Bicycle Network: Women's Cycling
Practical riding wear
What to wear when visibility and comfort are your priorities
You don't have to wear special clothing to ride a bike. All you need for riding a bike is a bike! People who ride a bike to get from A to B often prefer to wear their ordinary clothes, dressing for their destination rather than the ride.
However it's a practical inevitability that visibility and comfort become a higher priority, the longer you are in the saddle. Outlaying money to be visible and comfortable is not necessary. Just choose your clothes selectively on the basis of comfort and build up high-visibility accessories or - if you get serious about performance cycling - a cycling-specific wardrobe gradually. Who knows, you may even become addicted to lycra...but it's not a prerequisite!
This is the only thing you must wear, or face a $50 fine. By law, Victorian cyclists must wear a helmet that has been approved as meeting Australian Standards (look for the sticker inside the helmet). This applies everywhere, be it on the road, bike path or in a park.
Your helmet should fit comfortably and firmly. Adjust the straps so it cannot be tilted in any direction.
The more you ride, the more you'll want to be noticed by motorists. Bright colours such as white and fluorescent yellow, green and orange are best. If you don't have many fleuoro clothes in your wardrobe (and let's face it, who does) it's a good idea to invest in a high-visibility vest. Surprisingly, the colour red is not very visible, especially when it's dark. The more you ride at night, them more you'll want to light yourself up like a Christmas tree with reflective clothing. Some vests even come with built-in flashing lights, giving you extra presence on the road.
A brightly coloured windproof and waterproof jacket will keep you snug, dry and highly visible at night and on cold days. These often have zippered cooling vents that you can open up as you get warmer, and pockets in the back. A well-designed bike jacket will have an extended tail, a hood that's big enough to go over a helmet, reflective strips, extended sleeves and snug neck closure.
When your hands are warm, you're warm all over, so a pair of gloves in winter makes riding much more pleasant. Fingerless padded cycling gloves in the warmer months will stop you getting sunburnt and will absorb shock from bumps on the road.
"I always, always wear gloves. It just makes me feel safer in case I fall off." Kate, rider
Wearing sunglasses will protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. They will also protect your eyes from airborne dust, pollen and insects, and from being dried out by the wind. Clear or yellow tinted glasses are good for low-light conditions. Some glasses have interchangeable lenses for different light conditions, some can have prescription lenses fitted into them, and others are polarised to ward off glare from windows, glass or water.
On the bottom
"I was given those shorts with the padding in them, but I always hated how they looked. I usually just wear three-quarter leggings." Michaela, Year 12 student
Aesthetically speaking, cycling knicks are not for everyone, but they are far and away the most comfortable thing for cycling bottoms. They are designed so that there will be no irritation or chafing from seams. Never wear underpants with your knicks. (Don't worry, no one else does, and you'll be much more comfortable for it. But - here's an insider's tip - you might like to avoid white knicks, which can become transparent when wet or sweaty!)
If lycra isn't your thing, shy shorts are a good alternative. These combine the comfort of chamois knicks in a pair of less revealing shorts.
"When I was touring in Vietnam I wore shy shorts and a bicycle top. It's a bit of a cultural thing ... the Vietnamese aren't really into tight lycra." Michelle, cycle tourist, Vietnam
Jeans and other leggings with bulky seams can become uncomfortable on longer trips. Experiment with your clothes and find out what feels comfortable for you.
Whatever your style, in cold weather you need to be dressed warmly enough at the start of your ride, and be able to regulate your temperature as your body warms up. Wearing layers helps you to do this.
If you're going on a long ride, a base layer made from fabric that wicks away moisture is ideal, as it will carry sweat away from your body and keep you warm and dry. Bike jerseys are good for this reason, and their sleek design also helps to cut down wind resistance. But like lycra, bike jerseys are an opt-in mode of dress, not a prerequisite. Generally speaking, the longer or harder your ride, the more you might want to investigage cycle-specific clothing.
Lycra arm and leg warmers are easy to adjust or peel off while you're riding. You can also wear extra layers such as a wind vest with a mesh back.
"I wear a long-sleeve thermal underneath my jersey and I have a spare jacket that I tuck into the back of a bum bag." Pyrou, endurance road rider and mountain biker
"When I toured in Tasmania I wore Blundstones. Not only are Blunnies good enough for riding, they're very good for walking up hills - we did a lot of that in Tassie." Trish, cycle tourist
For novices, ordinary flat pedals in comfortable shoes works well. However, once you start to get into longer rides, you might like to try toe clips, which don't require special shoes, or clipless pedals, which do require specialist bike shoes.
When you're pedalling, you're not only pushing with one leg, you're lifting up with the other leg. The advantage of toe clips or clipless pedals is that they harness the power of the lifting action, so you've got more power and you go faster.
For clipless pedals, also called cleats, you will need special shoes to fit onto your pedal. Cycling shoes have rigid soles to transfer power into the pedals.
"When I first got into mountain biking I found that I could actually jump higher with cleats - they made a difference doing jumps and stunts and twirling around! The first time I went with them I got a few bruises and cuts because I forgot to click out of them. But as soon as you get used to them, there's no going back." Pyrou, endurance road rider and mountain biker