Clothing selection is a key consideration when bicycle touring. Weight, environment, comfort, drying time, durability and style are all factors that need to be considered when selecting the right attire. Our basic premise was to limit ourselves to two cycling and two casual sets. One problem with this is that you are wearing the same gear all the time and thus it wears out more quickly.
We have tried different types of synthetic and natural fibres. Next to the skin we much prefer natural fibres where possible, but recognise that sometimes we have to use synthetics.
Chain Reaction Cycles
The main suppliers that we use for sourcing our clothing are:
We do not use special cycling jerseys while touring. We do not want to look like Lance Armstrong. We want jerseys that can double for cycling as well as for casual use when we are not on our bikes.
Our favourite T shirts are Icebreaker, made from Merino wool. You can wear them for several days without washing them and they do not get smelly. They look good, are light and feel good next to your skin. Washing them is simple. Luke warm water, mild non-bio detergent (we usually use shampoo to save carrying laundry detergents) pull into shape and roll in a towel to blot dry. They dry overnight on a hanger or wash line. We carry two short sleeved and one long sleeved each.
Our outer layers are both synthetic fleece by Craghoppers and The North Face as we find them lighter. Fleece has better water resistance in light drizzle and is easier to wash and dry.
When it gets really cold we both have Rab Neutrino down jackets. They keep you toasty warm and pack down really small. We also use them as stuffing for our pillow cases. This does have the drawback that if you are going to lay your precious little head on them at night, then you do not want them to get wet. If it is cold and wet at night we resort to using our cycling waterproofs.
For cycling we both have a pair of Altura Pro-Gel Lycra Shorts which we absolutely love over all other types (and we've tried quite a few) and a pair of baggy, more casual ones. Karen uses a padded liner in hers whilst Steve's padding is sewn in. Although we prefer the look of the baggies we really haven't found anything better than Lycra for spending long days in the saddle.
For cold weather we have tights. Steve's are Lusse padded waist ones. Karen prefers her Mountain Equipment powerstretch tights which she wears over her shorts.
For casual wear we each have a pair of Rohan Goas. We like Rohan gear a lot and prefer it to many of the bigger names. Their clothes are designed for travelling with an emphasis on light weight and easy care. Steve also carries a pair of Goa adjustables (shorts, cut offs and full length) and Karen has a Rohan casual skirt.
For lazing about on the beach we both carry swimming gear and sarongs.
We hate waterproof layers. They are supposed to be waterproof to keep the rain out. They are supposed to be breathable to let the condensation out. None of the ones we have tried do either 100 percent effectively.
The first year we had Berghaus Paclite, Gortex jackets and trousers. In heavy rain they made us far too hot, we still got wet both from sweat and seepage, and they rustle noisily.
For year two we tried cheap, chain store cagoules but they were not completely waterproof and we still got soaked.
This year we are trying ponchos for the first time. They are made by Agu and so far have been very successful. They are slightly heavier than jacket and trousers as there is more fabric. We have yet to try them in torrential rain but for light showers they keep you dry and because there is plenty of airflow you don't get too hot. Because the front covers the handlebars your hands are kept dry and don't get so cold. The only downside is the flapping fabric going downhill but overall they're the best solution we've found so far.
Both of us use Sealskinz for waterproof socks. They are OK until the rain runs down your legs and eventually penetrates the inside of the sock. They then have the reverse effect and keep you feet wet and cold.
Skull caps, more for cold than wet weather we each have Endura skull caps that fit under our helmets.
We both use Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Lite Pro convertible jackets. They are bright yellow with reflective logos for visibility, have easily zipped out sleeves to convert to a gilet and are very light and small to pack. They stop the wind, are breathable and are also good in light rain.
We have three pairs of footwear i.e. cycling shoes, trainers and flip flops.
Our cycling shoes are Pearl Izumi X Alp Low SPD
We are fortunate that we use Time pedals that have a low profile cleat, but nonetheless it is difficult to find shoes with sufficient recess to stop the cleats clattering on the road when you walk. We also wanted shoes that looked like trainers and that you could actually walk in without looking as though you had just filled your pants or had a bad case if rickets.
The X Alp fulfil these criteria well. As we would be experiencing hot environments we decided that good ventilation was more important than protection against water. After all we have our SealSkinz for that. Previous shoes were found to hold water, becoming heavy and taking ages to dry. The X Alp dry quickly, are comfortable both on and off the bike and are available in men’s and women’s fit.
The down side of these shoes is that they smell. They are so bad that every time we stay somewhere, our shoes have to be put outside on the windowsill, so that they do not corrupt the air in the room
By comparison, our casual shoes (both Merrell) do not suffer this problem at all.
Although we are travelling and do not expect to be dressed up to the nines, you do need some clothes to make you feel human now and again.
Karen carries a nice scarf that transforms a simple T shirt into a classier look. She has dress made from a tube of stretchy black polyester, spandex material that can be a skirt or a very sexy off the shoulder, figure hugging dress (mini, knee, calf or ankle length).
Finally she has a white long sleeved blouse.
She also carries with her a minimum of jewelry, make-up and perfume.
Steve carries a stylish, casual shirt that doesn’t crease and an aftershave spray.
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