Allow Me to Rant

This post may push peoples' buttons. I don't mean for it to. But I had a great conversation last night with my longest running friend about riding and the gear that goes with it, and I figured I would share some thoughts.
My friend Jeff, along with several others in the office, have been riding more... a LOT more. There's a group of fellas that have caught the cycling bug and have been reeling in hundreds of miles over the summer months. It's awesome.

One thing that comes up in conversation with these guys (and others), is why I don't wear lycra shorts, a bikey jersey and clipless shoes. What's even more surprising to people is that I actually do own all of those things. And though my cycling buddies rock the spandex kit and swear by it all, I just choose not to utilize them.


Because I ride a lot. A whole lot. Are these guys getting more mileage than me? Some weeks, yes. But sometimes I ride more. But the mileage isn't the factor. For me, those fancy clothes cost a lot of money and wear out just as quickly as any other garment. A pair of bibs and a jersey don't serve me any better than my faithful cut-off camouflage pants and a t-shirt. They just don't. I don't need a maxi-pad under my butt and I don't need fancy pockets on my back. My wallet, keys, Leatherman, work badge and cell phone go in my pants pocket... even for a 30 miler... even for a 50 miler. I genuinely believe that any sneakers, any short and any shirt work fine.

The other side of it all is rooted in convenience. Unless I were to invest a great deal of cash in lycra and whatnots, I wouldn't have enough gear to stay fresh for daily riding. If I did two high mileage rides a week, I'd wear that stuff. But I ride daily, a couple times a day. So when yesterday's clothes are still drying from the rainstorm on the way home, I just grab a different pair of shorts and a different shirt. The dirty ones go in the laundry. Not the special laundry. The laundry regular laundry. And there's plenty of old t-shirts and shorts laying on the floor of my closet. No special attention require.

And the fancy clippy shoes? I use them on my mountain bike. The Troll only gets ridden for one purpose. It rides dirt and nothing else. But my other bikes are grabbed at varying times for varying reasons without much planning or forethought. The rides just happen. So I steer away from shoes that have one purpose. I usually wear the shoes that I'll be wearing in a meeting, minutes after I get off the bike. Simple.

How did I arrive here? The more I ride, the more generalities I see in my gear. The more miles, the more weather conditions, the more temperature variations, the more destinations, the more purposes of riding mean that specialty equipment doesn't serve me well.

What about you? How do you feel about cycling specific clothing? And know this... I really don't have an opinion of what you should do. This is what I've found works best for me. But if you're into that stuff, that's great. You're probably riding your bike a lot and I think that's peachy keen. It's the experience that matters, not the fashion choices. That's why you'll find me riding in a Bob Ross t-shirt and Jordache sweatpants.

But I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Get out there.


  1. You know, I agree with everything you said. You don't need a lot of bike specific clothing to enjoy riding your bike.

    I do, however, wear bike stuff nearly 100% of the time. I use lycra and spandex for the wicking properties and the fact that I don't chafe in them. I sweat a lot, and given the length of my commute and the speed at which I typically ride, I'm gonna need a shower when I'm done.

    Besides that, there is something to be said for the "functionality" built into sport specific garb.

    It's not necessary, but I can afford it without too much fuss and sacrifice, so it's a choice I make. Others make the opposite choice based on their own sound reasons.

  2. For some reason I felt compelled to make a Missy Eliot parody song:

    "There's bike shorts on all the boys at work
    And their lycra's better than yours
    Real tight, is better than shorts
    Gotta peel out before I hit the showers."

    That being said -- I have recently purchased riding shorts and jerseys. I can tell a difference between wearing the speciality gear versus when I just wore a t-shirt and regular shorts (certain parts of me feel more comfortable on longer rides, and because I sweat a ton the moisture wicking material helps regulate my temperature and feels better than cotton). I agree with you that not everyone has to have it, and that it's a lot more convenient (and cheaper) to use what you have, but I am glad I have this stuff and plan to use it well.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying but at the same time I wear both depending on the situation. My long road rides on my road bike get the super hero clothing treatment along with being clipped in and the same goes for my mountain bike. However there are DEFINITELY times where this stuff doesn't fly. On my commuter and on my Paramount road bike casual is key. Having to change clothes, shoes or pedals before a ride or going into the grocery is a pain and the casual clothes keep the rides, well, casual. This allows for more time to stop and smell the roses and take in the sights! Which is why we all ride to begin with and that's for the enjoyment and the smiles it brings.


  4. i find a comfort in riding 30 miles with chamois shorts, but a greater joy in jeans. my soul feels good when i realize a simpler way.

    1. To be clear - my soul feels devastated about the brooks seat, but my ass will love it.

  5. If i'm doing a work commute, or just riding around on short rides i generally don't put a jersey or shorts on. But If i am going out for a long ride, I'll wear a jersey and shorts. That being said, if those are dirty and i am going on a longer ride, i just put on a pair of trousers and a tee-shirt.

    I'll put on clipless whenever i'm riding just because If i am commuting, they come off when i get to work, and even when i am not commuting, they are built in such a way that i can still walk like a normal person in them. I went with the mountain bike style of shoe for this exact purpose. I like clipless because it just feels more efficient.

    Its not a necessity to be sure, but I am a fan of the pockets on the back of cycling jerseys. nothing gets in the way and they are relatively easy access. Plus when cotton gets wet it gets cold, while whatever magic these jerseys are made of doesn't near as much.

    This is another reason i'm sticking with my old schwinn, Its a well put together bike, rides fast and true and its a blast to ride. Sure i may look at new bikes on the internet from time to time ( the surly pacer has caught my eye.) but really, I can't see what difference a new bike will provide that my current trusty steed can't do.

    To steal a line from you "get out there." =)


  6. As someone who sees most of you guys arrive to work in the morning, I must agree with you and plead for some more loose fitting clothing among the commuters.

  7. I gave up the bike specific stuff for a long time, but then I started (TMI warning!) getting really bad saddle sores this past summer. I went back to chamois. And I was also training to do the Leadville 100, so I "needed" the clippy shoes and fancy pockets.

    As winter bears down on me like a steamroller I think I may stick flat pedals back on everything and go back to my regular clothes.

  8. I think it depends on the bike.

    I've jumped on the wool bandwagon- some cycle specific, some not. Wools wicks well, and dosen't smell ride after ride. Sure, it's expensive, so I can only afford to get a piece here or there as budget allows. But- the pieces are also working their way into my everyday wardrobe.

    I use wool cycle tights and clippy shoes on my fast bike--because, well, it's a bike meant for that kind of riding. I change clothes when I arrive at work, so there's no added complexity to wearing a cycle-specific kit. It's also nice to have all the wardrobe (and comfort that brings) steal an hour of time on the commute in and stretch out a long ride.

    The amount and frequency of utility riding around home has changed my thinking on the (unrealistic) idea of a single bike to fit all occasions, and a single type of clothing. Grocery runs, school pickup, family rides are challenging enough to get four kids out the door, yet alone deal with wardrobe. Maybe that's why I'll be building up an Xtra with flat pedals and a well-broken Brooks.