This article is from the Bicycles FAQ, by Mike Iglesias with numerous contributions by others.
From: email@example.com (Royce Myers)
Before I started cycling I had no idea why cyclists wore such silly
looking clothes. Now I know why, but I still think we look silly. The
value of using cycling clothes on a commute depends on the length of the
commute. It is hardly worth it to ride 1 mile to work in cycling clothes
and then change to regular clothes at work, but 20 miles is a different
How to dress for the road, from the ground up:
1. Shoes: if you have a short commute with little climbing, virtually any
kind of shoes and socks will do. I have seen commuters wearing cowboy
boots moving at around 15 mph. If you expect to exert yourself for any
length of time, some trade-offs should be considered. Socks made of
cotton will retain moisture, while polyester type socks (e.g., Coolmax)
will wick moisture and encourage it to evaporate. Cycling shoes are
stiffer than casual or dress shoes, so transmitting energy to the pedal is
more efficient. On the other hand, they are not comfortable to wear off
the bike, so a change of shoes is necessary at work. For most of us, this
is not a problem because shoes take up little space and can be left at the
office. There are a range of options in cycling shoes, depending on your
A note about pedals:
- Flat pedals allow easy on-off and may be used with any shoes. If you
hit a bump your feet may leave the pedals, which can result in loss of
balance and a crash.
- Toe clips and straps keep your feet on the pedals. They are designed to
be used with cycling shoes, either touring shoes, which have a sole
designed to hook onto a pedal, or racing shoes, which have cleats that
lock the cyclist to the pedal and improve efficiency. Many people
consider clips and straps to be obsolete, but they are a low cost way to
improve your efficiency. They will work adequately with street shoes and
hiking boots, which some people consider an advantage.
- Clipless pedals attach your shoes to the pedals similar to the way skis
attach to boots. With practice you can step in and out of them as easily
as flat pedals, but they are more efficient than toe clips. These pedals
require shoes that are compatible, and are much more expensive than toe
clips. I use the SPD style of clipless pedals, which has a recessed cleat
allowing you to walk around off the bike. I wouldn't recommend extensive
walking in these shoes, but they are perfect for what I need.
- Some pedals are flat on one side and clipless on the other, which allows
the rider to choose to wear cleated shoes for performance or regular shoes
for utility trips.
- An adapter is available for some clipless pedals that will turn them
into flat pedals with toe-clips.
2. Shorts: Casual cyclists ride at low speeds, at low RPMs, for short
distances so no special shorts are necessary. If you ride for any
distance you will need to develop a high RPM (80 - 110) for efficiency.
When your legs are moving that fast, baggy clothes will chafe, as will the
the seams in ordinary underwear, so you'll need something clingy like
lycra. And if you exert yourself, you will need to have some kind of
liner in these shorts to wick moisture from your privates. Bicycle shorts
are meant to be worn with no underwear; they are usually made out of lycra
and are lined with wicking pads. A good pair of bike shorts makes long
rides a pleasure; in fact, I never get on my bike without them.
3. Jerseys and shirts: Cotton retains moisture, so if you sweat, cotton
will keep it next to your skin, making you feel sticky and soggy. Yecch.
Polyester fabrics are designed to wick moisture away from you and allow it
to evaporate quickly. Bicycle jerseys are made out of polyester, and are
cut longer in the back because cyclists usually ride leaning forward to
reduce air resistance. Also, jerseys normally have two or three pockets
in the back, handy for carrying a handkerchief, banana, etc. When I take
my kids on rides I'll wear a tee shirt because I'm not going to sweat
much, but I always wear a jersey on my commute. Some people like cotton
and other natural fibers because they don't retain odors as much as the
polyester fabrics. In cool weather, wool is ideal.
4. Gloves: gloves will make your commute much more comfortable, and will
offer some protection in a crash. Long fingered gloves really help you
stay warm when it's chilly.
5. Eyewear: If you are commuting at dawn or dusk, you should consider
wearing clear glasses to protect your eyes from debris kicked up by cars
and wind. In daylight, sunglasses are a necessity to protect against UV
as well as road hazards.
6. Helmet: A helmet offers some protection in a crash, but the best way to
survive a crash is to learn to avoid falling in the first place. I wear
one, but I don't think it's some kind of magic talisman.
7. Other equipment: If there are unpredictable rains in your area, carry
rain gear. The articles on riding in the winter are availble through ftp
If you might work late, carry a light. Articles on lights are available
through ftp from:
[I did not retain the mail address of contributors who posted to the group
without a sig; also, I may have missed some posts that weren't emailed to