Thursday, October 2, 2014

Taking the Lane: Where to Buy Cycling Clothes

Pedal Savvy bicycle fashion show 2010 during t...
Pedal Savvy bicycle fashion show 2010 during the San Francisco Bike Expo. [] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Emily wrote a blog post a few weeks back about commuting in “kit”, or fitted cycling specific clothing.  I want to fill you in on how to find the best kit, specifically fitted Lycra cycling shorts.

I had a conversation with a lady at work about clothing choice and riding the bike.  She started commuting to work this year.  She lives out of town, and drives to the nearest trail located just on the outskirts of town.  She parks her car and rides her bike to work from there.  On this particular morning she commented about the clothes I choose to ride to work in.  We both bike over 10 miles to get to work.  She had been wearing shorts and was curious about the comfort of the cycling shorts that I wear.  I informed her that I prefer to wear cycling shorts because they were much more comfortable.  I also told her my preference is triathlon shorts with a minimal pad.  Zoot brand being my favorite, but they aren't found in stores locally, I have to find and order them online.

A week or two later I ran into her again in the locker room at work post morning ride.  She informed me she had purchased some bike shorts.  The kind with no pad.  She stated they were indeed more comfortable to ride in than shorts.  So if you think you might want to try cycling shorts for the first time here is my advice.

There are tons of great cycling wear outfitters across the web and in your town.  I own cycling shorts and shirts purchased from local bike stores.  I also own an equal amount that I have purchased online.  As I stated above, Zoot triathlon shorts are among my favorites and I have only found them online.

How do you know which brands and which styles of bike shorts to choose?  There are so many brands and styles out there.  My first recommendation is to try on various shorts available at your local stores. There is a very good chance you will find a pair you really like. Do you think you need more padding in your seat to be comfortable on the bike, then chose a style with padding. If you are comfortable on your seat and don’t feel the need for padding, then choose a thinner model, like a triathlon short. The more panels a pair of Lycra shorts have the more comfortable they will likely be on the bike. Check that they fit well, grip well, have the right amount of padding for your comfort level, have smooth seams, and have a comfortable waist.  Sit in them, move around in them, run with high knees.  Do they still fit and feel OK? I always do this in the dressing room. I’m sure people wonder what I’m doing in there, but I like to be sure they will work.

Each brand is sized different.  My closet has small, medium, and large cycling shorts.  Each manufacturer has their own unique sizing system.  For the most part you will likely choose a size similar to your current clothing size, but don’t be shocked if you need to size up or down.  Sizing down is always a moral booster.  If you end up buying online ALWAYS refer to the manufacturer's sizing chart, not the seller’s sizing chart.  Often the seller’s sizing chart is a general chart and not specific to any single brand they sell.  Also, measure your waist and your hips and your chest.  Don’t guess.

When you find a pair you like, buy them.  Try them out.  Ride in them multiple times (without underwear).  Decide if they are indeed exactly what you want in a short.  If there is something you don’t like, perhaps they gather in the crotch while riding and cause chafing issues, the waistband digs in, or you want more or less padding, then try a different style or a different brand.  And note, if you end up hating them some manufacturers like De Soto let you return them.  All other shorts you don’t like can always be sold on eBay.

Which brings me to my final point.  eBay is a great place to find cycling shorts at great discounts.  I have found some killer deals on eBay, and be aware there are many not so killer deals.  And it also lets me try different brands I can’t find locally at prices I don’t mind paying should I not like them. That’s how I came across Zoot shorts initially.

Other websites worth browsing:
Team Estrogen
The Climb

7 minute video demonstrating common cycling clothes from the last 100 years.

Happy riding!

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