Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Dressing for the Road

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  • Rachel Prosser,

    I take the view that if you travel on foot, you can stroll, walk briskly, jog or run. Same options for cycling (on the flat, at least).

    If I ran to work I’d put on workout gear, but if I stroll, or walk, I wouldn’t (other than flat shoes).

    In Wellington, or Christchurch, I’ve only ever worn regular work clothes, and my high heels work very well (shoe-boots in winter). Also, when its raining, legs (bare, or in hosiery) dry quickly, so dresses work well.

    But – and it’s a big but – I have only commuted cycling on the flat (with the exception of a quick burst up Woodward St to the Terrace or up Molesworth St), and haven’t had more than a 25 minute commute round the bays. And I cycle for pleasure or transport (passive exercise), not as a work-out.

    Also, I now commute with folding bike, so if the weather is too bad, then I can take the bus.

    People do tend to smile at the folding bike too – it’s similar in size to a Raleigh 20, so I’m a bit of a novelty, and not really threatening. I agree the Lycra factor can add to the alienation of cyclists – some of the lycra clad and lithe can whizz by so fast they startle people.

    My pet peeve as a driver (or as a person walking down Oriental Parade) are those awful super bright strobe lights. (I’m not talking about the small flickery ones – although I personally think it’s much easier to keep track of where a cyclist is on the road if their light isn’t flickering).

    The superbright strobe lights are unpleasant and antisocial – blinding and distracting to other road users road. If they make the user safer, they do it at the expense of other road users’ safety.

    Christchurch • Since Mar 2008 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Rachel Prosser,

    Also - if you do want the fancy team jerseys to train in here's a tip I got from a friend: Head to SaveMart - New Lynn is apparently quite good.

    Cycling shirts are apparently sized so much smaller than most buyers expect, that many people who order them online overseas find that they don't fit, and they end up in the donations bins, and thence to SaveMart.

    Christchurch • Since Mar 2008 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to LucyJH,

    It’s also pretty hot and humid up here in summer. You can’t ride in Auckland for more than half an hour in summer without being too smelly for most work/social situations. Some men I know can’t ride for more than ten minutes…

    I don't seem to be very smelly, but I tend to perspire heavily about five minutes after stopping riding more than about 30 minutes. That'll evaporate from an activewear shirt, or I'll wait that long before changing into the dry shirt I've brought along.

    Granted, I'm sometimes riding fairly vigorously, but even if not, you can't get a lot of places without riding up a hill or two from where I live.

    A better range of shirts in breathable fabrics would suit me fine. Sports design is cheesy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22817 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Jake Pollock,

    You can solve that problem by not riding in the door zone. If the car behind you gets frustrated it can pass and you can wave cheerfully as the driver swears at you. You can also help yourself by looking into the cars to see if there’s a driver in there who might be about to open it. Don’t be intimidated into putting yourself in harm’s way. If you’re between the sidewalk and the car you are always in the door zone and always in harm’s way and there’s nothing you can do about it. Terrifying.

    So you think we should abandon the cycle lane altogether and occupy the road as a car would? You're a braver cyclist than I am.

    And as for looking ahead for drivers who might be about to swing their doors open, no kidding, but on a busy street with a line of parked cars this is rarely much use.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Lilith __,

    A big rubber-band around the ankle is also ideal for keeping your nice trousers out of the chain. It’s more effective and way more comfortable than a conventional cycle-clip.

    I know it's as ugly as sin, but I just tuck my pants into my sock, on the right side. I've always got them, and it keeps the trouser even cleaner than a clip.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • anth,

    What I wear depends on what I'm doing, mostly the length of the trip.

    I used to regularly cycle fast and far, and for that a full set of cycling clothes really is useful. Summer would mean bright yellow shirt, black shorts, fingerless gloves. A cold, wet day could mean adding any or all of a thin jacket, sleeves and legwarmers, thin full finger gloves under the padded fingerless gloves, a polypropolene tee shirt as a base layer, and neoprene shoe covers. I've never seen the point of paying to look like an advertising hoarding so have plain rather than team wear.

    I stopped doing that around about the when I became a parent though. Some of the gear still gets used, mixed in with varying amounts of normal clothes.

    I had a fairly decent commute for several months, 16km each way and with a toddler in the seat on the top tube in the mornings. For that I'd wear bike shorts with less revealing shorts over them, a normal t shirt, and sometimes some of the warmer stuff. I'd have a shower when I arrived at work and didn't try to keep dry if it rained.

    My current very short commute is done in normal clothes, possibly with a bright yellow cycling jacket. It keeps just enough wind off when it is cold, any other jacket or jumper I own would be too hot. When it gets colder the non-padded lycra gloves will come out again. If it rains I wear a waterproof jacket and trousers, if it isn't raining but looks like it might later they get carried.

    I still use bike shorts, covered by something else, for longer trips. They really are much more comfortable but I'm not often going to be riding for long enough to bother.

    The exception to normal clothes for even short journeys is that I wear bike shoes on every trip as I use SPD pedals. I've got platform pedals sitting on a shelf so could swap those on easily but I've got a strong preference for being clipped in. The shoes I've seen in bike shops have been either for road racing and not suited to walking or for mountain biking and with tread which tends to pick up mud then deposit it on the floor inside. Shimano touring shoes bought online were a good solution. I keep a pair of normal shoes at work, if I'm going somewhere else those shoes are fine for walking around in.

    Although not clothing I think it worth mentioning the mudguards and panniers.

    Even the fairly minimal amount of cycling clothing I wear now would have seemed silly to me when I was a student. What I was wearing when going to bunch rides would've seemed ridiculous to that version of me.

    Since Nov 2006 • 77 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rachel Prosser,

    Also, I now commute with folding bike, so if the weather is too bad, then I can take the bus.

    Heh, classic. I gave my one to my sister who lived in Freeman's Bay. She used it to go everywhere she needed, and said people were always commenting on it.

    Re: lanes between parking and pedestrians, I found they worked well overseas. Footpath doors don't get flung open with such impunity, because people expect there to be pedestrians. Also, every car has a driver, so it's the door most frequently opened. Drivers are accustomed to looking into their side mirror for other cars, which is probably why they frequently fail to see cyclists. Passengers don't have any mirrors to rely on, so they usually look, and they're looking for human sized objects.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to BenWilson,

    I know it’s as ugly as sin, but I just tuck my pants into my sock, on the right side. I’ve always got them, and it keeps the trouser even cleaner than a clip.

    Ah, but they have to be appropriately elasticated socks. Otherwise, to pull a purely random example out of the air, your trouser leg falls out half-way to work and gets covered in grease and you roll it up your leg to stop it getting even greasier and get stains all over your lower thigh which don't wash off for a week and make people think you have horrible bruises when you wear a skirt and pantihose. For example.

    In general I'm a big fan of wearing what you're going to wear all day to cycle to work - I definitely practiced this in Christchurch - and my six km, only gently rolling commute allows this most of the year in New England. Helps that the accepted mode of dress where I work is jeans and a t-shirt and variations thereof. Now I've picked up sewing as a hobby I'm looking into making some cycling-friendly skirts, but I'm definitely planning on buying bike shorts to go underneath. I have a Goretex-type rainjacket and waterproof trousers for wet conditions, though all the buses around here carry bikes, so if it's pouring I chicken out and only bike from the bus stop to the house (still the better part of a km.)

    The exceptions to street clothes are when the temperature is over 20C when I leave the house in the morning - I usually switch to a tank-top of some description and keep my work shirt dry - or in mid-winter, when you need a careful balance of not freezing to death and not getting sweaty. Gloves are a must below 5C, and not fingerless either. You can actually get away with just a jacket down to about -1C, but below that long johns and a warm hat (below the helmet) start to be a requirement, though you're still better off with just a decently warm jacket and t-shirt up top. Below -8C I just give up biking altogether more than a kilometer or so, and below -15C I don't bother getting out the bike at all, because the bike racks tend to freeze to the bus. But that's rarely more than a couple of weeks a year. There's always some hardy soul biking out and about even in the very cold weather, but they're always in full lycra kit.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Zach Bagnall,

    Surprised this has reached three pages without someone mentioning the R word.. Rapha have build a massive brand based on performance fabrics - lots of merino blends - and understated branding for every day use. Pricey but. Around London you're more likely to see the distinctive contrast arm stripe than a garish pro team logo.

    Miltag produce some lovely limited editions too. Firmly in the synthetic jersey category, but with great design including a lot of musician collaborations.

    The best NZ gear I've seen is probably the Icebreaker cycling line. Very very nice and - at the outlet stores - incredibly good value. If I wasn't flat broke I'd have bought the whole store when I visited last.

    For the survey, I commute to work in some ultra budget no-name jerseys that cost under a tenner each. Hard wearing, sweat wicking and cheap enough to have one for each day of the week. Pocket on the back for keys & cash.

    Some mountain bike shorts with a built-in chamois do for summer. In winter when it's freezing+/-2C I wear some roubaix (fleece lined) bib tights with a waterproof shell over the top to cut wind.

    For weekend rides in summer it's a merino jersey with rear pockets and proper bib shorts. You could do 100 miles in 25C sun without lycra but you will hate life before the end.

    Colorado • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    About the bike lanes inside the line of parked cars: exactly this set up is being built in Ilam Road by the University of Canterbury right now. So there will be empirical data soon.

    In fact the cycling provisions in the Christchuch council's draft plan are on the fact of it rather good, Dutch style intersections and everything if I understand correctly, provided they ever get built...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Alice Ronald,

    For going to work or biking to shops etc, I wear my normal clothes. It's only 3.5km to the office, completely flat, and I ride a step-through, single speed cruiser (in candyfloss pink) from Archi bikes. If it's raining or dark, I add a raincoat & high vis vest. The only thing I'm really conscious of when dressing for cycling to work is my shoes - I've got some with really slippery soles, so if I want to wear them at work I'll pop them in my basket & wear sneakers or something & change shoes in the office.

    I've got induction-powered Reellights on the Archi bike, but I also add some Lezyne detachable ones on the handlebars & seat support.

    If I'm cycling for exercise, it's my Ground Effect Witches Britches or some other form of cycle shorts, with either a GE top in lime green or a running tshirt (usually Active Intent brand from the Warehouse) and sneakers.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 63 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    not dire diaphoresis?

    I tend to perspire heavily about
    five minutes after stopping riding...

    aaah! That explains a lot,
    The future is wet!!

    You don't just
    write about the future,
    - you live there!!*
    and when you pause
    it catches up
    sloshing against your
    semi-porous meme brane...

    I know inspiration comes before perspiration
    and that you don't sweat the small stuff.
    ;- )


    *with apologies to a reviewer quoted on
    Cory Doctorow's Makers
    (well worth a read)

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7939 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    If the forecast is for rain – or to much wind – I drive. Whilst I appreciate the North-Western cycle way, i think that it is still really just an paved track built by someone who doesn’t ride a bike. A bit of camber for water run-off, and some thought about alignment/wind shelter would have been dandy. I normally just wear my helmet and a wind and showerproof flouro shell jacket over my work clothes with a backpack containing some wet weather pants. And some bike clips for my nice work pants. It is only a 20 minute bike ride to work, after all. In winter I add gloves and the little skull cap I use snow boarding under my helmet because that keeps my ears warm.

    Oh yes and I have this really fancy web thingy that I can put on over my jacket that turns me into a mini-rave of flashing lights for cycling at night.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2214 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    I commute about 6km each way in Auckland, and unless I'm going to work via the gym I wear street clothes - jeans or denim shorts, t-shirt or casual cotton shirt. When my commute was 15km each way I wore regular exercise shorts and a t-shirt, and SPDs. I have clip-on platforms on my SPDs now, and hardly bother with the shoes anymore - I don't ride far enough for them to make a difference, and these days I'm much more likely to run errands, go to the gym or choir practise before or after work so regular shoes make most sense.

    Grant Peterson at Rivendell can be relied on for interesting and contrarian opinions on most cycling topics, and sure enough he has some things to say about clothing.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Alice Ronald, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Tennyson St in Beckenham has this setup - it'll be interesting to see how it works around the university. My experience is that car passengers aren't accustomed to looking before they open their doors & I've seen quite a few cyclists have to swerve onto the grass verge or far left of the lane to avoid getting doored. And families going for walks quite often use the bike lane as an extra footpath.

    Then there's the one guy who likes to literally go against the flow & ride the opposite direction in the cycle lane (so he's facing the oncoming cars & bikes). But he's a special case.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 63 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Since I cycle for fitness purposes I’m a semi-traditional dresser: Cleated shoes, lyrca shorts, and a fluoro-yellow cycling shirt (not lycra). If I’m going to meet someone I’ll pull a pair of cargo shorts over the top of the cycling shorts, but I find that the baggier crotch can catch on the seat so I don’t ride with them as a habit.

    Like you I always wear gloves. I’ve come off a few times and it’s always the hands that take the brunt. I’ve dislocated a shoulder and cut my chin (same incident) but the worst that happened to my hands was pain from the impact. Likewise a chest-plant when the bike slid out from under me as I turned a corner, got some grazes on my forearms but the hands were fine (though the glove palms were a bit shredded, so they clearly saved me a lot of pain).

    Because I have clipless pedals I don’t have much choice about footwear, but I also sweat readily and copiously so going much further than the local shops (which are a five minute walk so it’s barely worth the hassle) in normal clothes is pretty much out of the question, especially in summer. Even in winter, though, I will be sweating after a 10-minute ride.

    ETA: I also have a wind-breaker vest and lycra/fleece arm-warmers in the same yellow shade, and lycra/fleece knee- and leg-warmers in black. Plus full-finger fleece-lined gloves for cold weather riding, since I get horrendously cold fingers very easily.

    AETA: Oh, and a helmet. Of course. Never leave home without it.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Alice Ronald,

    The test will come in a few months after the road works around the bridge are complete.

    A bright sticker put on every passenger door window at warrant of fitness time would have many people aware of the new cycle lane configuration within six months.

    I am shopping lazily for a bike for pottering around the neighbourhood and going to "town", and have been eyeing the Archi: how do you find it goes? I am waiting to buy until the endless road works in St Martins/Opawa/ Beckenham are mostly done because the holes and dips in the road around here are lethal and every way I leave home has major works on the route. I'm hoping the ways will clear a bit by spring.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2898 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth,

    SWMBO and I cycle purely for fun and fitness, because our commutes are the 10 metres from bedroom to home offices. A friend told us that if you cycle 150 km a week, you can forget diets and eat what you like. Sounds good, and seems to work.

    Being deeply rural, we tend to rely on the services of Ground Effect for most things. I have some baggy shorts with removable chamois for rides that involve lunch or socialising, and lycra for training and long rides. I tend to sweat a lot, so shirts are all technical materials (god knows what, but they wick the sweat away very effectively, and dry really quickly). One day, I'll buy one of these to wear on the long stuff.

    We did the Grape Ride for the first time this year. I thought I did well to finish in a bit over 4 hours for the 100km, but there was a bloke over 70 who did it in three. On the other extreme, our friends Pauline and Hugh have been known to average 100km a day. They're in Azerbaijan at the moment, on the way from Cumbria to China... Never known a couple who could eat so much at a sitting.

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    On a wet day I find it quite hard to ride my bike with my umbrella up. The funny looks that I get must be because I wear my ordinary clothes and do not own a sweat band.

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    Dunedin, mostly commutes of 3-4 km. I have a wardrobe in my office so will cycle with the assumption I am going to be weathered on and change at the end. Rugby shorts, t-shirt, normally a high-vis windbreaker (a bit pointless since I am normally wearing a pack), fingerless gloves. In cold weather add a layer between the t-shirt and shell. In past years there have been a few winter's days I wore ski pants.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Lilith __,

    A cycle lane between parked cars and the footpath potentially puts you in the path of passenger doors, but at least you can’t be knocked into the path of moving traffic

    Doors will kill you much more effectively than passing traffic unless you're particularly unlucky.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Irvine,

    I commute from East Coast Bays to town via the Bayswater Ferry (about 18Kms each way), ride a road bike and shower after each ride, so I lycra up. I appreciate being able to wear what you’re wearing at the time for shorter journeys, but for longer rides with hills and in the heat, I like temperature appropriate gear. Some of the things I use are:

    I do like road jerseys for their cut and their pockets – I have both plain ones and TDF team ones, which you can get from torpedo7.co.nz for reasonable prices in their frequent sales. My fav is the Euskaltel Euskadi one for its visibility.

    Lycra, padded bike shorts are best for longer rides in my opinion. I wear 3/4 length tights over them in the winter, and I’d throw a pair of shorts over ’em if I was meeting people. The best accessory for lycra shorts I’ve found is a sense of humor about their inherent ridiculous-ness.

    I cannot recommend the Timbuk2 messenger bag highly enough. It sits right, has padding, can take a decent size laptop with ease, it waterproof and looks as new as the day I got it, about 8 years ago. When I was commuting on a crappy old mountain bike, I was in a ridiculous situation where my bag was more expensive than my bike. Ah well.

    Ground Effect. I have their Flash Gordon rain shell and Vespa hi vis vest, which I wear for commuting. Both have taken a thrashing and are still in as-new condition. They’re a Christchurch company and are very much recommended.

    Merino. I wear extremely lightweight Icebreaker undershirts I got in their clearance sales on all but the hottest days, and they provide all the moisture wicking / warmth you need. I also have a pair of merino Solo CC (NZ company) arm warmers which they don’t seem to make any more. They are tremendous.

    In a fit of extravagance I got an Assos rain shell (similar to this) for rain in the summer. It was bloody expensive, but it’s bloody good, v waterproof and never gets too hot. I love the look of the Rapha gear too, despite it’s ridiculous pricing – if it wasn’t for having kids and having to eat and that I’d be all over it.

    I also use clip in road shoes with zip on rain covers when it`s wet, wear cheapie cycling glasses and wear a cycling cap under my helmet if it’s raining ’cos the peak keeps the rain out of my eyes. Very interesting reading everyone’s views – also recommend bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com for those times you find yourself taking it all a bit seriously!

    Auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 242 posts Report Reply

  • Alice Ronald, in reply to Hebe,

    I'm loving it - really easy to use. Mine doesn't look very good as I keep it outside & we have a lime chip driveway, so the chrome has rusted & the spiders have taken up residence. The build quality's a little light compared to a Pashley or similar, but it's serving me well as a city commuter with a comfy ride position & plenty of carrying capacity. I've ridden it from Beckenham to Riccarton Mall, I probably wouldn't go much further than that on it (because I'm lazy).

    I got one of the first ones off the boat (I know the guys who are importing them), but I think they're giving away some extras with them now - bells & locks, that sort of thing.

    My Mum's got a Bauer from Bicycle Business with a step-through frame & internal hub gears which she loves. There are occasions on the Archi where I wish for gears, but that's not often.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 63 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Alice Ronald,

    I've got induction-powered Reellights on the Archi bike,

    Are they good? Struck me as slightly better than a hub dynamo in that you could move the magnets if you wanted to turn them off in the daytime (but I also imagine that this is trouble that most people wouldn't bother with). I like the idea of lights that get brighter the faster I'm going.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Gaz Tayler,

    Firstly, I think y'all are very brave using a bike to commute around Auckland (or any other city in Auckland), I've had too many bad incidents to even consider it now.. the thoughts of those incidents still make me nervous... but I'm a dedicated off-road rider and ride a minimum of four times a week.

    I can recommend Ground Effect (their jackets are extremely good) and NZO (http://www.nzoactive.com/) for good shirts and shorts.

    I used to ride SPD, but have swapped to flat pedals and really good "sticky" shoes. Look at 5Ten or Teva, though a good pair of skate shoes will work very well, just not so warm and water resistent in the rain.

    Gloves are compulsory, check out Riders Depot on Barry's Point Rd for a great selection.

    Another thing to consider is the Buff (http://www.buffusa.com/) scarf/headwear, get one with UV protection, it'll save you from some unexpected sun exposure, especially if you are as folic-ally challenged as me.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2012 • 14 posts Report Reply

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