Saturday, October 29, 2016

What should I wear today?

For a cycling tourist, the age-old question of "what should I wear today?" is pretty simple to answer: if you are on the bike, you wear what you brought to wear on the bike. If you are off the bike, you wear what you brought to wear off the bike! You don't have a lot of choices, because you only have a few things - there is precious little room to carry stuff. Hence, the real question comes when it's time to pack: "what will I take with me on a bike tour?"
The jerseys, socks and coolers we started with - and the cool little beanie that Roger lost at some point!

Ah, now - that is a question that many have asked. For the benefit of those of you who may be planning a trip yourself, or are just curious how we've managed to get along for six months with just a couple of "stuff sacks" of clothing, here's what we brought along.

I'll cover the clothing in two parts - the on-bike and off-bike attire. In yet another post ("Tour-tested and cyclist-approved"), I'll "name names" and give you the brands and items that we have really found to work well.

So here we go.  Here's what we wore, while on the bike:

On our journey, we've seen a fair number of folks who ride with a t-shirt, tank top or other clothing up top. One guy we met said he was just so uncomfortable in the humidity that he wore nothing at all! But both Roger and I prefer a plain ol' cycling jersey, for a couple of reasons. One, we love the pockets. I want my wallet and my glasses with me, and having the pockets makes this easy. With a t-shirt, you've got to carry them somewhere else, and that increases the odds of misplacing them. Two, the protection from the sun. Even with the jerseys, we have tanned across our backs. Wearing a tank top would NOT have worked for me; I need more sun protection than that, and I don't really like getting all gooey with sunscreen everywhere! Three, the jersey gives you options for ventilation or warmth with the zipper open or closed, as needed. Other shirt options are not quite as flexible and easy to manipulate while you ride. And lastly, they wash and dry out quickly. That has been very helpful any number of times.
Here's the arm and leg coolers (Kathy with cousin Jacque)

We wear bike shorts, with pads. In fact, for the past couple of weeks, as our miles and hours on the bike have increased, we've been wearing two pair. It aids in "comfort" on the saddle. I've seen one fellow in a pair of cut-off blue jeans, and I can't quite wrap my head around that option. But to each his own!

We use either leg and arm "coolers" or "warmers" - pull-on sleeves and leg covers that either provide shade from the sun (the coolers) or warmth (the warmers).  So, in pretty much every photo of us, you will see that we either have black or white arms and legs, and that's what you are looking at. The coolers have saved us several tubes of sunscreen, for certain. They also are great when it's really hot - we wet them down, and then they are just like standing in front of the air conditioner for a little while!  Because we have these extenders, if you will, we did not have long-sleeve jerseys or long-leg shorts, but we have been comfortable riding in climates from about 30 degrees to 90 degrees. (You're never really comfortable when it's hot and humid, but that's another story!)

We each have a lightweight wool layer for under the jersey if it's cold. Roger wears his less than I do, since he runs warm. These have been great! Mine is short sleeve; Roger's is long sleeve. They add the extra warmth you need if it's very cold or wet, and because we had them, we did not take any fleecy jerseys. We just wore the wool layer underneath if it was cold.
Roger's wearing the warmers, shell, and puff vest

We had a couple of pair of lightweight wool socks each, one heavy pair of wool socks (which we wore in the first month or so when it was cold and rainy), and a couple pair of light socks. I used silk sock liners for the summer riding, which worked great. They were cool, washed and dried quickly, and wore well.

We have ridden for years with bike shoes that have mountain bike soles and cleats (SPDs). They are easy to walk in, because of the platforms around the edges which protect the cleats (though mine are wearing down now!)  We gave some thought to getting the Keen shoes with cleats in them, but did not do so. As it turned out, I'm glad we didn't. It is great to get off the bike, and put on a different pair of shoes. If I had been wearing Keens on the bike, I either would have had to wear them all the time, or carry another pair anyway, and so what good would that do me?

I added a visor-cap under my helmet, to give me more shade - one of those things like tennis players use. It has been invaluable. Roger had a little skull-cap that protected his noggin, but left it behind at some point and since then, he's used one of our kerchiefs as a do-rag.

Of course we also wear helmets and padded cycling gloves.

In addition to the above "every day" wear, we have some stuff for cold or wet weather. We each have a pair of long-fingered warm gloves, a stocking cap, a puff vest, a windbreaker (our cycling club shells), and a waterproof jacket.  I also had a great headband for warmth without bulk.  Because our trip was so long, and we had weather ranging from deep-South summer swelter to Oregon sleeting rain, we have used all of this stuff at one time or another. (In fact, at one point, we used it all at the same time!)  If we had been able to accurately predict when we would need it, we could have shipped it to ourselves so we didn't have to carry it all the time. In fact, we did send some of the cold-weather stuff to my mom's house after we got out of the mountains. But weather doesn't really work that way. It can be pretty hard to predict what you will run into on any given day, particularly over a six month period, and when you are changing elevation frequently.
The super-dorky "helmet and visor" look I love!

Our inventory fluctuated as stuff wore out and we got new stuff, but here's the basic breakdown. We each started with 2 or 3 pair of shorts. We now have 4 pair each.

We had two jerseys, and then the mayor of Fort Worth gave us each one, so now we have three. Two worked fine for a long time; since the club jersey was wearing out, it's nice we got a new one.

We had a couple of pair of socks each, and had to get some more when we wore them out. I was surprised how fast our stuff wore out!

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