What to wear is a question with many answers when it comes to bike commuting. There are many circumstances to consider, including how long your ride is, what kind of changing and/or shower facilities are available at your destination, and what type of weather you’ll experience on your commute. For some resplendently dressed professionals with a cool and calm commute and no changing facilities, a pair of ankle biters and a helmet will suffice. But, for the rest of us, there are a multitude of options to consider, from gloves to shorts to shoes. Lets start with the basics.
One of the most hotly debated commuting topics of all times: to spandex or not to spandex. For many novice commuters, or non-commuters, the act of pulling on a pair of skin-tight lycra shorts before riding into work sounds like a preposterous idea. For other veteran commuters, their rides are short enough that they can leave the spandex at home until the longer weekend rides. However, for someone who commutes a fair distance or commutes everyday, spandex shorts with a chamois offer protection and support that can make your ride much more comfortable (the chamois is that lovely ergonomic seat insert that makes spending time on the saddle far more enjoyable). The compression qualities of spandex shorts help to support your muscles and increase blood flow while you pedal, and the form-fitting nature of the material leads to less chaffing and irritation while youre on the saddle. The simplest way to go is basic black, although the brands and styles available are countless. For those commuters searching for a more stylish or less revealing look, mountain bike or baggy style shorts, knickers and liner shorts all provide the chamois and cycling-specific cut in a slightly different package.
Cycling jerseys for commuters are also a matter of personal preference, but the benefits of riding in a cycling jersey include safety, comfort and utility. Whether you grab the neon yellow jersey or the black jersey, most quality tops have reflective piping on them, providing extra visibility. A cycling jersey is also cut differently than any other moisture-wicking or athletic shirt. With a longer tail and a shorter front, a cyclist can comfortably reach the handlebars without having an excess of fabric bunched up in his or her midsection while the lower back stays protected from the elements. For chilly rides, long sleeve jerseys also have longer sleeves to accommodate the riders position. Finally, cycling jerseys typically have rear pockets, which allow the cyclist to carry anything from his keys and wallet to flat repair necessities.
Cyclist’s palsy and carpal tunnel syndrome are repetitive stress injuries that can be lessened or avoided by wearing gloves. These injuries are the result of compressed nerves, the ulnar and the median, respectively, and by wearing cycling gloves with proper padding, the stress and vibration of the road is greatly reduced. In his book, Complete Medical Guide for Cyclists, Andy Pruitt Ed.D. recommends wearing gloves even for short rides to run errands. Most manufacturers make several different types of gloves; a quality commuting glove has a decent amount of padding and good ventilation. Gloves should fit snug, without restricting circulation to your fingers (numb or purple fingers are not ideal), so that the padding does not bunch or overlap when you place your hands on the handlebars.
Once you’ve figured out your shorts, jersey and glove situation, you’re ready to explore the next steps, such as the wonderful world of clipless pedals and shoes. More to come on the next steps in the future!