Boobs and Lycra (it's not what you think!)
So, in my first of many cycling related blogs, I'd like to to address what I believe to have been my first road cycling hang up ... wearing the dreaded lycra!! This has got to be one of the most common reservations when it comes to ladies taking to the saddle. I was convinced that I’d bear an uncanny resemblance to that of an overstuffed sausage, leaving myself wide open to being mocked. The harsh truth is that there will always be days when my inhibitions get the better of me, making me want to hide myself under a #Cycloform hoody (see below, available to buy, well snuggly and can be personalised if you wish!) and a pair of trackies, but more and more often there are days when I feel stronger, with an increased confidence and a new found pride in who I’m becoming. I've also come to realise that actually, if people are going to mock me for striving to be the best version of me that I can be, then they're the kind of people I’m happy to set myself apart from.
There's no getting away from the fact that you need to bite the bullet and visit a shop where you can try on different styles, brands and fits of kit. Lycra cycling gear will keep you cool or warm dependent on what you're using it for and it's so comfortable. All shapes, sizes and tastes in fashion are catered for, you just need to ascertain what is best suited to you.
The game changer here for me is my long bibs. I love them! They seem to hold everything in and prevent an unsightly muffin top, completely avoiding an unflattering seam line around my waist or my thighs as well as allowing my diaphram to expand to the size and rate it needs to. This seamless choice of kit can leave you with a lovely curvy shape and a flattering position on the bike ... It's really not as scary as you might think.
There is a draw back to the bibs however, us girls have to all but strip off when we need a comfort break, worth every second of the little extra effort though in my mind
The pads which are encompassed in the bum area of your chosen garment are usually gender specific due to the difference in shape of the male and female form. Boy or girl ... DO NOT WEAR PANTS!! Your cycling clothing is designed to be worn next to the skin & keep chaffing at bay. Trust me, pants will chaff.
If you just can't bear the thought of your lumps and bumps being on show whilst wearing this get up, then you can think about popping something a little looser over the top, It's not ideal but it means you'll get out in the open, maintain a comfy bum & still benefit from your padding.
There are a huge array of options available to you, but personal choice means you have to succumb to a little trial and error here. Cyclesense in Tadcaster are very knowledgable to do with all things cycling, they can help you out and offer advice on kit. The new Endura kit they stock is to my mind some of the best out there. There are an abundence of highstreet chains to try, as well as companies which cater specifically for the larger frame such as FLAB (Fat Lad/Lass At The Back). If your purse allows, I would certainly recommend a trip to a Rapha store. I'd always go with the best kit you can afford (your undercarriage will thank you!) & in my opinion, Rapha are the Alexander McQueen of the cycling world.
It’s a good idea to layer your outfit so you can warm up and cool down easily. I like my short sleeved jerseys because once I’ve climbed my first hill I feel as though my core temperature rises to a height which is hotter than the surface of the sun. I team this with either a nice gillet, a soft shell water repellent jacket or a warm winter jacket, but everyone’s body temperature regulators differ. Simon seems to wrap up as though he’s embarking on a polar expedition at the same time as I’m considering the logistics of having air conditioning fitted to my handle bars.
Basically you need to layer lightly from the outside, in. Wear gear that you can whip off and shove in your pockets. Bulky stuff is a pain when you've no back seat or glove box to chuck it in.
Do make sure you have enough suitable kit with you though, your temperature will dip much faster during the colder and wetter seasons, as well as on a big descent.
As you can see from these pictures I took last year, winter doesn't have to be a deterrant. Riding in the wet can actually be really invigorating, you must be careful mind you of slippery roads and surfaces such as railway tracks, man hole covers etc, as well as increased stopping distances. Just don't forget waterproof overshoes to keep your pinkies warm and dry, cold & wet feet can make for a terribly miserable ride.
Remember your gloves! You definitely need cycling specific, woolly mittens just won't do I'm afraid. As well as the obvious insulation they offer in the cold and wet, they also give you invaluable protection should you take a tumble. I wear my fingerless gloves regardless of the heat outside (when i say my gloves, i actually mean Simon's which i borrowed about 18 months ago and I'm still yet to return ... sorry Simon!). The same technology as is used in Motorsport and Skiing is used with cycling gloves and if you've ever had the misfortune of road rash on your palms then you'll know why.
Most importantly of all, you need a new helmet. Your head is priceless! Again, go and try some on to see what style you like. Basically, as long as it's comfy, it doesn't wobble about or perch on top of your head like Stan Laurels bowler then you're on the right track. Buy a cool one, you'll be wearing it a lot and if you're anything like me, then colour and making sure there's a hole for my pony tail is just as important (although actually, this can result in hair damage and breakage. If you're riding a lot, consider a low pony, plait or side plaits!). In addition, I rely on my #Cycloform buff or #Cycloform casquette under my helmet for keeping my hair from falling in my face and soaking up any sweat.
Another must from a kit perspective is a pair of shades. Not only for the obvious reason of protecting your eyes from the sun, but also from the wind causing blood shot eyes, bugs taking up residence in there, dust and grit flying in, as well as avoiding pesky crows feet from squinting too much. An added bonus is that they can look really cool, with cycling specific glasses coming with interchangeable lenses for day/dusk/night riding.
Lastly, I just want to talk about bangers. If you're blessed with a more voluptuous pair, they can be a real hindrance when riding, putting stress through the shoulders and neck. This can be remedied with a good quality medium impact sports bra which distributes the weight more evenly, thus improving position. Being a fairly well endowed girl myself, I'd advise against racer backs for cycling as the pressure is concentrated around the neck and shoulder area which is precisely what you want to avoid when you're riding.
I'd really recommend being professionlly measured, our melons change size with weight loss or gain as well as muscularity.
Look for fabric which will keep you cool and dry, like a base layer material. You don't want your puppies chaffing against a sweaty cotton bra. I'd also be mindful of the strap positioning. When you're trying on, put your arms in the position that you usually ride in to make sure that they aren't going to rub anywhere.
To finish off, just a reminder to carry a chap stick for your lips, regardless of cold or hot weather. It prevents chapping and burning alike!
I hope this has enlightened you a little in the world of cycling kit hang ups and prevented any uncomfortable faux pas!
As always, if you've anything to ask, or indeed to add, then please do get in touch!
Thanks for reading