Thursday, September 8, 2016

#10WeeksTo100 - Week 5 Getting Your Riding Gear In Order

For my first years of cycling in the early `70's, while growing up in rural Michigan, figuring out where to find cycling gear was as big a challenge as learning what you needed.  I started with magazines and books on cycling, where they touted the value of wool (for everything, it seemed) and the need for a quality chamois (whatever that was?).  Nearby Ann Arbor had a few shops with the good European stuff; thankfully, for my paperboy/dishwasher budget, Cool Gear came along to offer some good (and not so good) shorts and jerseys in cotton and nylon, that I used for my first few seasons.

However, my first true cycling gear came only after I survived an 80-mile charity ride in cut-off jeans and a tank top.  That tank top left me with second degree sunburn across my neck and shoulders,  and shedding skin for weeks.  As for the cut-offs,  I bought my first pair of cycling shorts my next trip to a bike shop, and never did more than ride to work in jeans again.

Many of the challenges you face on longer rides are made easier by gear designed for the job.  The right cycling gear keeps you comfortable for hours in the saddle, protects you in changing weather conditions, and is light enough to always have along.   You will course want the basics, like cycling shorts,  jerseys and gloves.  However, over the years I found a many other items that I consider essential for my longer events.  The right gear requires a moderate investment, however it can be acquired over a couple of seasons.  You will also find that with proper care, quality cycling gear will also give you many seasons of service.
You have to be ready for any weather on event day.
TOSRV 2014

Body and Bike Contacts Points:  Most novice riders concerns about aches and pains on long rides are from the bike/body contact points, and this the gear you should look into first.

Hands: Start with a quality cork style handle bar tape, and add gel pads underneath.  Most cyclist will will also use a quality pair of padded cycling gloves.  (Bike fit and technique also make a difference in hand comfort.)

Saddle:  As you ride greater distances, a firmer saddle may be more comfortable.  If you are riding a road bike, a wide padded saddle may actually be worse for comfort and interfere with efficient riding. If in doubt, a bike fitter can help you with a saddle choice.

Shorts: You should have at least a two pairs of quality cycling shorts. Since you need to wash them regularly, it is good idea to have at least 3 or 4 pairs. Plan on wearing our your best pair for the longest days (and you can also use your older and “economy” shorts on your shorter work out days).  If you buy a new pair for an event, be sure to wear them for a couple of workouts prior to the big day to avoid any surprises.

Shoes: Novice riders frequently overlook the importance of cycling footwear, which provide both support and proper alignment.  Even if you are not ready to "lock-in" with a pedal system (SPD, Look, Speedplay, etc.) for proper position, an entry level cycling shoe offers more support than a running shoe.   The more you plan to ride, the more important your foot position on the pedal and pedaling technique will become.

Eye Protection: All day exposure of your eyes to bright light and wind will leave you a feeling tired before your body is physically tired. A quality pair of wrap around glasses will also protect your eyes from dust and insects while you are riding.   If you wear prescription lenses (like me), you will find options  available for you.

Dressing for event success:  Along with cycling shorts, you should consider the following:

Jersey:  A good jersey has it all, handy pockets for snacks, breathable fabric, a zipper that let’s you adjust for climbing (and descending!) and a cut designed for riding comfort.

Wind Jacket/Wind Vest / Arm Warmers / Knee Warmers: Ideal for a cool morning start, these lightweight accessories turn your summer wardrobe into 3-season wear.  The can be easily removed and will fit in a jersey pocket or a generous seat bag or rack trunk.  Tip: Dress your core for conditions at the rides mid-point, and then add easy to remove layers for the early hours, especially in cool weather.

Rain Gear: If you are on a point-to-point ride in temps below 65 degrees, hypothermia is a very real concern if you are caught without proper rain gear.  You can find lightweight rain jackets that will pack in jersey pocket, ideal for traveling light.  A touring cyclist on extended trip may want something little heavier that can be use both on and off the bike.

Protect Your Skin: Any time you ride longer than an hour you should use an "sport" rated sunscreen, and re-apply at least once during the day.  Be sure to protect your arms, the back of neck, the top of head, and your nose.  And don't forget having sun protection for your lips form the sun and wind too.

While not required, the right gear will make much easier to enjoy the event, no matter what Mother Nature throws your way.   It can also help to insure your event is memorable for the right reasons, and ready to prepare for your next big ride.

Week 5 of the #10weeksto100. 

Continue to Week 6: Training Aches and Pains

The series is intended as mentoring, rather than athlete specific coaching. The being the case, these are broad, general guidelines of a riding style and philosophy. You can find the series intro here - Preparing for Your First Long Ride or Century

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