Look Pro: Dress for Success

A cold morning ride on Keepers Tour 2013. Photo: Brett Kennedy
A cold morning ride on Keepers Tour 2013. Photo: Brett Kennedy

I recently overheard someone say that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. This is the kind of statement that makes me want to hate people as a species a little bit. Of course there such a thing as bad weather. There are also bad people (loads of them), bad ideas (even bigger loads of them), bad advice (especially on the internet) and, despite what your mother told you, there certainly are stupid questions.

Despite being so clever as to render itself useless, there is a sentiment behind the claim that should be taken seriously, and that is the notion that if one is to venture out in bad weather, one should give some consideration to dressing appropriately for it. For example, I routinely see photos of Spanish Pros riding the trainer indoors in wooly hats and leggings. I would never ride indoors with leggings because the most redeeming quality of riding indoors is that you get to stare at your guns shamelessly without worry of being spotted doing so.

A Velominatus should take care to ensure they have a complete wardrobe of kit for different kinds of weather; bibs and jerseys, of course, but also arm and knee warmers, gilets, long sleeve jerseys, overshoes, gloves, caps, winter caps, knee warmers and leggings, and even jackets or rain coats depending on where you live and what kind of weather you encounter.

Always remember that the more you’re wearing, the worse you look. That’s not an opinion – that’s science. Perfection starts with bibs and a jersey, tanned guns, and a sweet set of shades. Next in line is the Flandrian Best, but after that, it’s all downhill, ending with the unfortunate invention of thermal bibs. They may be a necessity under some circumstances, just know they look complete crap, so you will too.

Still, its better than not riding, so as you’re getting ready to kit up for the day, I advise you take into account the following considerations.

  • Overdressing is as bad as under dressing. Getting too hot is just as miserable as being too cold, so unless you’re deliberately overdressing in order to lose weight, dress like Goldilocks, not too hot and not too cold.
  • Start out cold. Dress for how hard you’ll be riding that day; I like to dress such that I am chilly for the first 15 minutes of the ride because after the blood starts pumping or you hit the first hill, your core temp will rise and you’ll be perfectly dressed.
  • Choose layers over bulk. Layers have the advantage that they can be combined in different ways to tune their effect. For example, a jersey with arm warmers and a gilet can be as warm as a long sleeve jersey, but allow you to shed the gilet and arm warmers if you get too warm.
  • Windproof is more important than waterproof. If it keeps the water out, it will keep your sweat in as well, no matter what the label says about breathability. Which means you’re getting wet anyway. Windproof layers, on the other hand, will keep the wind from getting through to those wet fabrics so you can stay warm, and breathe much better than do waterproof materials. Unless its the kind of downpour that starts the animals lining up in twos, you won’t find me in a rain jacket.
  • No ear muffs. If your ears get cold, get a proper winter cycling cap. We’re not savages after all.

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216 Replies to “Look Pro: Dress for Success”

  1. @Robert

    So I wanted to ask how people handle bibs in their Flandrian Best? My bib shorts are pretty thin so should I get insulated bib shorts or add a layer underneath?

    Never add anything under. Simply get a thicker pair of bibs – I’ve found bliss with the Assos T607 – same cut as my summer Assos, but extra warm.

  2. “There are no such things as stupid questions, just curious idiots” – discuss.

    Meanwhile, I have discovered the answer to looking pro whilst not wearing 18 layers of kit courtesy of those nice garment manufacturers at Castelli. The finest piece of kit I own currently is a Gabba jersey – the one all the teams were using unbadged at the Rule #9 heavy 2013 MSR. I can get away with just a base layer underneath in pretty miserable conditions, although admittedly it’s regular cold here rather than oh-my-fucking-word-my-eyes-have-frozen-shut cold like you’ve had Stateside this winter. The only time I need anything more is during a deluge when the Pocket Liner jacket goes on. its proved completely waterproof so far and they’ve actually made it fit you rather than flap about. I tell you, they know some shit those Italians.

  3. Those Brits make good stuff too. Their DHB Gilet over Belgian Vermarc jersey (Flanders Classics) over London Rapha wool base layer — arm covers of course. These works for me just a few degrees below freezing.

  4. @Mikael Liddy I’m afraid there are numerous pictures of pros in Dubai going sleeveless – they seem to think it is OK out here. Thor Hushovd is another violator.

    I have refrained from posting them here, so as not to shatter any illusions.

    And to be honest, Kittel could go on a Tweed Ride and still look completely awesome.

    Come to think of it, how did he not get rated in the top 10 of that survey of good looking Tour riders  ?

  5. @Mikael Liddy Ah I didn’t realise it was 2012.

    Kittel raced in 2012, but I think he pulled out with a stomach virus pretty early on, so that would explain why he wasn’t in the list.

    That would mean Cipo would never have got a rating – it probably would have motivated him to finish for once.

    From a scientific point of view I think it skews the results somewhat – would be interested to see what difference it makes if you include DNFs.

  6. @cyclebrarian

    @frank

    Our small town/country doctor told us that you lose 80% of your body heat out of your head and would chastise people at church who did not wear a hat in the winter. I’ll always remember that.

    This is only true if your head is uncovered while the rest of your body is properly protected.

  7. As further evidence that looking pro makes you go faster, we have the Norwegian winner from the Olympic Women’s Cross Country 30km in very pro looking 3/4 length sleeves:

    And an American who went sleeveless and thus finished too far back in the pack to count.

  8. @G’rilla

    As further evidence that looking pro makes you go faster, we have the Norwegian winner from the Olympic Women’s Cross Country 30km in very pro looking 3/4 length sleeves:

    And an American who went sleeveless and thus finished too far back in the pack to count.

    Amongst other things, wouldn’t you want to keep your working muscles covered and somewhat warm?

    I have to say, I loved watching the cross country skiing at Sochi – kinda the closest thing to cycling in terms of effort and strategy.

  9. @wiscot

    @G’rilla

    As further evidence that looking pro makes you go faster, we have the Norwegian winner from the Olympic Women’s Cross Country 30km in very pro looking 3/4 length sleeves:

    And an American who went sleeveless and thus finished too far back in the pack to count.

    Amongst other things, wouldn’t you want to keep your working muscles covered and somewhat warm?

    I have to say, I loved watching the cross country skiing at Sochi – kinda the closest thing to cycling in terms of effort and strategy.

    Did you see the avg speed in the men’s 50km? Around 29kmh!

  10. Itsa quiet day today, thunderstorms on radar and woman’s national streaming in a moment, so pulled up a recent photo at starting line of local crit race. My daughter in middle, with the classic Brooklyn design of our team kit looking pro and standing out in black and yellow. And jersey looks perfect, with BLACK SHORTS the way is meant to be. Its a great kit. Anyways, after race the local university TV sportscaster i’viewed the young lady and asked her what she like most about racing. “Winning!”, she said, She did win this Jr’s crit. Cheers all,

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