I HATE SHOPPING! I needed to get that out of the way. I worked retail from the time I could see over the counter in my dad’s flower shop, through college and briefly after I moved to NYC. I can never go into a store again and be completely happy.
That being said, cycling requires stuff. Lots of stuff. Knowing what you need, what you want, and what you want to avoid can save you time, money and frustration. Let me try to break it down for you. For the purpose of this blog, I am going to base this on what you need to train and ride in BRAKING AIDS® Ride!
Let’s work from the top down…
A helmet! YES! You need one! You have exactly one skull to get you through this thing called life (yes, I’m quoting Prince! What?!?) so protect it! Plus, any organized ride worth doing will not let you participate without one. What you want is a helmet that is snug, but not tight, and has vents to keep your head cool – the more vents the more circulation. The more vents the more money too, so don’t go nuts. When you have the helmet secured to your head you should be able to wiggle it the slightest little bit, barely at all. Helmets should be replaced every two-three years! The materials wear down and the helmet becomes less effective. Also, helmets should be replaced after any incident when your helmet comes into contact with another surface. Not sure if it came into contact with anything? REPLACE IT!
Eyewear! YES! You need it! Vehicles, including other cyclists, kick up a lot of stuff off the road, and having anything shoot into your eye can ruin your day. Wear sunglasses. They do not need to be fancy or cycling specific, although there are some fabulous ones out there with multiple lenses you can exchange on rainy days, etc., but you don’t need that. Stick to plastic frames. If you can find one with a little twist/flexibility to them, even better. Ideally they should wrap around the sides of your head a bit so sun and debris can’t get you from the side. Polarized lenses take away a lot of the glare, making them a want…not a need.
Cycling jerseys! You want one! Ideally you want three so you don’t have to do laundry on the Ride. I rode for years before I owned a jersey, but now that I have them I cannot imagine riding without my pockets on the back. Where did I keep my snacks before? Also, jerseys are made out of moisture-wicking fabric so they keep you dry and cool on a hot day and dry and warm on a wet day. Jerseys can be expensive, but it is easy to pick up used ones on Ebay, etc. Also, we will have a gear swap at some point so you can get free stuff!
You should definitely check out the official BRAKING AIDS® Ride jersey as well!
Can you get by without a jersey? Yes. But they are great, so they should go high on your want list!
Shorts! I’m going to say need. Technically you can get by without them, but it could put you in a world of hurt. Cycling shorts serve three purposes; the chamois (pad) provides a bit of extra cushion, they are made out of moisture-wicking fabric, and most important, there are no seams in places that would chafe you while your legs go in thousands of circles every hour. Do NOT wear underwear under cycling shorts. They will rip you up! Again, ideally, you have three pairs so you don’t need to wash them on the Ride.
Shorts should be snug, but not tight and definitely not baggy (you can get mountain biking shorts that look like cargo shorts, but have cycling shorts built in if you are just not feeling the spandex look).
The more panels shorts have, the better the fit should be. Think about a t-shirt that basically has two panels of fabric and pretty much just hangs on you. Compare that to a tailored shirt or jacket with multiple panels that fits your shape. That’s the difference.
The other choice you need to make is between bib shorts and regular shorts. Bib shorts have no waist band, but have very lightweight straps that go over your shoulders (similar to a wrestling singlet). Regular shorts are exactly that, basic shorts with an elastic waistband. Try both – see what you love.
Again, check out the official BRAKING AIDS® Ride shorts! They are my very favorite ever for fit and comfort!
Chamois butter – AKA your new best friend! You NEED this! It is not actually gear, but worth mentioning. There are many brands to choose from, but basically this is just a lubricant/cream that you can either apply to the chamois or to your skin anywhere your body touches itself or the bike. It keeps you from chafing. You NEED this! Apply it before and during long rides.
Gloves – Need! Gloves serve two purposes –they absorb some of the road vibrations, which makes for a more comfortable ride, and they protect your hands should you find yourself coming in contact with the ground. Knock wood you never need them for that, but they are a huge help if you do.
Socks – Need! However, like sunglasses they do not need to be cycling specific. That being said, there are some ridiculously fun cycling socks out there, and they are not very expensive. They should be made out of a moisture-wicking material and have a high enough cuff that they don’t slide down into your shoes.
Shoes – I am going to put this under really, REALLY want! Cycling shoes do a few things. First, the hard sole makes for more efficient power transference from your legs to the bike. They also make for more comfortable long rides, because the soft sole of a sneaker does not take away all of the pressure you are putting on the pedals so it leads to sore soles of your feet. Cycling shoes also open you up to the world of…
Clipless Pedals! – Again, I am going to go with really, REALLY want! Clipless pedals are those pedals that you clip into. I know – it makes no sense. Basically your cycling shoes work with the pedal like a little ski binding. By being connected to the pedal, you can use your entire leg to propel the bike with full circle pedaling (pulling up, pushing forward and pulling back) rather than just pushing down on the flat pedals we all grew up with. By engaging all of your leg muscles you can go faster and further without fatigue. They do take a little getting used to, but once you adjust to them they are wonderful. Your bike shop should take care of putting on the pedals and putting the cleats on the shoes. Don’t be afraid to ask (if they don’t offer) to put the bike up on a trainer so you can get used to clipping in and out. It’s just a simple twist of the heel to unclip, but it’s nice to get the feel of it sans traffic.
So there you have it! Now go shop! A great place to start is with our official outfitters! They give you discounts and really know their stuff!
—Blake, Training and Fundraising Coach