Don’t Wear Panties with Your Chamois or What to Wear on Your Bike
So you’re ready to ride your bike, but what the heck do you actually wear? I am a firm believer that it’s your ride and you should be comfortable, so whatever that means for you, then go for it as long as you are safe and happy. Road cyclists love their aero kits, mountain bikers prefer a more casual look, and commuters wear anything from suits to jeans. So what’s right for you?
When I got my very first road bike as an adult, I didn’t have any ‘real’ cycling clothes. But that wasn’t going to stop me from testing out my brand new bike! I threw on a pair of black leggings, a work out shirt, and an old polar tech jacket with a pair of Converse sneakers because that’s what I had. And it didn’t detract the least bit from the joy-fun-shear terror-and excitement of getting on my new bike.
What Not to Wear On a Bike
Of course, you need to wear clothes that are going to be safe on your bike. Although I see many amazing Mennonite women commuting in their dresses on their Treks and their Fujis, I can’t help but worry that they could accidentally get those long frocks stuck in their bike chain. It may work great for them, but for me, I’m a bit klutzy so I prefer clothing that isn’t bulky, flowy, or long. Avoid long drawstrings, scarves, or other items that could get caught in your wheels or drivetrain and avoid anything that impedes your vision.
Well, if you are going to ride with a local club, some friends, or you just want to look cool, you might want to consider donning an actual cycling kit. But before you get your panties in a wad over Lycra, just remember, you don’t wear panties with your chamois and you’ll be just fine!
Bibs or Bib Shorts
The first – and in my opinion – one of the most important pieces of your cycling wardrobe is a good pair of cycling shorts or bibs. Cycling shorts aren’t just a little pair of spandex-y things. They are specifically designed for cycling and have a specialized padding in the seat (called a chamois) to make long hours on the bike a lot more comfy.
You can go with classic shorts or longer tights, but I prefer bibs. Bib shorts have built in suspenders, which remove the need for a tight, restrictive waistband. Bonus, the shape of these bibs tend to smooth out all your lumps and bumps without being uncomfortable. Newer versions are made specifically to facilitate bathroom breaks more easily.
But here’s the kicker, so to speak. You don’t wear panties with a chamois. A chamois is designed to fit against your skin to prevent chafing, blistering, saddle sores, and more. If you try to wear panties, you’ll get rubbing and discomfort in unmentionable spots! So leave your lace behind and go commando. Your tush will appreciate it!
My favorite bibs, naturally, are Pactimo. The new Women’s Summit Bibs are specifically designed for long rides and easier bathroom breaks. Simply unclip the chestclip of the bibs in the front and you can pull the bibs down as sit on the throne.
If they are out of your price range, you might try Pearl Izumi Attack Bib Shorts. While some women find men’s bibs more comfortable, you’ll probably want to go with women’s specific bibs as the shape of the chamois is designed for a woman’s parts. Most road cycling bibs don’t have pockets, although there are a few brands out there that do.
For extra comfort, you can to add a little chamois cream to the padding.
Bib shorts come in an array of colors, but I prefer to stick to basic black. If you do opt for a different color, you’ll probably want the more delicate areas to be black, even if the other areas are another color. This will help disguise some of the more prominent parts of the female anatomy.
The bib shorts cover the bottoms, and the jersey is that thing that covers the tops. A jersey is a cycling top made created to allow sweat and heat to escape. They also have cool pockets on the lower back to hold your snacks, tools or tire pump, and your phone. Tell me, what’s not to love about clothes designed to hold snacks?
Jersey fit can be a little tricky to figure out and every brand’s sizing is a little different, so you may need to experiment to have the size and type of jersey you love. You’ll find there are a number of well-known manufacturers, such as Pactimo, Pearl Izumi, and Hincapie. You can find all kinds of fun jerseys to wear to express your mood. You might prefer a solid color jersey, a funny slogan (check out Bicycle Booth jerseys) or something very classic. It’s up to you! However, visibility is important when you are on a bike, so you might want to consider a cycling jersey in bright colors.
Your local cycling club may have its own jersey and if you are going to participate in a lot of local events, you might want to invest in one. They generally aren’t required, but it is fun to feel a part of something. On the other hand, if you don’t race on a particular team, you aren’t really supposed to wear their team jersey, even if you can buy it on eBay. However, if you want some really fun and unique cycling clothes, check out Cycolgyclothing.com, Machines for Freedom, and shebeest.com.
Some jerseys are considered race-fit or more aero. This means they fit extra tight against the skin to make you as aerodynamic as possible. A jersey that is club fit or traditional fit is a little bit looser. If you’re going to add some warm layers underneath, you might want to go a size up so you have a little extra room for those layers. You can purchase very inexpensive jerseys on amazon.com, but buyer beware because they can run really small.
I prefer longer sleeves and bib shorts, with extra wide silicone bands to hold them in place and raw cut edges so they fit seamlessly to my skin. Sometimes, I prefer men’s jerseys to women’s because they have larger pockets and more room for my biceps. But that’s just what makes me feel comfortable and you can shop around until you find the fit you love.
The unspoken rule of cycling is that your socks must cover your ankles. If you want to get specific, you socks should sit below your calves but still two to four inches higher than your ankles.
You can spend a fortune on cycling socks or you can by less expensive versions. However, wool blends will help wick away sweat, keeping you warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. And you can totally express yourself with all kinds of crazy themes and designs. Cycling socks are so comfy, you’ll want to wear them every day, both on and off the bike. Personally, I love socks from SockGuy!
You’ll want them to fit snugly so they don’t slide around and cause blisters. Also look for socks that don’t have seams that will dig into your skin while you are out on the road.
Some people swear by a base layer. I think it makes all things more comfy. A summer base layer is very lightweight, stretchy, and fits close to the skin to wick away sweat. A winter base layer is usually made with a wool blend to wick away sweat and keep you warmer.
Some folks prefer to leave the gloves at home, but I love wearing cycling gloves year round. If your hands tend to cramp up or the vibrations of the road bother you, look for a pair with a little padding in the palm. The material on the back of your hand can be lightweight to allow heat to escape and you don’t need your fingers covered most of the year. In the cold, you can wear winter cycling gloves or wear a pair of warm, stretchy gloves over top of your cycling gloves for extra warmth. Just make sure you can shift and brake safely.
Arm and Leg Warmers
An easy way to warm up your fall and spring rides is to add arm and leg warmers. You wear these under your bibs and jersey, not over top. They’re designed to keep you a bit warmer but you can simply peel them off and stuff them in your jersey if you get too warm, making them very versatile. If you are sun sensitive, you might want to invest in a pair of summer arm warmers to act as a natural sunscreen for your skin.
There are plenty of other, more specific items you should consider. A cycling cap will help keep your head warm under your helmet. A buff can be used as a neck warmer, head warmer, head band for café stops, and a mask, if needed. If you get too hot, they are easy to shove in your jersey, pocket too! You can purchase cycling specific rain jackets, windbreakers, and winter coats, all designed to help you continue cycling even if the weather isn’t ideal.
The piece de resistance, in my opinion, is the humble Castelli Gabba. This is a one pricey piece of clothing, but they will surely keep the elements out. These specialized garments allow heat to escape out the back while acting as a windbreak in the front and repelling water all around. Gabbas are great because they help you regulate your body temperature in all kinds of weather.
Don’t stress about getting it ‘right’ but rather, focus on getting it safe and comfortable. Styles and prices fluctuate frequently, so don’t fret! However, women’s racing offers plenty of inspiration for cool kits, great socks, and durable cycling attire. It’s your ride and you can ride it any way you want! Just get on a bike and ride it.