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Does Clothing Matter?

Old 09-04-21, 10:18 AM
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UnCruel
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Does Clothing Matter?

I own some lycra shorts and some cycling jerseys, and I've worn them, but these days I mostly find myself wearing civilian t-shirt and shorts when I ride. On a FB group awhile back, someone was asking for recommendations on clothing, and I was about to respond to the effect that it hardly matters, but then I saw someone had posted quite the opposite, suggesting it's very important and that you should spend as much as you can afford, because you get what you pay for. That exchange has been sulking in the back of my head for awhile. Now I've just acquired my first legit road bike, and I'm wondering what I'm missing in the clothing department.

I thought I'd ask the group here: What benefits do cycling wear bring, and how significant are those benefits?
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Old 09-04-21, 10:22 AM
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Without getting too far into the science of it....unless you are riding at high levels and long distances then the clothing choice probably doesn't matter outside chaffing and comfort.

There are aspects of the clothing that matter, otherwise, such as the chamois, wind resistance, ease of reaching things being carried on your person, and so on. There are aspects relating to your muscle(s) having compression but surely someone else will offer a more in depth reply to that.
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Old 09-04-21, 10:23 AM
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1) Chafing in your crotch
2) Butt comfort
3) Keeping cool
4) Managing sweat

That's all I care about. Better cycling clothing usually does those things better.
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Old 09-04-21, 10:28 AM
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If you ride a lot then it does matter.

Cycling specific clothing does help reduce chafing and sweat absorption and cooling.

Cotton is just about the worse since once it gets wet, it stays wet.
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Old 09-04-21, 10:32 AM
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For leisurely rides at low speeds, wear whatever you want. As speed, time, and distance increase, clothing will have a bigger impact, both in terms of comfort and performance.
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Old 09-04-21, 10:35 AM
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I don't own any cycling costumes, because there are plenty of non-cycling specific clothing made from fabrics which makes them suitable for cycling and other athletic activities. I prefer to blend in and look normal when in public places.
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Old 09-04-21, 11:48 AM
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What benefits do cycling wear bring, and how significant are those benefits?
I never cared for cycling specific clothing until I started cycling longer, further and more often.

I use to think why would I need those pockets on the back of my jersey. Now I wouldn't ride without them.

I use to like riding without gloves, but I found that gloves sort of add support and structure for my hands on long rides. And though I can't prove it yet, I feel they'll let me keep more of my palm if I ever go down and stupidly stick my arms out to stop my fall.

I use to wonder why I needed bike shoes with cleats, but when I started pedaling faster than 80 rpm, I realized that I needed something to keep my feet on the pedals when faster than that and riding on bumpy surface.

I use to wonder why I needed a helmet. Thankfully I had one on when I crashed and got a concussion that I can only imagine would have killed me or left me a vegetable with out the helmet.
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Old 09-04-21, 11:58 AM
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This is a perennially popular subject for trollery and inverse snobbery. Aside from that, ride awhile and you'll figure out what you like.
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Old 09-04-21, 01:00 PM
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My usual rides are 15-20 miles and I wear a t-shirt and running shorts (left over from when I could run). I have padded bike shorts I wear for rides more than 20 miles. I'm not sure I need them, but I wear them anyway on longer rides. However, I've been riding this year with a group, and I wear cycling jerseys when I do the group rides--purely for fashion reasons, trying to look like I fit in.
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Old 09-04-21, 01:11 PM
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Depends
20 mile ride to the beach and back on a cruiser on a sunny day - not so much.

Mountain century that starts at 30F and ends at 80F, with morning rain - you bet.
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Old 09-04-21, 01:59 PM
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Bike shorts can do a couple things .... first, the chamois can help prevent saddle sores, which really suck ... especially if you get them early in a tour.

Second, they can keep the dangling modifiers up and out of harm's way. I never even considered wearing those (insert no-longer-acceptable sexual orientation slur)-looking spandex pants—I was fine in cargo shorts---until something important slipped between my thigh and the seat as I made a full-power acceleration into traffic. The impromptu vice worked perfectly, providing maximum crushing force where it was least wanted. I ordered cycling shorts as soon as I got home.

You can still wear cargo shorts over spandex--but between not abrading holes in my buttocks and not crushing my grapes, I'd say the benefits of cycling shorts have won me over.

Any sweat-wicking clothing works .... I have a bunch of Hanes Kwik-Dri (or whatever) T-shirts onto which I have sewn back pockets because real jerseys can't be had for sane and sensible prices any more. Yes, the jerseys do the job a little better, but unless it is very hot or I am planning a longer ride, the t-shirt is good enough.

Gloves---I find when I don't wear gloves my hands get a little sore after a while--I guess even the minimal padding actually helps, even if it is mostly vibration absorption.

As with most things .... whatever works for you, works for you.

I could not care much less if I "fit in" with other people, but I care very much about my comfort and the functionality of my clothing. That doesn't mean wanting to "fit in" is any less important or valid. Some people think certain clothes look stupid, some people think those clothes look cool (some people think wearing your pants around your knees is the coolest .... man, kids were dumb when I was kid but they are Much dumber nowadays.)

Wear whatever you want, but if you find issues, look for alternatives ... but you don't need me or anyone else to tell you that.

One word on "You get what you pay for": yeah, if only. Fact is, you can spend $300 for bib overalls or you can spend less than a third and get the same quality .... just not the same brand name. You can buy $30 socks or $3 socks ... sock technology is pretty much fully developed and maximum sock-tech can be achieved in the $3 socks, but again, no cool logo. You can get generic jerseys or ugly jerseys no one wants on close-out, and they work the same as the $60 jerseys or the $90 jerseys ... but if you want to wear the kit of your favorite trade team, you will have to pay up. Doesn't mean the expensive jerseys are made better .... might even come from the same factories---but you get to wear what you want.

I have found that if you go Super-cheap---Ali-Express, made-in-China cheap--- Then you will get what you paid for, which is you paid to get used, and the clothing you get might be so flimsy it is amazing it didn't evaporate during shipping. Once you get a few quality levels above that, the stuff all tends to last and work about as well.

In my limited and possibly deluded experience.
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Old 09-04-21, 02:03 PM
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I have moisture-wicking hi-vis T-shirts from Walmart, and short-inseam hiking shorts (with pockets) worn over my usual underwear briefs that I wear on rides of less than 30 miles or on my work commute (12.5 mi each way). Over that, and I'll wear a pair of chamois-lined cycling shorts under those hiking shorts, and I'll opt for my 30+yr-old cycling 'touring shoes' instead of my work shoes... I don't ride as a kitted-out MAMIL, ever!
Then there are my vintage-look crochet-back cycling gloves and my helmet du jour, and sunglasses...
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Old 09-04-21, 03:20 PM
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I started out in normal clothes and it's workable, even long distance, but in time I found that cycling specific clothes are ideal for cycling. Gasp!

Especially when chasing performance it is a big help, but the good stuff is also really comfortable and practical on the bike.
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Old 09-04-21, 03:45 PM
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The only piece of cycling-specific clothing I use is shorts; they do seem to make a difference in comfort. MY top is a t-shirt, shoes are court-style (tennis) on flat pedals. I do wear cycling specific gloves in the summer, but in winter I use a pair of full-fingered work gloves from the local 'big-box' hardware store. And I wear a bicycle helmet if you consider that to be 'clothing'. Yes, I look like a nerd out there on the road. Experiment a little and use what works best for you.
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Old 09-04-21, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
This is a perennially popular subject for trollery and inverse snobbery. Aside from that, ride awhile and you'll figure out what you like.
Absolutely! There are some proper bell ends on this forum and a thread like this will showcase them perfectly.
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Old 09-04-21, 04:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Juan Foote View Post
Without getting too far into the science of it....unless you are riding at high levels and long distances then the clothing choice probably doesn't matter outside chaffing and comfort.
That depends on what you consider to be "long distance". I got back into riding a little over a year ago and really struggled with saddle sores and comfort just doing 25-30 mile rides. My favorite saddle and bib shorts became my worst enemies. I miss the days when I could borrow some random person's bike and do 50 miles on it no question.
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Old 09-04-21, 05:40 PM
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I wear cycling specific clothes when not doing my relatively short commute. Up here in British Columbia we have a chain of sporting goods stores called MEC or Mountain Equipment Co op. That's where I get my cycling clothes as they're a lot more affordable. I guess you would call them mountain bike shorts but they're incredibly comfortable, have pockets for your keys and have a high waste at the back, are moisture wicking and they don't scream that you're a cyclist when walking around in public. I also wear cycling jerseys but they aren't covered with large logo's, just plain colored or hi vis with a small MEC logo. I think the only items I have that are a major brand are my gloves which are Pearl Izumi, and the logo isn't visible, so you could say that I'm an incognito cyclist, LOL!
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Old 09-04-21, 06:10 PM
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Jerseys with front pockets are SO necessary for your mask and vax card to be handy.
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Old 09-04-21, 06:22 PM
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I have found quite a few very affordable pieces of very functional, stylish cycling clothing from non-name manufacturers. There are those who can afford Assos, Castelli and other high end brands, but what I have found does what it is supposed to do for cooling, wicking and comfort on 50-60 mile rides and saves me a lot of coin. No need to wear cargo shorts and T shirts (unless you want to) when you can find affordable cycling specific clothing for a few dollars more.
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Old 09-04-21, 06:32 PM
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Try stuff. See what you like. This is one of those "the bitterest fights are the ones with small stakes" arguments. No one can tell you better than you what is and isn't comfortable, and for every logical reason for x item, there's an equally logical argument against it. You'll go nuts trying to sort through everybody's contradictory bs.

BTW, I find cotton extremely comfortable and cooling. A lot of people do. That's why t shirts are go to summer wear for so many people.
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Old 09-04-21, 07:01 PM
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Cycling clothes are made the way they are for a reason - shorts that fit snugly support you and prevent you sitting on your junk. A well-fit chamois provides a good interface with the saddle. The materials wick sweat and don't get clammy. If you have bird legs, it might not be as important, but if your legs are thicker, the shorts prevent your skin rubbing on the nose of the saddle. Bib shorts don't cut into your waist and don't work down as you ride, exposing your butt to the world.

Jerseys have pockets in back so they can carry your stuff out of the way. They're snug so they don't catch air, flapping and acting like a parachute. Also because they fit snugly, the stuff in the back pockets stays behind you, not sliding around the side. The material wicks sweat and dries quickly.

You don't need to spend a lot to get perfectly workable shorts and jersey. In fact, because fit is important and individual, spending a ton on something like bib shorts could lead to expensive disappointment. The shorts I wear cost $100, and I don't think I've ever spent more than $70 on a jersey. You could spend less and be happy with what you get. If you find a brand and a model you like, buy more of those. Keep them clean - I make it a rule not to wear bibs or socks more than once before I wash them. I wash everything after Sunday's long ride and hang them to dry, and by Tuesday, everything's clean and dry and ready to wear again.
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Old 09-04-21, 07:32 PM
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Just keep on riding!
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Old 09-04-21, 07:51 PM
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My experience exactly. Except for the helmet, I've never felt like I needed to ride without one.
I rode in cotton t-shirt a few weeks ago, and was amazed how heavy it was once soaked with sweat.

Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
I never cared for cycling specific clothing until I started cycling longer, further and more often.

I use to think why would I need those pockets on the back of my jersey. Now I wouldn't ride without them.

I use to like riding without gloves, but I found that gloves sort of add support and structure for my hands on long rides. And though I can't prove it yet, I feel they'll let me keep more of my palm if I ever go down and stupidly stick my arms out to stop my fall.

I use to wonder why I needed bike shoes with cleats, but when I started pedaling faster than 80 rpm, I realized that I needed something to keep my feet on the pedals when faster than that and riding on bumpy surface.

I use to wonder why I needed a helmet. Thankfully I had one on when I crashed and got a concussion that I can only imagine would have killed me or left me a vegetable with out the helmet.
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Old 09-04-21, 07:56 PM
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I find a good pair of cycling bibs to be quite comfortable on longer rides but if not a good pair of moisture wicking underwear ideally something that isn't loose and baggy is good. In this case ExOfficio Give and Go is the way to go, it is my daily wear and highly recommended. In terms of upper wear I do like a cycling jersey, those rear pockets are quite handy to keep things like my cellular telephone and these days my bagged mask and also quite handy for holding other things will I am in a store or something. However a good moisture wicking shirt will also work fine. The idea here is moving moisture away from skin and out of your clothing rather than with pure cotton soaking it up and potentially chafing. You can wear a pair of shorts on top like I did today with my Fox Shop Shorts (and most days) or you can go straight cycling clothing. On longer rides cycling clothing is quite handy on shorter stuff it is not a big issue but moisture wicking is fairly important for comfort and comfort is key.

This also applies to winter wear cycling or not. Cotton makes a poor base layer because it holds onto moisture so the layer closest to your skin gets cold and stays wet and that is not good.
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Old 09-04-21, 08:06 PM
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I quit wearing bike specific kits years ago. Padded shorts cause more problems than they solve. I wear coolmax long briefs from Duluth, cargo shorts and button down wicking fishing shirts. On the bike or off.
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