This is me during the 2008 Gong Ride - nothing matched!!!
When I first started riding I had just a few items of cycle clothing and I wasn’t too fussed about what they looked like or even how they performed. Now, three years on I’m much more focused on both the appearance and the function of my cycle wear. So I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt in the past three years about dressing for riding from head to toe. I’ll start at the toes and work upwards.
They may seem unimportant but if you’re going to spend many hours wearing them, they need to be comfortable and look good as well. Most of the time I now wear proper cycling socks that cover my ankles but don’t come too far up my leg. I used to wear ankle socks that just peeped over the top of my shoes but I find the proper cycling socks more comfortable because they are fairly thin. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t wear shorter socks on a really hot day. I also wear the same socks in winter because my long knicks go over the top of the socks and seal me up so no draught gets in.
And earlier this year - much more colour coordinated!
If you’re going to ride a road bike you need to wear road bike shoes with cleats that clip into your pedals. I did this from day one and have never looked back. I have a few friends who started out with sneakers and pedal clips but they have all moved to clip-in shoes. I was really nervous when I first started wearing clip-in shoes and I fell off a couple of times but I’m really happy I took the plunge. I’ve just got some new road shoes which are lovely S-works road shoes (stay tuned for a review soon). My original ones were Shimano and lasted me for three years and I’ll now keep them for my wet weather riding. In winter I wear shoe covers that look a bit like booties that cover my shoes and ankles. In cooler weather I wear toe covers on my shoes to stop the cool breeze coming through.
Australian champion track cyclist Anna Meares at a recent event
I had an opportunity to do a great two-day bike skills workshop earlier this year. The first day was on the Dunc Grey Velodrome at Bass Hill and while I hadn’t previously considered track, I thought it would be a great opportunity to improve my bike skills.
My partner Phillip started riding track last year, firstly to compete in the winter track series called RAW at the velodrome and then the summer series at Lidcombe run by our bike club LACC. So I’ve watched him plenty of times but never really considered giving it a go myself.
The bike skills workshop day was a great way to be introduced to track cycling. It was a women’s only workshop which worked well for me. From my observation women and men learn skills like riding a bike very differently so it makes sense to segregate the sexes for this purpose.
I plan to review relevant products from time-to-time so please feel free to send them through. Here’s my first attempt…..
Fizik Vesta saddle
In the last couple of weeks I’ve been testing the Fizik Vesta Women’s Saddle which is going pretty well. It looks and feels good so far and is definitely one I would consider if you’re looking for a women-specific saddle for your road bike. I’m not an expert on saddles but from what I know women’s saddles are made differently to men’s to accommodate our anatomy. They often have more padding than men’s and are usually wider at the back because women’s sit bones are wider.
Once again Gerard Vroomen is on the money with his commentary on his blog. In his latest post he talks about the idea of including a professional women’s race as part of all the high profile professional men’s races. He also suggests that every men’s pro team should have a women’s team. A number of them already do including Australia’s new team Greenedge, but there’s always room for more. Read his whole post here.
In this vein I was pleased to see that the men’s Herald Sun Tour currently running in Victoria has a women’s race running alongside it. Well done.
Banjo Paterson's Mulga Bill certainly lacked bike skills
So you’ve got the shiny new bike. You sort of know how to ride it, because you rode a bike when you were a kid, and you seem to instinctively know how to keep your balance. However, you really feel a bit nervous and can’t imagine you’ll ever feel confident alongside all the other riders who appear to exude confidence. Sound familiar? It’s exactly how most women feel when they take up cycling in their adult years.
You’ll be pleased to know that there are some passionate individuals out there who are helping to teach bike skills, and as a consequence getting more women to ride bikes confidently.
Last week I had the good fortune to speak with Canberra-based Tanya Saad who has started her own business teaching women how to ride bikes confidently at all levels. Thanks to Stephen Hodge (former cycling pro) for bringing Tanya and I together.
As Tanya pointed out Canberra is a great place to ride a bike, it has the highest cycling participation rates in the nation but there’s a gap in the bike skills of many of these riders and that’s where her new business Wheel Action comes in. While not unique to Canberra Tanya laments the fact that most bike shops sell you a bike and are not really interested in you from then on, except for ongoing servicing or to sell a few accessories. Most don’t ask if you can actually ride a bike confidently and certainly don’t offer a solution if you were to say no. There are a few exceptions like Le Spit Cyclery in Sydney’s north who do offer bike skills workshops but they are sadly very rare.
Warning: You probably won't look this good in your Assos knicks
These bib knicks are plain & functional
Whether you wear bib knicks or non bib knicks is a personal decision.
However there are two things that I think are non-negotiable if you want to be part of the crowd. One is that you should wear knicks, rather than shorts or gym pants, and secondly you shouldn’t wear any underwear underneath them. They are designed to be worn without undies and as long as they are not see-through it should be fine to do so without causing offence to your fellow riders.
When I started riding three years ago I did what most people do and headed for a bike shop and bought the cheapest plain black knicks I could find. These were comfortable, affordable and served me well. As you would expect they weren’t bib knicks. At the time I probably wasn’t even aware that bib knicks existed and if I was, I thought they were for experienced riders.
My conversion occurred when I had the opportunity to order some bib knicks that were part of my ride uniform in the First Data team to complete my second JDRF ride in January 2010. Phillip suggested I give them a try and I suppose because they didn’t cost me anything I thought, why not?