First Commute? What Should You Wear?
After our last piece on keeping your New Year’s Resolution and actually getting out on the road and commuting to work, we thought we’d better follow it up with a no nonsense guide to what you can get away with wearing on the British roads as a beginner cyclist. There are plenty of great cycling products and apparel out there but if you’re just getting into the swing of riding from A to B, there’s not much point spending too much on all the gear until you’re seriously ready to commit, so without any more ado, let’s have a look at what you need to wear to be comfortable without looking like you’re about to compete on a mountain stage of the Tour de France! Here it is:
Assess Your Distance
Before you begin choosing what to wear, you should work out the distance of your route to work – if you’re looking at a long trek, you’ll want to separate your ‘work’ clothes from your ‘riding’ clothes. If you’re only cycling around five miles or less, you can probably get away with wearing your work gear on the way! You also have to consider what line of work you’re in too – if you need to be seen looking your best all day every day, you may want to consider changing at work regardless of the distance!
The Layering Piece
Assuming you’re going to change, what do you need to wear? The most important piece you put on should be your base layer as this is the one that keeps you warmest. For this time of the year, it’s worth wearing a polyester long sleeved shirt. Polyester will help keep you warm but Merino wool is even better but as a new cyclist, you probably won’t have anything like that lying around. Using a polyester shirt and trouser combo is the first line of defence against the cold but for maximum results, you should layer on top of them with a good hoodie and rain jacket. The key to good layering lies in each outer layer into the layer that comes before it. If you’re feeling a draught anywhere, you might want to rethink your layering approach!
A Rain Jacket
Although it’s not an absolute essential, you’d be foolish to travel without one! A rain jacket is both water resistant and windproof. The downside is this: if you don’t spend a bit more cash on a comfortable and breathable jacket, you may end up getting wet from your own sweat anyway, which isn’t ideal. Fortunately, most modern jackets are nice and breathable with waterproof fastenings that don’t look too ridiculous either; in fact, you can get some really smart ones that don’t look to sporty either and won’t look out of place over the top of a suit. You probably already own something like this but if you want to go and buy something fit for purpose, invest in something that can pack down into a small space. The weather in the UK is temperamental at best, so even if the sky looks clear you should still prepare for the worst! Luck favours the prepared after all!
You can get away with wearing jeans and other casual trousers in the winter; it’s not such a great idea in the summer or for particularly long treks but if you want to (or can) wear jeans to work then providing your distance is less than five miles, you can pull it off. Of course, if you favour the super skinny style, you might want to reconsider your decision. Skinny jeans are quite restricting when walking and even worse in the saddle but a regular pair of boot cuts shouldn’t get in your way.
Assuming that you’re new to the cycling community, you probably won’t have any fancy clips for your shoes to clip into, so don’t stress about that problem for a while. Instead, wear light shoes that are comfortable, with a good grip on their flat sole. A cheap pair of canvas sneakers are ideal for the beginner cyclist. Save your money for proper cycling shoes further along down the line!
While the jury is still out about the benefits of wearing a cycling helmet, one thing is certainly true about them: something is better than nothing. Luckily, helmets come in all shapes and sizes now, so you don’t have to look like a poor man’s Power Ranger on the way to work. All that you need is one with a good and snug fit, that sits nicely on your head with a decent chinstrap.
For the cold weather, you can also throw a beanie style hat on underneath to help keep the cold at bay!
Don’t Forget: Mod Your Ride
The best way to keep yourself looking presentable while you’re riding or for when you arrive at work is to have the right gear on your bike too! A good set of mudguards will deflect the worse of the wet and grime from the road and a good chain guard will help to keep your legs free from any other muck that might get thrown up!
So there you have it – you don’t have to own all of the gear to simply get from A to B. You can get away with what you’ve already got nine times out of ten. Cycling is easy and for everyone so go out and get on your bike!