Wearing Prescription Glasses Whilst Cycling (And What About Varifocals?)

I was emailed a few years back by a Sportive Cyclist reader (the other one that’s not my mum), who rightly noted that I cycle whilst wearing prescription glasses. I can’t say for sure, but I have a sense that I might not be the only one…

Alan (for that ‘twas… ‘twis his name) then went on to supply some very helpful tips around cycling with varifocal lenses. I’ll share these later on in this post.

First though, since my glasses involve bog standard (albeit unusually prescriptioned) lenses, I thought I’d write more generally about cycling whilst wearing bins.

It’s at this point, I can offer the non-spectacle wearers amongst you to stand down. There’s nothing here to see (although if there was, presumably you’d see it very clearly indeed).

Road Cycling Whilst Wearing Glasses

To be honest I don’t have much to say that’s profound in this area (as is the case in every area).

I wear glasses pretty much all the time. Generally I don’t find them a problem when out on the bike.

The only times I’ve struggled with glasses have been when it is raining so heavily that water droplets fill the lenses on one side. Meanwhile, on the other side, the lens fogs up to the extent that it renders me functionally blind.

Luckily my vision is not so bad. I can ride without any eyesight correction if I have to. I just have to scrunch my eyes up a little to manhandle my own eyeball lenses into usable form.

It’s hardly ideal though, not least because I don’t carry a spare glasses case around in my jersey pocket. I don’t fancy dropping and/or crushing my only set of specs. More fool me for only having one set of proper glasses.

That said, things are about to change because…

I Just Bought Some New Prescription Glasses…

… and they cost less than £100 ($125ish).

In fact, we interrupt your regularly scheduled blogwords with the news that I’ve MADE A VIDEO on the subject (recorded in October 2019).

So if you wear glasses whilst riding and you want to see a reasonably priced, and flexible, set of prescription sports glasses, give this YouTube vid a watch (and DEFINITELY hit the subscribe button):

A Glaring Omission

The other scenario that can cause me issues with my day-to-day glasses is riding in very bright sunlight, where the surroundings give off glare. Think height of Mallorcan summer, riding up a pale rock-lined mountain road*.

(* Damnit – now I AM thinking about riding in warm Spanish sunshine… rather than damp Derbyshire wetmuckshine)

The obvious mitigant (the one I practise) is generally not to ride in sunny bright conditions. Quite easy in England.

When I do know I’ll be riding in such conditions, say on a summer training camp, er family holiday, I do have a pair of prescription sunglasses (even if their budget nature give them a Stevie-Wonder-circa–1980s vibe rather than the Morpheus-from-the-Matrix look I would otherwise aspire to).

Should I Wear Contact Lenses Whilst Road Cycling?

Well I haven’t felt an overwhelming need to.

Every few years I decide that now, finally, will be the time that I finally get into the habit of wearing contacts.

I go to the opticians, get my eyes tested, get retold how to put the contacts into my eyes and order another few boxes.

I thus have a drawer full of boxes of contact lenses with gradually worsening prescriptions. Which I’ve actually discovered have a ‘use by’ date. Which has passed. Some years ago. I now have a bin full of contact lenses.

The times I have worn contacts when cycling were:

  • on the aforementioned training camps (family holidays) when I thought I’d have the time each day (30 mins minimum … min mins) to wrestle the buggers into my eyeballs, plus a desire to wear more aesthetically pleasing suneyewear;
  • When I was practising the somewhat antisocial habit of participating in triathlons (by that I mean I did two of them) – I needed to use contacts such that I could wear goggles on the swim leg before transitioning (yes!) over to the bike.

I’d be interested to see what other readers think here.

Is there a strong argument for wearing contacts over your standard prescription glasses (clearly I don’t mean that literally) when road cycling?

Road Cycling Whilst Wearing Varifocal Glasses: Some Tips

As mentioned, our intrepid varifocal-sporting reporter Alan wrote in with some advice for us bespectaclazzi:

“Hi Monty,

Thank you for your posts which are a welcome change from the inundation of rubbish sales emails!”

{Oh I’m terribly sorry. How did that get in there? The jury will please disregard that comment.}

Alan continues:

“I noticed that you wear specs and as your pic is taken on your bike I assume that you need them for cycling.

{Monty: I do – in the sense I need them for pretty much everything}

I wear varifocals and need them all the time. They work reasonably well for cycling unless I am on the drops, when my vision needs to be over the top of the lenses, otherwise my neck aches from keeping my head up in an unnatural position.

I have spoken to my optician about a special bridge adaptor but nothing is available.

The drops problem is solved by placing a small piece of Blu Tack under the bridge of the specs to put [them] in a slightly higher position.”

{Monty – I’ve done some research into this ‘Blu Tack’ substance and it appears to be widely available…}

Varifocal Sunglasses For Cycling

Alan again:

“Needing varifocals restricts me in the use of any form of sports specs. I know you can get some models with custom made lenses. Most are too expensive, and would need to be made to overcome the correct line of vision. There would be an additional cost if my prescription changed.

I did have a dally with Optilabs and their inserts. They were very helpful but could not resolve the line of vision problem so my money was refunded.

I have another solution which really does work and allows me to wear my everyday specs (frameless).

Vistana are a manufacturer that make overglasses with a difference to any other design. The lenses wrap to the sides more in one piece and fit very well and look good too but I wish they would produce a style closer to sports styles. They come with different shades of lens.

As I say, not as cool as true sports specs but do the job well, and if combined with a sliver of Blu Tack, they are perfect.

I wonder whether you have any other ideas? Could be the subject of a post as so many of us must have this problem.”

And thus, like a thief in the night, Alan leaves with a flourish, but not without assuring us that he has no connection with any of the companies mentioned. Whilst I believe him on the Optilabs and Vistana fronts, I wonder if he is a secret Blu Tack magnate.

So What Do We Reckon, Spectacle-Wearing Brethren?

Has anyone had any particular challenges combining the wearing of glasses with the riding of bicycles?

Does anyone have any tips, whether for general glasses wearing or niche specta-cyclists? Varifocalists, contact lenseurs, etc.

Let me know in the comments below.

The post Wearing Prescription Glasses Whilst Cycling (And What About Varifocals?) appeared first on Sportive Cyclist.

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The Sportiveur’s Guide To The Best Winter Cycling Tights 2019

Colder temperatures will soon be upon us. A vital aspect of enjoying your cycling during the winter months is to ensure you’re adequately attired. Cycling tights should be an important part of the your adequate attire.

The aim of this post is shed a little light on the subject of winter cycling tights. I doubt that too much light is required, for this is hardly a challenging subject.

I’ll let you know the different leg warming options available to you as a road cyclists (yes, you have options) and provide some recommendations on what to buy in each category.

I’ll also throw in some inane chatter (you’re welcome). Now bring on the men in tights!

Sportive Cyclist Winter Tights Recommendations – Winter 2019

In recent years here in the UK, I’ve managed to keep cycling throughout the darker, wetter, colder months. My chosen leg-warming solution (erm…) depends on the prevailing conditions – mainly how cold it is. The strength and temperature of the wind will also be a factor.

The recommendations below are from the perspective of an enthusiastic (early!) middle-aged road cyclist. My winter rides tend to be between 1 to 2½ hours in length. I want to stay comfortable but I wouldn’t say I’m particularly sensitive to cold in my legs (unlike my hands).

If this rider (and riding) profile sounds like you as well, then hopefully you’ll find my recommendations below useful.

(By the way, if you’re interested in the things to think about when selecting your tights, and why you should never where tights underneath your bib shorts, I cover this below my recommendations)

Best Winter Cycling Bib Tights With Padding

(Which is a mouthful of a heading and no mistake).

In this section I look at two versions of essentially the same bit of kit: a set of padded bib shorts, just with the legs extended down to the ankles (er, like human legs).

Pick the one that best suits the amount you have to spend… 

Best Value Thermal Bib Tights: dhb Aeron FLT Roubaix Bib Tights

dhb Aeron FLT Roubaix bib tight red and black

Disclaimer: I am biased because Wiggle sent me a pair of dhb roubaix tights very similar to these to test (yes, for FREE, dear reader).

I can honestly say that they have been excellent. On extreme weather days, they are toasty warm. They are not waterproof, and certainly they’re not made of neoprene, but there is a wetsuit-like quality to them. Even if they get a bit wet, either from the rain or road spray, they retain the heat close to my legs and you really don’t notice if there’s a little dampness.

The build quality is really good too. Getting on tight-fitting thicker lycra is always a bit of a struggling, involving some pulling and stretching to get it all sitting in the right place. This puts stress on the seams and the material itself. But I haven’t seen any stretching, or tearing, or signs of wear at the seams.

Highly recommended from me then.

The link below is to the new version of the tights, which at the time of writing, shows zero reviews. Through the magic of writing previous bib tight recommendation posts, I know that the previous version of these tights had 200+ reviews with a strong average rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Click here for more info (and to buy) the dhb Aeron FLT Roubaix Bib Tight

Best Winter Cycling Bib-tights For Performance: Castelli Sorpasso 2 Windstopper Bib Tights

Castelli Sorpasso 2 Bib Tights

Everyone needs a little Castelli their life (and a little money on their credit card to afford a little Castelli in their life).

These tights purport to be windproof, insulating and highly breathable. With an almost 5 star rating (4.6 to be exact) from over 115 reviews on the Wiggle site, it’s likely these tights do what they purport.

As you’d expect from Castelli, the Sorpasso’s benefit from a performance-oriented cut. As well as being somewhat on the ‘fitted’ (read: tight) side, this means they are engineered to pull you in provide support in all the right places. In practice this means that they pull in your, er, mid-section and provide lumbar support for your lower back.

The tights are constructed from two different (but admittedly similar) fabrics, each with a different purpose. Thermoflex Core2 has a ‘hollow-core’ yarn on the inner face (the bit touching your legs) which provides insulation (and therefore warmth), with a more standard nylon outer surface. This material is used on the front (midriff) and knees. The more flexible Thermoflex (you see what they did there) is used for the thighs and on the back of the legs, to provide stretch and movement (whilst still being fleecey-warm).

The thing to be aware of with Castelli products is sizing. Most reviewers (including the customer reviews on Wiggle) suggest going a size bigger than with other makes (which concurs with my experience of their jerseys).

Click here for more info (and to buy) the Castelli Sorpasso 2 bib tights

Best Cycling Waist Tights (For Want Of A Better Term)

Interesting (not so interesting) fact. The first two sets of cycling tights I bought did not have a pad (for yo’ bum) in them. They were made by Nike before the whole Lance Armstrong kaboodle caused them to quietly depart the cycle clothing market.

Anyhoo… I assumed that the vast majority of cycling tights were therefore sans chamois. How wrong I was.

In researching this post (*messing around on the internet*), it appears that most cycling tights these days, do come with a fitted pad.

So unless you want to ‘double-pad’ it, you probably won’t want to wear bib shorts beneath them.

Anyway, behold a couple options (depending on how visible you want to be)…

Best Cycling Tights For Visibility: dhb Flashlight Cycling Waist Tights

dhb Flashlight Thermal Waist Tights

I am most disappointed. The previous version of these involved a load of reflective hexagons, allowing me to roll out all my Blockbuster jokes (it’s a UK thing…).

The new version instead uses what look like reflective gun targets. So other road users will be able to see you. And shoot you.

I’ll take a P please bob.

These tights also come in an un-padded version, in case you want tights that can work with your existing cycling shorts, not against them. Wait, I mean instead of them.

Click here for more info (and to buy) the dhb Flashlight Thermal Waist Tights (with padding)

Click here for more info (and to buy) the dhb Flashlight Thermal Waist Tights (WITHOUT padding)

Best Value Thermal Cycling Waist Tights: dhb Classic Thermal Waist Tight

dhb Classic Roubaix Waist Tights

That’s just classic Thermal. Classic.

These tights used to have ‘Roubaix’ in the title, denoting the fact that they’re made with the Lombardia fleecy lycra fabric. Despite the slight name change (which is probably more understandable to the lay reader) they’re still made from that material.

So still nice and warm at a reasonable price.

There’s a good number of reviews on the Wiggle site (over 60) and the vast majority would recommend (as would, since effectively I own the ‘bib’ version of these tights).

Click here for more info (and to buy) the dhb Classic Thermal Waist Tights

Why You Shouldn’t Wear Tights Underneath Your Shorts

For a long time, when I saw pro riders (or those who wanted to look like pro riders) training in cold weather, I assumed they were wearing tights underneath their cycling shorts.

It took me an awfully long time (too long) to realise that this wasn’t the case (I hope it wasn’t the case) and they were most likely wearing knee or leg warmers.

Just in case this is something of a revelation for you, a brief explanation.

Cycling shorts are designed to be worn sans pantage. The pad (or chamois) is meant to placed directly against your, er… skin [Monty successfully avoids being overly explicit].

If you put your tights on beneath your cycling shorts, you’re negating the effect of your (potentially expensive?) chamois and increasing the chance of material bunching up, causing saddle sores.

If the tights have a pad as well, then you’ll be double padded, and have to waddle around like a sumo wrestler.

So tights are worn over your cycling shorts.

Got that? Good. Moving on.

Cycling Tight Options

So here we go. There are a number of factors you might like to consider when identifying your perfect set of tights. And below are a few of those factors.

(And yes, it is one of my life beliefs that everyone has a ‘perfect set of tights’  … out there in the frozen tundra… waiting to be found…)

How The Tights Stay Up

Cycling tights stay up either by having an elasticated waist (and have the appearance of tight trousers or, er, … tights) or by having shoulder straps like bib shorts (and therefore look much like bib shorts but with longer legs).

Both of my pairs of tights are elasticated at the waist. I’ve never had a problem with them either digging in or falling down (to be honest, I hadn’t realised this was even a consideration until I started researching* this post).

(* Yes, I do research these things, in a fashion).

Material (Girl)

Cycling tights, like shorts, are generally made from lycra (what else would you expect?).

That said, there are different types of lycra depending on how warm the manufacturer intends to make the garment in question.

Most popular tights tend to have some degree of fleecy lining, generally identifiable by their fancy, trademarked fabric names, such as Roubaix, Super Roubaix, Thermoflex, Nanoflex.

You’ll sometimes see ‘Roubaix lycra’ used as a more general term to refer to any lycra that has a fleecy inner surface. Hence the dhb (Wiggle own-brand) Aeron Roubaix thermal bib tights below are described as having a Roubaix finish, despite being made from another type of lycra (Lombardia, in case you’re interested – oh, you’re not…?).

Pad – With Or Without

Apparently, cycling tights are available with or without integrated ass pads (alright, chamois). Who knew?*

(*Not me – neither of my pairs of tights has one).

Clearly, if you buy tights with a pad, you wouldn’t wear another pair of cycling shorts underneath them.

Perhaps this is an obvious point, but I’m going to make it anyway. If you buy shorts with a pad, you only have one layer of material between you and the elements.

If you buy overtights, there are two layers of lycra where your shorts are, providing additional insulation at the top of your legs and around your boll…. your lower vital organs.

Superhero Suit

This is a category of ‘cycling tights’ in and of itself. And to be honest, I feel they’re stretching the meaning of the term ‘tights’.

Essentially, Castelli, purveyor of expensive cycling clothes (as worn by pros, even when they have a different clothing sponsor), make a winter cycling suit comprising a pair of thermal tights sewn into a thermal cycling jersey.

A bit like the pants and vest combo that poor East End evacuees were sewn into during the 1940s (a bit like that).

Anything Else?

Beyond the obvious, there are few ‘features’ of cycling tights.

Many will have reflective elements, either in the form of stickers or piping near some of the seams. I wonder how effective these are, given 99% of tights are otherwise almost entirely black. Better to have a decent set of lights on your bike.

The bit around the foot is…. interesting (alright, I’m grasping at straws here!). Specifically how the cuffs at the end of each leg get over the foot before forming a tight seal around the ankle.

Many tights have small zips just below the calf to facilitate this. Others go for a stretchy cuff (which sounds like a medical condition). I prefer the zipped ones.

Leg (And Knee) Warmers

If you want to look like the pros, with black-clad legs beneath brightly-coloured pro team shorts, then wearing knee/leg warmers are the way to achieve it.

Essentially, these are lycra tubes, shaped to a greater or lesser degree (often based on how much you paid) to fit closely around your legs. Whether said tube is a knee warmer or a leg warmer is a question of scale – if it goes to just below your knee, it’s a knee warmer; to the tops of your socks (and below) it’s a leg warmer.

If it’s made of pink wool and just warms your shin, you might have gone to a 1980s dance shop rather than your LBS.

The accepted wisdom appears to be that your cycling short legs should overlap the tops of the leg warmers in order to provide continuous clothing coverage.

The advantage of leg (and knee) warmers, versus the common-or-garden tight, is that they are easier to remove mid ride and occupy less space in your jersey pockets, in the event that the temperature of your mid- to lower-leg becomes unbearably high.

Best Cycling Leg Warmers: GripGrab Classic Leg Warmers

Confession time: I don’t wear cycling tights all that often.

(“What?!? And you have the audacity to stand here preaching to me about the merits of tights? Hypocrite!!”)

Nope. I’ve taken to wearing leg warmers. These leg warmers in fact:

GripGrab leg warmers in box

I bought a pair a couple of years ago because I had a Wiggle voucher, plus they were on offer. They’re my ‘go to’ leg covering for when the weather turns cold. 

I wrote a full post on leg warmers, which included a review of the GripGrabs (and if you can contain your excitement, you can read it here).

In short (and below shorts), they’re excellent, and they make you look pro, particularly if you have colours on your bib shorts:

leg warmers for winter cycling
So pro…

In terms of warmth, they’ll do me in most conditions, so they’re a very versatile bit of kit that doesn’t take up too much room in your cycling wardrobe (or your cycling go box). Go get yourself a pair:

Click here to buy / for more info

That’s it for all my recommendations. Thank you for comi…

Oh Wait, You Want To See The Superman Option? (The Castelli Sanremo RoS Thermosuit)

Well this is a wetsuit, isn’t it?

Not quite. There’s no neoprene to be seen.

Instead what you’re looking at is essentially a Castelli Perfetto RoS (Rain or Shine) Convertible jacket, the updated version of my Castelli Perfetto jersey but with the ability to zip off the arms, attached to a set of Nano Flex Pro 2 tights.

It’s a strong combination, at a somewhat eye-watering price.

If you care about staying uber-warm, and you have the funds, this might be the choice for you.

Click here for more info (or to buy) the Castelli Sanremo RoS Thermosuit

That’s Enough Tempting Tightwear

There’s only so many lycra clad legs you want to gaze at in a single sitting (where ‘so many’ generally equals zero).

Hopefully this summary of the ‘issues’ has been useful. If I help just one person prevent saddle sores through incorrect tight wearage then I’ve done my job.

Just to say, the links above are affiliate links. If you like this article, and you’re in the mood to buy some cycling tights, then doing so after clicking one of the product links in the table means I get paid a small commission. Which helps keeps the lights on here at the Sportive Cyclist Service Course. Well, one light. For an hour maybe.

Until next time, happy (warm, winter) cycling!

The post The Sportiveur’s Guide To The Best Winter Cycling Tights 2019 appeared first on Sportive Cyclist.

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Best Socks For Road Cycling: A Magnificent Feet Of Research

Wow. This one is going to test my writing chops. How I’m going to wrestle a blog post out of this subject I do not know. Better kick on.

To be honest I don’t give my feet much thought when cycling. This extends
beyond sock choice.

My only real issue in the foot area actually manifested itself through knee pain and an under-developed set of right quadriceps (more under-developed…). The issue (and solution) was foot-related.

As part of my new bike and bike fit process in 2013 I bought Speedplay pedals and set the float up to pretty much maximum. This (and the well-fitting bike) sorted the knee.

Back to feet.

Unlike my hands, where I seem to really suffer with the cold, I am able to
live with discomfort down there (at the end of the legs, not ‘down there’).

I’ve never used overshoes to keep my feet warm in grizzly weather. I’ve also
not used overshoes in order to become #moreAero.

Cycling-Specific Socks Do I Own?

Now there’s an interesting sub-heading if ever I wrote one.

I’ve actually got two pairs (fascinating). Prepare to receive some
information about them.

[Hit it!]

1. “Standard” Rapha Socks

I say standard but they’re actually quite smart (mine are navy blue). And
good at what they do (being socks).

I received them as part of a birthday present from this blog’s best
supporting actors, my sister and her husband.

Rapha navy blue socks
Behold the socks!

The main part of the gift was a Rapha Core Jersey (my favourite cycling
jersey according
to this post
). If I had to guess, I’d say the socks were a top up gift, in
order to hit the moneyspend they wanted to get to for the present.

Which is pretty much the level of analysis I would apply when buying a pair
of socks.

For a long time, Rapha was the brand that ‘real cyclists’ loved to bag on.
All mouth and no trousers. Style over substance. My experience is exactly the
opposite, both with these socks and the core jersey.

Rapha sock on foot

Whilst the reality is that I don’t go out of my way to buy and wear
cycling-specific socks, these Rapha foot coverings have come the closest to
persuading me to change that (hard line) stance.

2. dhb (Dan) Merino
Winter Socks

Now I think about it, my other cycling socks were bought in a similar way in
a similar way to the Raphas.

I’d received some Wiggle vouchers for Christmas and had identified the main thing I wanted to buy (these GripGrab leg warmers were on offer).

dhb merino socks

Buying a set of merino wool socks (similar to these ones) allowed me to use up the rest of the voucher without adding too much of my own money (remember – Yorkshireman, deep pockets, short arms).

Anyway, they shrank.

They are warm though (as you’d hope and expect from merino). Just a little
bit too ankle socky and tight on the foot-y.

If I could be sure they wouldn’t shrink (I can’t discount that my washing
machine incompetence was the cause), I think I’d buy another pair.

What Factors Should
We Be Considering When Buying Bike Socks?

Hell, should we even be wasting valuable brain juice on the subject?

(I’ll leave that question hanging.)

When I started writing this post (I commence scribbling before I know what
I’m going to say), I would have said that for most people, the key criteria
when buying cycling socks would be looks. Or at least colour.

Then I actually looked into the subject (did an internet search) and
realised that there’s more to this sock thing than meets the eye. Maybe there
are marginal gains to be had…

But back to appearance.

For the most part I just pick the first pair of socks that comes to hand
that is a light or bright colour (essentially anything that doesn’t look like a
work sock). This possible says more about my lack of thought than a particular
desire for sartorial elegance.

Other velo-dandies will, I’m sure, select a sock that coordinates with the
fluoro-camouflage kit that they’re sporting this ‘season’.

Rapha basic socks
I always wear socks pulled up righty tighty…

I don’t know. Some people like to ‘show a bit of personality’ by going a bit
more outlandish on smaller clothing items, whilst remaining conservative when
it comes to the bigger garments.

That’s why you wear that comedy tie to work (that no one else realises is
ironic) and why I wear a pair of bike cufflinks as a wink and a palm tickle to
other secret bikemasons.

To mini-conclude, how a sock looks on your sculpted cyclo-calf clearly is
important. But if high performance is what you’re after (?), what other
sockfactors make a difference?

Let’s start with the material.

What Are Cycling
Socks Made Of?

Good grief, what a question.

We’ve ‘discussed’ my mini merinos.

In addition to keeping your feet warm (when used for socks), merino wool is
apparently good at allowing water vapour to escape the local microclimate near
your foot. As a result, the socks don’t get wet, causing discomfort and further
heat loss.

Since merino socks, all else being equal, don’t get as moist as other
materials, they don’t provide a conducive environment in which bacteria
thrives. So they’re less susceptible to becoming smelly socks.

All of which sounds like a screed from the international Merino sheep federation.

Cotton Cycling

Not that I’ve had a particular problem, but apparently cotton fibres retain
moisture in the sock, trapping it against your skin.

As a result, you’re cotton clad feet would be colder in winter and run the
risk of blisters in warmer temperatures.

Cotton also appears to be less durable than alternative materials. It
stretches and ‘bags’ easily (whatever that means).

Hmm, after a doing a bit of research (if we can call it that) into cotton,
I’m starting to re-think my whole sock ‘strategy’.

Bamboo Cycling

I went through a phase where every Christmas morning seemed to involve the
arrival of a new pair of bamboo work socks….

In other news, you know when you think a section of a blog post will be easy
to write?

Mention bamboo. Sprinkle in the odd ’eco friendly. Add a few
‘anti-bacterials’ and call it done.

Then you realise the only element of this blogsection that is eco-friendly
and anti-bacterial is the can of worms you inadvertently just opened…

Turns out bamboo socks are not eco-friendly (unless they’re made from bamboo
linen, which feels unlikely) and there are questions over their anti-bacterial
creds as well.

Seems you’ll have to look elsewhere for your optimal cyclosock fabric.

Polyester Cycling

So… it would appear that, contrary to my initial assumption, man-made
fabrics are the best for performance cycling socks. Who knew?

Turns out that polyester (other
elaborately-named-man-made-fabrics-that-do-essentially-the-same-thing are
available) socks are more breathable, durable and better at wicking away
moisture (aka sweat) than cotton.

Because such fabric tends to be harder wearing (that wool, say), they can be
woven more thinly (is that how we’d say it?) and they therefore tend to be good
for lightweight summer socks.

Man made fabrics also tend to be good for slightly more complex sock
constructions. So you’re more likely to see grippy cuffs (to keep them in place
on your calves) and extra material in the bits where they get more abuse or in
order to ward off blisters.

Shoes Electric

Now all of the info above is fine but, as you know, I like to think outside the shoe box.

I’m therefore most concerned about static generation and the risk of
unexpected electric shocks. I wouldn’t want one of these to upset the delicate
electric motor that I’ve got hidden away in my bottom bracket…

Again not a topic oft-mentioned in the velo literature. I’ve had to research
fashion websites and transpose some knowledge across domains.

Solutions if you’re experiencing static, sock-driven or otherwise:

  • ‘spritz’ yourself with some water; or
  • attach a (metal) safety pin to yourself.

You’re welcome.

What About
Compression Socks?

I don’t think there is such a thing in cycling circles (possibly because
they wouldn’t comply with UCI rules – see below). Maybe you’d where them on the
plane home from your next Grand Tour, I don’t know?


How Much Do Cycling
Socks Cost?

Given that my ‘MO’ when buying socks is to:

  1. wait until Christmas and hope that my mum buys me some;
    or failing that
  2. buy a 5-pair multi-pack from M&S

I struggle with the concept of even buying socks on a single pair basis.

No matter. This is the world we must accept as a velocipede with panache.

The upper end of the price range is reasonably easy to define. We just check
the websites of Assos, Castelli and Rapha.

The most expensive sock (pair of) I’ve found to date (with minimal effort)
is the ‘fuguSpeer_S7’ from Assos at £40.

Castelli tops out at £35 with its ‘Fast Feet’ sock, which looks to be built
for aerodynamism (the name gives it away) and UCI rules rather than warmth.
It’s ‘normal’ sock range (where warmth is the focus) goes up to £25 a pair.

Rapha also goes up to £25 (for it’s ‘Deep Winter’) sock, but most of the
range is around £15. It even has a ‘3-for’ bundle on some of the range, which
I’ll have to tell my mum about for next Christmas…

Incidentally if you want to buy some cycling-specific socks, Wiggle appears to have an excellent selection, which you can have a snozzcumber at by:

What Height Should
Cycling Socks Come Up To On The Calf?

Probably worth asking the mummy cow.

I think university degree theses have been written on this topic. There is a
stylistic requirement that socks come up to a certain point on your calf. This
designates you a rider with panache.

Sadly I don’t know what this height is. I can’t be bothered to Google it
and, to be honest, I won’t do further research on it.

Sportive Cyclist (this blog) welcomes a broad church so wear whatever height
socks you fancy.

Rapha sock with Specialized bike shoes
I go for ‘mainly pulled up with a slight ruffle’

(As long as you do wear socks – see below).

There is maybe an argument for the aerodynamically motivated gent requiring
a longer sock.

Whatever floats your boat (though I’d prefer it if your boat wasn’t floated
by socks that come up to your knee…)

Things To Think
About If You Happen To Be A Pro Cyclist…

(Rather than simply aspiring to look like one).

There is, in fact, a UCI rule on the legal maximum sock height that a
professional cyclist can ‘run’ during a race.

I guess this must mean that there is some aerodynamic benefit to wearing
longer socks (provided they’re made of the right textile, which the UCI also
legislates on). The UCI has a habit of introducing rules based on tradition and
pseudo-science, though, so who knows.

Anyway, for a sock to be ‘race legal’ (and indeed an overshoe), it must come
no higher than half way been the middle of the fibula head (let’s just call
that the knee) and the middle of the lateral malleolus (the ankle).

So that’s that. The message is clear, kids. Say ‘no’ to excessively long

What Should You Buy
If You Do Want A
Sock That Is Both Aero and Race Legal?

There is actually an answer to this.

UK company Rule 28 makes ‘Aero Socks’, which purport to be as aero as you
can get whilst still complying with the UCI rules on sock height. They claim
that the majority of national track teams use them for indoor cycling, which I
suppose points to their efficacy (or that riders like feeling aero).

I think they look quite smart (check ’em out for yo’self – not an affiliate link). They also make overshoes (although, again, for the track rather than inclement outdoor conditions).

Now, I’m more
interested in where the name ‘Rule 28’ comes from.

Initially I assumed it referred to the specific UCI #sockrule.

I couldn’t face wading through the UCI regulations, so I resorted to Google
and another website (cyclingnews.com, so
legit) suggested the relevant clause was 1.3.033 …. bis. Which is not 28.

The other source of rules is the Velominati website, where rule 28 is ‘Socks
can be any damn colour you like’. So that clears that one up.

Should You Ever
Road Cycle Without Socks?

In short, no.

(Nor should you wear socks that are just big enough to cover your feet, that
stay hidden within the shoe).

I imagine there are practical reasons for avoiding sockless cycling (your
feet get cold, greater risk of blisters) but there is a more fundamental
reason. You’ll look like a triathlete.

And no one wants that.

Rapha socks for cycling
A Rapha sock, in the wild

Concluding Sock

Now that,
ladies and jellybeans, is how you write 2,200 inconsequential words about

It strikes me that the Goldilocks principle should be applied. Socks shouldn’t be too warm or too cold, too thick or too thing, too long or too short. They should be ‘just right’.

If warmth is your priority, I’d start with merino or other woolly mammoths

When the summer heat is on (chance would be a fine thing), technical fabrics
that wick away sweat and smell seem your best bet (and I’ve been pleased with
my Raphas).

For Mercx sake though, please wear some.

Support My ‘Work’

If you’re in the market for some new socks (and who isn’t), you can help support the Sportive Cyclist blog by purchasing through an affiliate link (and you pay the same price):

You can also take a look at the full Rapha selection on their own website. This isn’t an affiliate link but it does have an identifier that hopefully tells them I sent you (so please click!).

The post Best Socks For Road Cycling: A Magnificent Feet Of Research appeared first on Sportive Cyclist.

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Protecting The Undercarriage: Best Cycling Shorts For Sportive Riders In 2019

The cyclist’s journey towards velo mastery involves progressively replacing each item of clothing in their wardrobe with the equivalent garment made out of Lycra (Spandex to our US brethren). Cycling shorts are generally first on the list.

In this post, I’ll explore the exciting world of padded gussets and elasticated waistbands, and then give a few recommended shorts for you to check out.

Why Are Cycling Shorts Important?

Well first, al fresco riding on your bottom half is both breezy and likely to get you arrested. I’ve been there. (I haven’t)

Secondly, as one of the key junctions between you and your bike (the other two being at the handlebars and the pedals), there’s likely to be a spot of… er, rubbing.

If you’re anything like me, you value your undercarriage quite highly. You want to show it the respect it deserves (“Respect my ar*e!”).

Since your derriere is going to be lodged upon the saddle for hours on end, you want to make it as comfortable as possible.

Oh yeah, something about reducing wind resistance by not having excess material flapping around whilst you’re riding. Whatever.

Note: The links to products in this post are affiliate links. If you click on one and buy something, I’ll get a small commission. You won’t pay any extra, but you will get an immediate happiness boost from knowing that you’ve supported this site.

Types Of Cycling Shorts

In Le Mont’s almanac of all things road cycling there are essentially three different design of ‘short’:

  • ‘Short’ shorts – let’s be honest, these are glorified (and gloriously tight) underpants. They cover you from your waist down to a point on each leg between the middle of the thigh and the knee. They have elasticated waistbands to keep things nice and tight.
  • Bib shorts – these are like short shorts but with the addition of elasticated braces (UK) / suspenders (US) over your shoulders. The shoulder straps make the shorts stay in position whilst riding, and means that the elasticated waist band can be dispensed with. They also mean that going to the toilet becomes exponentially more difficult.
  • ‘3/4’ length – other almanac makers might be tempted to lump these in with cycling tights. Not me! To my mind, they’re shorts for which the manufacturer has seen fit to extend the legs to just below the knee. As we all know, 80% of body heat is lost through the knees. Three quarter length shorts can be bought in bib (with shoulder straps) and ‘non-bib’ format.

How Much Can You Expect To Pay

Now you’re asking. Oh right, you are.

[Monty fumbles with Google]

At the budget end, cycling shorts (without the bib straps) start from around £20 / $30.

At the top end, the likes of Castelli and Rapha charge £150-200 / $200-300. Which is a lot of money.

What Do You Get When You Pay More?

More marketing bumph. Ha, I jest.

As the price goes up, you tend to see higher quality materials being used. The lycra (spandex) is more robust, squeezing you into the optimal shape to minimise wind resistance on the bike (or something). The padding becomes more substantial and is perhaps more intricately-shaped.

You see features like elasticated (and slightly sticky) bands at the end of the legs to stop them from sliding up your thighs, or small zipped pockets at the bottom of your spine (obviously not right at the … bottom).

And a bit more money spent on marketing. I no jest.

Bib Shorts vs Shorts (vs Non-Cycling Shorts)

Bib shorts are better. There, I said it.

Cycling shorts without bibs rely on an elasticated waist in order to hold them up. This can bite into your midriff and become increasingly uncomfortable the longer you spend on the bike.

Bib shorts tend to be more flattering in the gut area, an important consideration for a neo-MAMIL such as I.

With a tight(ish) lycra jersey, at best, elasticated waist shorts will dig in below the tummy, emphasising any inadvertent carbo-loading you might have indulged in. At worst, the shorts ride down, the jersey rides up and you have an opportunity to feel the wind upon a strip of your tum tum.

On the other hand, a bib, whence attached to a short, will tend to act a bit like a corset, keeping ‘all the right junk in all the right places’.

The only caveat to all this is when I want to wear cycling shorts under casual shorts (say I’m riding my road bike into town – a 30 minute ride each way – on an errand). Here I’d wear my waist cycling shorts because wearing lycra bib shorts under normal shorts and t-shirt feels faintly subversive (see also: going to the toilet).

And for completeness, I generally don’t wear non-cycling shorts on my road bike, other than for very short rides. Partly that’s habit I guess. Plenty of people ride bikes without padded shorts. Up to you – they’re your nether regions.

Can You Get Waterproof Cycling Shorts?

On the face of it a faintly ridiculous question. But the answer is actually yes.

Well, strictly they’re not waterproof. I don’t think anyone would want to wear skintight goretex shorts, no matter how breathable.

Quite a few companies now (including Sportful) make cycling shorts that are designed to give some protection from the elements (the wet ones). The main way they do this is by applying a water-repellent coating to the short fabric, causing the water that hits it to ‘bead up’ rather than be absorbed.

Like all wet weather clothing, there’s a limit to how much rainy punishment can be taken. Still, given our climate here in the UK, worth considering, particularly for early spring and autumn riding when you’re really not in the mood to get cold and damp…

Chamois Pad Shape – Does It Make A Difference?

First things first, chamois pads are no longer made out of chamois (i.e. soft leather, originally made from goat skin). Modern bumpads are made out of foam and gel inserts – neither of which have seen a goat.

And we probably don’t want to see a return to the good ol’ days. Chamois was originally inserted into cyclists’ (woollen) shorts to give a bit of ‘glide’ when sat on the saddle, thus reducing chafing. Provide padding it did not.

To answer the question, I’m sure pad shape does make a difference, within reason. My cheapy (and old…) Nike Discovery Channel short (see below) have a rubbishy thin pad. I wouldn’t wear them for more than a couple of hours on the bike.

The pads on my dhb and Specialized shorts (again, see below) are more sculpted, thicker (particularly in the case of the Specialized RBXs) and made of denser foam. Both pairs of shorts do a good job at protecting my valuable assets.

Whilst the clothing manufacturers, certainly the premium ones, will extol the virtues of their own superior pad ‘technology’, I’m sure the law of diminishing returns applies.

The ‘best’ chamois pad will be highly personal, based on the sculpting of your own pad (your backside). You may need to experiment with a few different brands and models (is that the right word?) before finding your optimal ‘bumfort’ (…bum comfort… ahem).

What Cycling Shorts Do I Wear?

Well, I went through a phase of liking the Discovery Channel pro cycling team in the mid 2000s (clearly I was a naive young man), so I bought a pair of the team bib shorts. They were made by Nike (or at least branded by Nike) and I would describe the ‘gusset pad’ as lo-tech.

I don’t wear these anymore unless all my other options are in the wash (unlikely). When I do, I say it’s because I’m fan of Roger Hammond (rather than he who shall remain nameless…).

And no, Nike don’t make cycling gear anymore. I can’t think why.

Best Cycling Bib Shorts For Under £60 / $70: dhb Aeron Bib Shorts (Mini Review)

My ‘go to’ cycling shorts are a pair of dhb Aeron bib shorts. I bought a set after having been impressed with a pair of dhb thermal bib tights (essentially padded cycling shorts that extend down to the ankles) that Wiggle sent me to review.

I have not been disappointed. Nay, I have been very happy with my purchase.

They look good (in my humble sartorial opinion). The lyrca is high quality and the cut seems flattering.

Castelli Perfetto close

The coloured bands at the end of each leg (I went for red), via the medium of optical illusion I confess, give the impression that my thighs are more muscular and cycle-pro-like than is really the case.

(In the photo above, I’m also wearing leg warmers…)

I’ve owned this pair of shorts for over four years (a Wiggle search reveals I bought them just after Christmas 2015) and the pad remains comfortable.

So these are a solid, no-nonsense pair of cycling shorts, available for a reasonable price (dhb is the ‘own brand’ belonging to online cycling retailer Wiggle, so the prices offer good value for money).

(And no, we do not want any nonsense from our shorts)

UK readers: Click here to buy a pair of (recommended!) dhb Aeron bib shorts

US readers: Click here to buy a pair of (recommended!) dhb Aeron bib shorts

Best Cycling Shorts For Long Rides: Specialized RBX Bib Shorts (Mini Review)

I bought the Specialized RBX’s back in 2013 as a treat to myself before doing RideLondon. Until then I’d only worn cheaper shorts on the bike. These were reasonably pricey.

The RBX is short for Roubaix and alludes to the Paris-Roubaix cycling race and, in particular, the 28 cobbled sections. As I’ve discussed elsewhere on the blog, the likes of Specialized and Trek cunningly dress up their ‘endurance’ bikes as being suited to the arduous Belgian spring classics rather than those simply looking for more of a comfort fit.

Specialized RBX Comp Bib Shorts

The same branding applies here for these RBX shorts. The implication is that if they can protect a pro from an attack of the cobblestones in northern France, they’ll be padded enough to protect your undercrackers from the pot-holed roads of Blighty.

And in fairness they do. The padding in the ‘sit bones’ area is thicker and (with a quick poke test) denser than for my dhb shorts. The pad is slightly more pronounced in its moulding (though I have no scientific way of determining if that’s a good thing).

The shorts have lasted well. They’re still going strong over four and a half years later. The elasticated bands at the end of each leg has faded to a dark grey from the original black.

I marginally prefer the dhbs because of the red stylin’ but that’s personal preference. The dhb shorts are also slightly easier to get hold of.

What I can say though is that for the 110-ish miles of RideLondon (there was some riding to the start and away from the finish) I did not have any cycling shorts related discomfort. These are definitely good shorts for long rides.

Stolen Goat Bodyline ONE Bib Shorts

I got a pair of Stolen Goat Bodyline ONE (of course it’s capitalised) bib shorts from my sister and her husband for Christmas a few years back. I won’t subject you to another mini-review, other than to say:

  1. They’re excellent – really comfortable and look good on (insofar as any pair of lycra shorts looks good); and
  2. You should read my full review of them, which you can find by clicking here.
Stolen goat bib shorts

Other Cycling Shorts Options…

Now this wouldn’t be a Sportive Cyclist blog post without a few recommendations for cycling products that I don’t actually own.

We’ve already talked about the dhb Aerons (that I do own). I previously recommended these as the ‘value’ option.


UK readers: Click here to buy/find the latest prices on the dhb Aeron bib shorts

US readers: Click here to buy/find the latest prices on the dhb Aeron bib shorts

I still think they offer excellent value for money, even though they’ve gone up slightly in price since I bought them.

Wiggle seem to have done a good job of moving the dhb brand positioning from ‘cheapy own brand’ to ‘attractive, good quality cycle wear’ (at least that’s my perception). Pricing-wise they’re getting closer to mid-range (though I’d struggle to suggest a value alternative).

Talking of mid-range options…

Best Cycling Bib Shorts For Under £120 / $175


Have you ever wished for ‘total comfort’ from your cycling shorts when spending a long day in the saddle? Well, your wish might have just come true with these Sportful Total Comfort Bib Shorts.

(Why does that paragraph feel like it came direct from a 1980s Saturday night gameshow…?)

Sportful, despite having a distinctly un-Italian name, are in fact Italian. And Italians just seem to do cycling clothing. And do it well.

Sportful supplies the kit to mens professional cycling teams, Bora-Hansgrohe and Bahrain-Merida, and to the womens team, Trek-Drops.

Whilst ‘marketing guff 101’ will play up the importance of kit having been tested and improved by professional riders, we can at least hope it meets a minimum build and comfort standard such that doesn’t risk a pro rider’s ability to win. So it’s going to be good enough for me and thee.

You can buy yourself total comfort (and find out a little more about what makes the shorts so comfortable) by:

Best Cycling Bib Shorts For Under £150 / $200

Castelli Free Aero Race 4 Bibshort

No list of cycling clothing on this site would be complete without an item from Castelli (particularly as, in writing this post, I’ve discovered that Maurizio Castelli invented the first synthetic chamois pad). Usually that ‘item’ shows at the more expensive end of the price scale.

Far be it from me to buck a time-honed tradition. So I give you the Castelli Free Aero Race 4 bib shorts.

Apparently these beauties ‘revolutionized cycling shorts’ in 2007. I don’t recall a revolution in 2007 (I guess all eyes were on the rapidly-deteriorating global financial system). But we are told that a revolution occurred, and it manifested itself in a bib short that provided ‘incredible feeling[s] of freedom’.

And all good revolutions should do that.

As we move into the upper echelons of what you might pay for a pair of bib shorts, you are getting the result of Castelli’s research into muscle support and blood flow (it seems ‘incredible freedom’ is not provided without a little support) and some quality time spent meditating in a wind tunnel (the side panels have aerodynamic dimples).

The shorts also contains a brand new version of the ‘Progetto X2 Air’ seatpad, which according to Castelli is ‘softer and more flexible’ (presumably than previous versions) to the point of being ‘virtually unnoticeable’ (almost like the Emperor’s new clothes…).

Of course, I jest about Castelli (and the company’s marketing spiel) but I seriously covet their clothing. It looks great and is very high quality (Castelli is also a pro cycling team sponsor, for a low key squad you might have heard of).

For my next ‘deluxe’ pair of cycling shorts (with phenomenal amounts of freedom), the Free Aero Race bib shorts will be top of the list.

UK readers: Click here to buy/find the latest prices on the Castelli Free Aero Race 4 bib shorts

US readers: Click here to buy/find the latest prices on the Castelli Free Aero Race 4 bib shorts

And Finally…

Assos CS speedfire Chronosuit

If you seriously don’t want to go through the hassle of selecting a premium pair of cycling shorts and a premium (uber-tight) jersey then do I have a solution for you.

The Assos CS.speedfireChronosuit_s7 Speed Suit requires quite a bit of panache to pull off without looking like a complete plonker.

I reckon this guy nailed it though.

If you buy one, or you own one already, please send in a photo (and we can give you feedback on whether you look like a complete plonker).

Click here to buy (if you dare…)

C’Est Fini

The purchase of the first set of bibshorts signals the point of no return for the aspiring road cyclist. His or her future will be lycra-filled (and glorious). Once you protect your sack you won’t go back (as no cycle clothing manufacturer writes on their website).

I’ve been fortunate in that the shorts I own (and have owned) generally do the job. I haven’t suffered badly with saddle sores and the like (too much information?).

What is your experience? What shorts do you use and recommend? Can any female readers recommend well fitting shorts for women?

Let me know in the comments section below.

(Note: This is an update of a previously-published article, hence why some of the comments below have older dates…)

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