Clothing Tips for Bicyclists
Many who are new to endurance cycling buy a bike, but skip or minimize attention to clothing. However, in Colorado, in early to mid-May, morning temperatures can dip into the low 30s or even 20s, with afternoon temperatures rising into the 60s or even 70s the same day. On such a day, an enjoyable ride requires that you plan how you will dress, undress, and store the clothing you shed. Below is a top to bottom summary of key items. Especially on longer rides (e.g. centuries and metric centuries), weather conditions can change a lot from start to finish. Plan ahead and enjoy the day!
About 40% of body heat exits though the top of the head. An inexpensive lycra beenie (looks like a Yarmulke) traps a lot of heat and can make a huge difference. If it is really cold, you can add a lycra band that wraps around the head and covers the ears. As temperatures rise, these items fit easily in the back pocket of a cycling jersey.
Arms and Legs
Lycra arm warmers and leg warmers each cover one arm. They can be rolled down or removed as temperatures rise. Conventional wisdom suggests that the knees should be covered until temperatures get to 50′ or 55′ to avoid injuries. Once removed and rolled up, these fit easily into the back pockets of a jersey.
Hands and Feet
Booties (lycra shoe covers that cover the entire shoe and the ankle) provide the best warmth. If I can stand them in the morning, I prefer toe warmers (lycra that covers only the toe portion of the shoe). They protect the part of the foot that gets the most uncomfortable in the cold and do not really need to be removed as temperatures rise.
Most cyclists wear a jacket or vest with arm warmers at the start of a cold ride. As temperatures rise, they can be unzipped or removed. However, they tend to be difficult to stuff into a jersey pocket and can get uncomfortable as temperatures rise into the 60s and 70s.
Many cyclists neglect rain gear. If you choose to ride on a day when there is a significant chance of rain, rain gear can make a huge difference in your comfort. Ponchos, rain pants, shoe covers, seat covers and even helmet covers are relatively inexpensive.
I used to try to stuff all of my layers, including my jacket, in the back pockets of my jersey. Then one day, while descending Horsetooth Reservoir at 30+ mph, my jacket came out of my jersey pocket, tangled up in my rear wheel and locked it. Fortunately, I managed to control the bike and not crash. Could have been a trip to the hospital or worse. I did however, have to replace the jacket :). I never made that mistake again.
Storage bags come in three basic varieties. They fit under the seat, under the top tube (horizontal tube from seat to handlebars) or in front of the handlebars. If you attach a bag, it should have enough space to hold all of the clothes you will need to shed during a ride, and perhaps your cell phone, ID and some food. Most cyclists use bags that extend back from the seat, as such bags minimize wind drag. I have a front bag (fits in front of the handlebars). It is tremendously convenient, and the increase to my frontal surface area (causing wind drag) is not nearly as bad as one might expect.