearing a clown suit and the first thing out of the drivers mouth will be"I didn't see them"

    That's driver slang for,I was on the phone,I was reading the newspaper,I was applying makeup,I was making coffee,on and on.
    Last edited by Booger1; 10-27-10 at 11:35 AM.
    Everything should be as simple as possible...But not more so.---Albert Einstein

  10. #10
    Senior Member Spudd's Avatar
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    If I'm not going far - which includes all my errand biking - I just wear normal clothes. When commuting to work I wear my work clothes, even in the height of summer. It's only 3km and mostly downhill so I don't get too hot. All the errands I run are within 5km of my house so there's no need for specialized clothing.

    If I'm going out to exercise/train I wear bike shorts with a chamois, and gloves. I don't own any jerseys or clipless pedals. I just wear my running shoes.

    I do try to wear my helmet all the time (mainly because it is where I keep my mirror).

  11. #11
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spudd View Post
    I do try to wear my helmet all the time (mainly because it is where I keep my mirror).
    I haven't yet made the switch to a helmet mirror, but I'm considering it.

    My biggest reason for wearing a helmet is for protection. Also, it's the law around here.
    Life is good.

  12. #12
    Lost on the road of life
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    I just wear street clothes, even when I'm touring. I also wear my helmet. I had a bad spill when I was 12 and my head broke my fall. So I learned that lesson.

  13. #13
    Senior Member crazybikerchick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Newspaperguy View Post
    I haven't yet made the switch to a helmet mirror, but I'm considering it.

    My biggest reason for wearing a helmet is for protection. Also, it's the law around here.
    I really like the take-a-look mirror on sunglasses. If its dark out I'll swap out the lenses for clear ones. I tried a helmet mirror before but could never get it adjusted properly.

    Not a big fan of the law around here. I usually don't bother with the helmet if I'm going on island (where we don't actually have any police, unless someone has complained about the "hornby 500" drivers or something...) but put it on if I'm going to big-island.

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    Senior Member crazybikerchick's Avatar
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    I wear my clipless shoes but its hard to ride without them on a bike where your feet are higher than your hips They are black mountain bike shoes and easy to walk in and don't terribly scream bike shoes except they do have "shimano" written on them which I would rather do without but I was going for which shoes were most comfortable not the aesthetics of the whole thing. Other than that for the most part the only bike-specific thing I wear is a good bike specific rain coat. But yes I do like a coat that is breathable, water proof and windproof

  15. #15
    Senior Member Ultraslide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    Reason I ask this is that I suspect a lot of people would seriously consider riding a bike, but they are seriously put off by the clothing cyclists wear.
    My highly scientific polls have shown that women like cycling type clothing about 50/50 on an otherwise attractive male. My wife, however, spares me no ridicule :-)
    You should absolutely wear full kit to the grocery. Eventually some kind lass will start up a chat with you and you'll know she's the one.

    I think the cost barrier to entry is my most oft heard excuse for not trying to cycle for more than "around the block" type rides.
    All I'm saying is ... large pigs can run faster than you think.

  16. #16
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
    So you've missed the countless posts by myself and others that maintain that the only requirements to ride a bike are a bike and a rider...and beyond that, to use whatever works best for you?
    [Oops.. I should check my Ignore list.]

    Yes... I agree, but wouldn't you say there majority votes in favor of chamois cream?

  17. #17
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    When my commute was 7 miles, cycle clothing wasn't necessary. Now it's 17 miles each way, and a chamois is, well, not quite necessary but appreciated. I have a few jerseys but have come to realize that I prefer cotton on top.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  18. #18
    aspiring island dweller spinninwheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    ...All over BF, even in the Commuting forum, you get the message that you need to wear something with a chamois. That clipless shoes are the more efficient way to go. That Louis Garneau wind stopper fabrics are the only way you will survive the winter wind...

    Mostly I only wear what I consider to be "safety" bike clothing like screaming green/yellow tee shirts and jackets. (And a helmet and gloves.)

    Reason I ask this is that I suspect a lot of people would seriously consider riding a bike, but they are seriously put off by the clothing cyclists wear.
    If you're looking at newbie commuters, there may be that pressure to go with tech fabrics, chamois shorts, etc, etc. But if we, as slightly more seasoned cyclists, impart pertinent information with respect to attire, maybe they wouldn't be put off.

    I'm sure that there are many here who don't wear lycra/chamois stuff. I don't. Not even when I tour. I used to when I toured. But after getting my first Brooks I didn't feel the need anymore. And I know that there are a lot of cyclists who feel the same way.

    Someone that I met here on the island, who also is a cyclist, talked about trying to get people out of their cars and onto bicycles. He mentioned about what winter/rain gear one would need to be able to give it a go. He thought about writing an article for one of the island papers about exactly this topic. Lycra never came up. What did: good jacket, descent footwear, fenders and a reliable bike.

    I'm partial to clipless shoes, good rain gear, glasses with take-a-look mirror, gloves, wool and helmet while on the mother island. In the summer time it's regular shorts, and in cooler weather I wear 3/4 length pants.

    When I was still in TO, if I had to go somewhere somewhat dressed up, I was on my fixie with toe clips, which allowed me to wear dress shoes.

    I think that biggest thing that we can do to get more people on bikes, is to set an example that it can be done, however you want to dress.
    Life is either a wild adventure or nothing - Helen Keller

  19. #19
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    A lot of the bike-specific clothing I see is great for warm weather and mild weather use, but not for rough weather. Riding in rain, cold or snow involves solutions not normally found in the bike clothing stores.

    My experience has been more with cold weather than with wet weather. There are no cycle-specific gloves or mittens I have found which are suitable for riding in -20 C temperatures or colder. There are no cycle-specific shoes for those temperatures. Headwear is also a huge problem. There are clothing solutions, but they are not found among cycle-specific garments.
    Life is good.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Newspaperguy View Post
    A lot of the bike-specific clothing I see is great for warm weather and mild weather use, but not for rough weather. Riding in rain, cold or snow involves solutions not normally found in the bike clothing stores.

    My experience has been more with cold weather than with wet weather. There are no cycle-specific gloves or mittens I have found which are suitable for riding in -20 C temperatures or colder. There are no cycle-specific shoes for those temperatures. Headwear is also a huge problem. There are clothing solutions, but they are not found among cycle-specific garments.
    Last winter was really tough, with temperatures below -20C for weeks on occasion and sometimes dropping below -30C. Winter specific cycling shoes and gloves did work until temps hit about -15C. After that it was all winter hiking wear (merino wool/polyamid blend base layer, medium to heavy wool mid layer and thick softshell outer). Cycling gear manufacturers probably don't expect anyone to actually ride in such low temperatures, or at least not enough people to make it worth for them..

  21. #21
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
    So you've missed the countless posts by myself and others that maintain that the only requirements to ride a bike are a bike and a rider...and beyond that, to use whatever works best for you?
    I guess anybody could ride while wearing a purple sequined coctail dress, 6 inch spike pumps (clipless!), and a wig that is not a platinum shade but titanium.

    But you're the only one who can make it look MAH-velous!

    Last edited by Roody; 10-27-10 at 04:17 PM.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  22. #22
    Senior Member zeppinger's Avatar
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    I don't wear anything bicycle specific for either commuting, around town, touring, or just long rides. I am perfectly comfortable in my normal clothes. Before I buy anything I always make sure that it will also work on the bike (ie long arms, long back, stretchy, no seems in the crotch) because my bike is my main source of transportation.

    IF you start to think about it, in a lot of ways there is also car-specific clothes. I mean, without the advent of the car how practical would it be to wear min skirts, high heels or any of the other impractical crap that most people wear? Next time your out and about take a look at what the car drivers are wearing and ask yourself if they would dress exactly the same way if they had to cycle, take the bus, or walk. Everyone wear transportationaly specific clothes!

    I just don't choose the flaming, superhero, Richard Simmons look.

    Here is me last weekend on a group camping trip. The ride was a bit over 120k to an island off the west coast of Korea. If I were alone I probably wouldn't have even worn the helmet but I didn't want to get chewed out by the safety-nannies on the ride.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  23. #23
    Senior Member Titmawz's Avatar
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    I do not really care about specific cycling clothing and such. I have a jersey and thats about it. People tell me to get the padded shorts (bibs [I believe]) but I have done two centuries with out them and I am still alive.

  24. #24
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I own exactly 2 pair of cycling shorts and 2 jerseys. I have one pair of cycling shoes and they are an old pair that was intended for touring. On anything under 40 miles at my current speed I don't bother with anything cycling specific except for gloves and possibly a helmet.

    Aaron
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  25. #25
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zeppinger View Post
    IF you start to think about it, in a lot of ways there is also car-specific clothes.

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