Cycling clothing can be a cause of great consternation. Not just for the traditional considerations of what fabric of tights to pick, or how many pairs of padded undershorts the serious cyclist needs in their wardrobe. Simply choosing the colour can become a real headache. And this is particularly the case for selecting ladies cycling clothing. A common cause for complaint is the colour scheme. Female cyclists are constantly demanding to know why manufacturers seem to design garments as if they’re inspired by Barbie dolls.
Cycling appeals right across the board, to all ages, classes and genders. But too often when a woman digs through a cycling gear catalogue, browses through the latest ranges of jackets online, or simply pops into her local cycle centre to check out arm and leg warmers, she can find herself facing quite a challenge. Which of the various shades of pink suits her best?
There seems to be some sort of 1950s throwback thing going on with the array of clothing available for women cyclists. Items can be wholly pink or pink-trimmed. (Perhaps complimentary Doris Day CDs are also offered?) But no amount of introducing euphemisms like ‘fuchsia’ or ‘raspberry’ will hide the fact from the more discerning shopper they are being manipulated due to some archaic notion of feminine tastes. (The only reaction many women have to ‘raspberry’ shaded bib tights is to blow one the moment they set eyes on the garish monstrosities, imaginary or audibly).
Undoubtedly pink has been an astute marketing ploy in the past. Cycling, particularly cross-country, can still be perceived as a rugged, masculine pursuit. Women might be encouraged to don pink jerseys as a concession – a sign that while they are still participating in a highly-demanding, competitive environment, they are preserving feminine qualities. Perhaps it’s something more basic than that. Do producers of cycle clothing realise the potency of placing brilliant pink products alongside a rack of sundry other less-flashy colours? But this marketing is seriously flawed. Women are the equal of male cyclists in terms of their abilities – if a female is competing in triathlons why would she even contemplate spending three grand on a bike simply because it comes in a nice fetching pink?
Unfortunately, this misguided and somewhat patronising ‘pink marketing’ goes way beyond cycles and cycle clothing. It permeates many other aspects of the sport. Women choosing accessories are bombarded with all things pink. If anything, the advertisers have created a whole other market – individual and independent women cyclists who make a point of wearing anything but girly pink.
So you’ve cottoned on to the fact that cycling can be immense fun and provide you with some of the best exercise money can buy? Perhaps you’ve just caught that cycling bug and just want to get on your bike and keep that adrenaline flowing? Whatever the reasons you feel like going the extra mile with your cycling, there are various things you can do to enhance your technique.
If you want to develop your physique and ride even longer than ever before, three words will help you on your way. Get yourself a wickable cycling jersey. So what’s so wonderful about these garments? First of all, they look so good. Even if you’re not necessarily one of the sportier members of the cycling clientele, donning one of these will make you look the part. Typical examples come in fetching bright colours, with matching piping down the sleeves. The long sleeves of these jerseys are perfect for keeping out the elements. They are also made of soft wickable polyester, ensuring your body can breathe while you undergo the extremes of physical exertion.
Your wickable cycling jersey is made of a highly durable material. It is warm and breathable. These attributes make it ideal for tackling longer than average cycling jaunts and in all weathers. If you’ve ever looked out of the window in the depths of winter and felt no inclination to brave the British elements, you might secretly grow to resent the fact that a wickable cycling jersey gives you no excuse for delaying your cycling! As well as being tough, the garment is easy to clean. The interior fabric is extremely comfortable when sitting against your skin.
These jerseys couldn’t be easier to slip on and off. They come with a high collar and a quarter length zip. The wickable jerseys are designed to neatly hug all shapes and sizes of cyclist bodies, or both genders. They are built with complete practicality in mind, with rear pockets built into the jerseys. Some also come with longer tails for the standard cycling position.
Jerseys come with reflective elements to keep you safe and visible at all times. The durability of these examples of cycling wear is what makes them so versatile. Their 100% wickable fabric means they are built to endure. Supremely practical, they also look stylish and flash – the perfect addition to your bike wardrobe.
Who’d have thought there was so much to cycling? To the untutored eye, this activity involves clambering aboard a bike and pedalling. If you’re tackling steep road climbs or rugged terrain, all you have to do is push a little harder. Quite a bit harder.
Well, nothing about cycling is straightforward. It can be physically demanding. But it can also give hours and hours of fun. The key to getting the most out of your bike is to somehow marry the two concepts! And this is where compression shorts can prove their worth.
So what exactly are compression shorts and where would a cyclist use them to greatest effect? If you want to push yourself that bit further, as taking on a steep incline for instance, you won’t want to be distracted. Any strenuous exercise will cause friction against your skin. This chafing can be painful and deeply unpleasant. But this where compression shorts are so ideal.
These garments are built to fit snugly to your body, providing support for your upper legs, as well as your waist and groin. There is also a sense in some cycling quarters that compression shorts not only provide protection against skin irritation. They give your endeavours a definite boost. Because the shorts pack your muscles tightly together, they’re like creating a little dynamo. Less energy is needed to propel the bike onwards and upwards. There is no need to maintain a regime of excessive movements. An economy of motion will keep you driving forwards.
Males particularly benefit from having a protective cup over the parts of their anatomy in need of most protection. Compression shorts can pack things in but there is no need for them to be unnecessarily restricting. They will still allow your body to perform all the exertions of any cyclist wearing plain old sports shops.
Another benefit is the way they prevent excessive sweating, a common enough occurrence during prolonged periods of physical exertion. Compression shorts stop moisture building up by wicking away the surplus. This is how chafing is neutralised.
These garments also come in a variety of different styles – especially in the versions aimed at male cyclists. Some shorts will compress the entire lower body area, not just the groin. Anything that supports the hips will assist you when it comes to powering your bike to previously undreamt of levels!
Compression shorts can also be a valuable boost to your muscles if you’ve suffered a cycling injury.
A common gripe in the cycling community comes from the women who are enthusiastic participants. They can compete in the same events as their male counterparts, follow the same demanding courses and match them for stamina. Yet a question lingers – for all the diverse ranges of cycling clothing out there, aimed at cyclists of all shapes and sizes and degrees of proficiency, is the same choice available for women?
Actually, we’re heading into a grey area here, one of life’s many ‘yes/no’ situations. Manufacturers are increasingly recognising huge numbers of women are being drawn to both recreational and competitive cycling. There are much better choices of cycling clothing available on the market than there was 10 years ago. The question of whether there is enough? Few women cyclists would deny there isn’t room for improvement.
So what types of cycling clothing are specifically geared towards women? They can choose from a variety of cycle shirts, in a choice of sleeves – short, long or sleeveless. Vests are available as are many styles of jackets and gilets. If you shop around you’ll find that these can come in many colours, from electric blue to shocking red. These tops can come with racing stripes and can be secured with snaps, buttons or zips.
The material on offer is usually a synthetic blend, designed to combat moisture and sweat; although not at the expense of allowing your skin to breathe. While a lot of cycling clothing is designed to be ass tight-fitting as possible, allowing a streamlined effect for maximising speed, the actual shape of women’s cycling clothing differs from their male counterparts. Jerseys and jackets tend to have a much more tailored waist. The shoulders are narrower. There is also extra room around the chest area.
So much for practicality. When it comes to cycle clothing a lot of women also like taking style into serious consideration. While garments need to be weatherproof and comfortable, a growing number of outlets are providing clothes that can be seen without the context of just cycling. Since using a bicycle as a mode of transport has become so popular, not just with sports enthusiasts but with women in general, there is a demand for cycle clothing that looks a bit more stylish than Lycra. Many cycle outfitters are now offering women tailored cycle jackets that can be combined with office wear. For leisure cycling, female cyclists can opt for a diverse range of casual skirts, dresses and shorts.
So you want to get into some strenuous off-road cycling? You’ve got the bike accessories to get you up those rugged slopes? You’ve bought the helmet. What other kit essentials should you be considering? Before you launch yourself headlong into some serious mountain biking there’s one word to consider. One short word with a disproportionate importance - shorts!
Before heading to those hills, it’s important you ensure you’re properly attired and mountain bike shorts are crucial. Like any other cycling attire, these come in a diverse range of shapes and sizes. They’re invariably well-constructed and will keep you protected against the weather, as well as outdoors hazards like loose stones and insects. Some even boast a zipper fly (although opinion is divided on the practicality of these – some welcome the efficiency, others fear the potential for snagging!)
Mountain bike shorts are extremely durable. Usually fashioned from polyester, they’ll stand the test of time, even after repeated punishing use. They’ll ensure your shorts stay up and don’t ride unnecessarily. Comfort is the optimum attribute. These shorts are usually very lightweight; with a breathable outer shell that will ensure you’re kept cool no matter how much sweat you break while careering along those country paths. A moulded chamois with a rear stretch panel can ensure your shorts stay up – there’s nothing worse than being half way through some gruelling exercise and discovering your shorts are riding up. You don’t want to add unnecessary discomfort to the elements pitted against you. Shorts come with waists that are easily adjustable. Zippered vents can also be tweaked open to allow extra circulation. Many shorts have built-in pockets, which can be perfect for stashing away energy gels to keep you fuelled while you conquer the stages of the mountain trail.
While all these attributes sound like excellent selling points, there are others which are less so. Any garments that come with zips have the potential to catch, particularly during physical exertion. If there are exposed pull tabs, many cyclists prefer these to have some form of protective rubber coating.
The good news is that mountain bike shorts do come in many shapes and sizes. If there is one make that isn’t quite floating your boat, there will just as likely be a fine selection of alternatives in the vicinity, either on shelves or in online stores.