Comfortable Cycling Apparel For A Better Bike Ride
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A First Look At Comfortable Cycling Apparel Options
I wanted to provide a roundup that would cover a lot of the bases for a successful bike ride. Hence, many bike wearing needs are addressed in this roundup, and I think you will find some solid options to get you out on your bike. It doesn’t matter if your preference is to cruise around the neighborhood, commute to work, or slay 100 mile weekend rides! You want to be comfortable, safe, and of course, look good. I split my time between the roads, the trails, gravel, and the occasional commute. This year is my 50th, and I am on track to tackle Fifty 50 mile bike rides. My main focus this year is getting up at 4:30 to meet up with a large peloton group, and I’ve enjoyed putting these apparel pieces to the test.
Professional Bike Fit
This goes first, because I feel it is the most important investment you can make! It’s not tangible. You can’t touch it, hold, see it, or put it on. That said, the benefits of a proper professional bike fit goes way deeper than a pair of shorts or how snug a helmet fits. Having been through this experience has really opened my eyes to what’s possible. The advantages are numerous. For one, a bike ride will be so much more comfortable by having every little detail analyzed to the fullest. From pedals and cleats, to shoes and saddle height, from bar reach to stem height, there are so many small factors at play that once dialed in will make a huge difference.
Comfort is one thing, but riding injury free is the end goal for most riders. I had suffered from a hamstring issue for years, in part because I was positioned incorrectly on the bike. I didn’t activate my core and glutes, and struggled with a two year battle where my hamstrings would pop on hard efforts. And guess what, I am now correctly positioned on the bike, I am also producing more power. Hence, I am able to enjoy my rides as I can now play with the young fast riders in my group. I tell you, money well spent! My feedback to my PT/bike fit wizard was “Why did I wait this long”. She said” Yep, I hear that every single day”. You will be amazed at the impact this will have!
In Denver there are several highly recommended bike fitters. I chose to go with someone (Pedal Fit – Natalie Collins) who took it from a Physical Therapy standpoint. Ask around in your area from your bike riding friends.
For more information check out some offerings HERE.
$200-400. The adage, “you pay for what you get” really does play a role here, but whatever you do, this will be worth it.
Pearl Izumi Interval Jersey
I have had the chance to visit and chat with the fine folks of Pearl Izumi who are headquartered up the road from me near Boulder. A good company with a progressive forward thinking outlook. They have a global reach with a wide ranging product line to suit most riders. This is the Interval Jersey, and is form fitting and contoured. I had to shed some late Winter Covid pounds, and get in shape. Having done so, my jersey fits perfectly. I would call this a “race” fit, so keep that in mind and use their sizing chart to figure out the correct fit for you.
That said, they have so many options, a more relaxed jersey will also work well. I like the simple color, and breathability is key to keeping cool. I’ve taken this jersey out on fast group rides and long slow gravel grinders. In both cases, the sleekness and feel of the fabric felt great, and the 3 pockets with gripper at the bottom functioned as designed. I know weight seems to play a role in everything associated with the bike, and for those so inclined this jersey seems weightless. This is a middle price point jersey, and is well worth adding your cycling wardrobe.
Check out PEARLIZUMI for all their offerings.
Smith Express Commuter Helmet With MIPS
Commute with confidence. You have to have eyes in the back of your head when braving the 2 ton world of texting-while-driving insanity. I find this helmet to be a beacon of safety. I liked the bright “Matte neon yellow Viz” color, and it’s got a handy light that’s built-in, and acts as one’s “eyes in the back of your head.”
MIPS is the saving grace here. A wonderful technology that if you do go down, has proven to show dramatic decreases in injuries. I have sported a MIPS technology road helmet for the last 5 years. And I have been fortunate enough NOT to find out about its benefit, but it does provide a sense of safety. If not familiar, MIPS reduces the rotational forces caused by the angled impacts to the head. Basically, it absorbs that initial impacts to let the head glide into the force of the fall, and not cause such a direct hit. Best value for the money right here! Don’t take chances with your noggin! Please!?!
Sizing: I’d say true to size. The Smith Express medium has a 55-59cm range. My head circumference comes in right around 59cm, and I am right in between a medium and a large. The Medium options is what I went with, and it does fit with little room to spare. I don’t like helmets that are too big, so that was a chance I took. Works for me though!
No different padding options, but you can swap out the front section that comes with an attached visor. It’s sunny a lot here in Denver, so I will utilize that added feature. 13 vents for keeping my head cool. I don’t have the benefit of extra room, so unfortunately on my colder commutes I won’t be able to add a thin hat for an added layer of warmth.
Check it out right HERE
Rapha Pro Team Training Bib Shorts
If you know, you know! This pair of shorts is ridiculously simple, yet graces my body so smoothly and outperforms anything else I’ve ever worn. Rapha has a following that’s hardcore loyal, and I’m so glad I’ve gotten a chance to put these to the test. I kid you not, I threw these on for a 40 mile local hammer-fest, and then subsequently decided to wear them on a grueling 8 hour / 125 mile desert gravel ride in Fruita, Colorado. That ride punished and hurt me in so many places! Yet, my Chamois protected underside was comfortable the entire ride.
I’ve worn my fair share of cycling shorts, and they’ve run the gamut. These Rapha Pro Team Training Bib Shorts are my favorite by a long shot! The support was phenomenal and the fit was perfect! You can certainly find cycling shorts for half the price, but you won’t be 5x as happy or comfortable. I don’t know what it is, because they look as simple as anything I’ve seen. The Chamois pad is very high density, and provides proper support throughout my rides. No rubbing, chafing, bunching, etc.! The main fabric uses recycled materials for proper compression while not showcasing that sausage leg look. The upper mesh is very light and breathable. My only feedback would be that the shorts come up over the belly a little high which makes taking a quick “nature break” a little challenging.
Lots of comfy goodies found at RAPHA
Rudy Project Venger Helmet
I had a Rudy helmet circa 2008. From my recollection, it was a fine helmet until I lost it. The all new Venger is a good helmet to ride safe and comfortable during your road or off road rides. This summer, I have slowly brought this helmet into the rotation, and am now using it exclusively. I enjoy the fit. In my case, I have a darker gray color, so that doesn’t help me stand out as much. That said, reflective stickers and a solid fit with the backing of technology for safety has me riding comfortably and confidently.
The adjustability of the helmet is good. Rudy calls it their RSR 10 retention system which easily adjusts to a customized fit. The ventilation (22 vents total) has been really helpful lately with 90+ degree temps. I am in good riding shape now which allows me to entertain the notion of hanging with some really good (and younger) riders. I get pushed to the limit, and with that comes a high heart rate and an abundance of sweating. On the inside of the helmet, the front half of the vents do have a mesh. I would assume that’s to prevent one of those unfortunate bee encounters.
Weighs in right around 10oz and I have had to check to see if I was actually wearing my helmet. A very good fit and very light. Again, you can never be too careful when it comes to the helmet you are wearing. The straps are a little long. On a fast downhill, they were smacking me in the cheeks, so I’m going to trim them slightly. Once you have your size dialed in, all should be good.
For more information and options please check out Rudy Project
Lizard Skins Aramus Classic Gloves
Comfort and performance that you can really get hands-on with…. I have had lizard Skins bar tape for years on a couple of my bikes, and those have performed quite well for me. The simplicity and padding appealed to me, so adding these Aramus Classic Gloves was a good opportunity.
The gloves have seen white knuckle action on my big peloton rides this Summer. These rides can get squirrely especially over some not so perfect asphalt. Anyway, all the senses and focus are intense, and having a good grip is part of it. The suede three panel palm is smooth and supple. The additional gel padding helps to dampen some of the road vibration. I almost forget I’m wearing the gloves. All five points of contact are critical to be in-sync with the bike. The feet/shoes/pedals are the engine, and the hands/gloves/handle bars are the control system.
These have been on my hands for most of my rides this Summer. I don’t “log” my glove mileage, but I would guess that thousands of miles have made these stand the test of time.
For more information and purchase please visit Lizard Skins
Butt Butt’r stuff
Understandably, this is not a comfortable cycling apparel piece. Butt Butt’r lotion, gel, cream, or whatever you want to call it, has been around for a long time. I still marvel (and giggle) at the naming and branding genius every time I grab the bottle. Although, I have just been raving about the most comfortable Rapha bib shorts, it would certainly behoove one to apply a liberal portion of this to the sensitive parts. Keep this bottle handy, and apply right before you head out especially for your longer rides. Road, mountain, gravel: Slather some on for whatever terrain you may encounter. Your sensitive saddle contact points will thank you.
Cyclists talk about saddle time, and as you ramp up the mileage, things get more used to being in that saddle for hours on end. That said, early on in that process, this chamois butter will help tremendously. If I know I am going out for more than 50 miles, I still put this on!
Their product line offerings is fairly simple and straightforward, but they’ve managed to find a sweet spot in the market for their product. Check it out HERE!
What can you say about a pair of socks? Plenty; when you need to have a proper fit that also keeps the air flow going to keep those tootsies dry and cool. I’ve run and biked in my fair share of Swiftwick socks, and I can always rely on them to perform. It’s a simple thing, but add a pair to your check-out basket to complete the entire kit.
On my ride one morning as I was hanging on for dear life, my eyes were down, and I noticed numerous Swiftwick logos on my friends’ socks. The secret is out. Get some to try for yourself. I like my simple green ones as they make me more visible with every pedal stroke.
For more information and purchase, please check out Swiftwick.
Final Thoughts On This Comfortable Cycling Apparel Roundup
If you are just getting started or a seasoned rider, outfitting for a simple bike ride could seem daunting. With experience finding the right clothing and accessories will make time spent on a bike much more enjoyable.
This review is not about buying the most expensive and high-end items for your favorite cyclist. It is, however, about mixing and matching pieces of apparel that make the bike experience a positive one! Comfort seems to be the driving force for me when I’m taking these items out for a spin. Safety is definitely part of the equation, and that can be attained as well in a comfortable manner. Performance is the last key component to consider. That usually falls in line if you are comfortable, having fun, and in a position to push the limits. I started out this review with a baseline of having a proper bike fit, and then added apparel pieces to create a strong ensemble.
Guess what, my performance has been elevated, because I can crank out more power due to being better fitted (on the bike) and outfitted with quality and most importantly, comfortable clothing.