I field a fair number of emails originating from readers of The Early Morning Cyclist. Every now and then I get questions about gear I’m using, or my “kit” – the stuff I wear when I ride. With three questions fired at me in as many days I’ll go out on a limb and call this a trend that needs to be addressed.
I don’t write about these things much because, frankly, I really don’t think about them much. (At least not nearly as much as our local groups of matching-kit Lycra roadies apparently do.) Oh, I certainly have my share of jerseys. Some commemorate events, others were picked up as mementos on vacation, and at least one was a gift from my wife and is emblazoned with an “Old Farts Cycling Team” graphic.
I just don’t wear them all that often.
I dress for comfort when I ride. Knickers and sweltered layers when it gets cold. And although my “kit” isn’t set in stone, during the summer it’s kind of standardized:
The Lid. I know I should probably be more diligent about wearing a helmet, but likely as not I’ll be found cycling in a grungy, sweat-stained cycling cap. I’ve got dozens of ’em, but my favorite is a gray cap made by Swift, the same fine craftspeople who made my Ozette bag. I rather think this hat was a “one and done” project, and that they were only available for a really short time. This is why I sort of freak out when I misplace my lid: there’s likely no way to replace it.
The eyes. I need glasses to read signs, or a map, or my phone. A couple years I ago I invested in a pair of prescription Ray-Bans and those have become a de facto part of my outdoor adventures. The other item that I feel a bit naked without is a Bike Peddler “Take A Look” Eyeglass Mirror. I really want to know what that smoke chugging truck creeping up behind me is up to, so I won’t leave home without my eyeglass mirror.
The hands. For short jaunts I won’t wear gloves at all. I really like the feel of my bare palms against shellac-coated bar wrap. But if I’m going to be out for more than an hour, the gloves will definitely be part of my kit.
The jersey. It’s a 100% cotton t-shirt, occasionally stained with smudges of paint, or chain grease, or both. I spent too many years as a graphic designer to be able to stomach the truly awful graphics that adorn most shirts, so I consider the embarrassing designs to be optional.
The legs. Instead of Lycra bicycle shorts, I’m rather partial to lightweight padded under shorts – as in “worn under normal shorts.” I like hiking, camp, or cargo shorts. Lots of pockets for important stuff like money, fountain pen, sketchbook, etc.
The feet. I’ve got a pair of mountain bike shoes for when I ride clipped in. A recessed clip is the only pure cycling shoe I care to wear because it allows me to walk around off the bike without looking like I’m in a Monty Python skit. I also like to use trail runners or my Keene sandals. That way I look semi-normal off the bike, and I can stroll in and out of a diner or grocery store or even a bike shop. I’m kind of picky about socks though, and will avoid cotton at all costs.
What’s nice about this “kit” is that I don’t have to pack a lot of specialty clothing when I travel. My ride clothes and my “everything else” clothes are pretty much one and the same. As a matter of fact, it’s also pretty much what I’m wearing as I type these words, and pretty much what I’ll be wearing when I begin cooking dinner tonight. It’s pretty much the only thing I wear from the time summer vacation begins until the time I report back to school.