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Waterproof clothing is the best way to stay dry. Before you buy anything labeled “waterproof”, understand that all waterproofing is not the same.

Staying Dry and Comfortable with Waterproof Cycling Clothing

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

In the rains of the fall and early spring, staying dry is the most important and difficult part of riding. The best way to stay dry is to wear waterproof clothing. While most synthetic fabrics still insulate when wet, being wet diminishes their ability to keep you warm. A jacket and pants are a great way to start, but socks and gloves make the outfit complete. In their most basic form, a lot of materials are waterproof, but as soon as they are perforated with stitching, zipped closed with generic zippers, and left to be loose at all the cuffs, their waterproofing goes out the window. Before you go out and buy anything labeled “waterproof,” understand that all waterproofing is not the same.

Waterproof Clothing and Gear To Stay Dry

To keep water out, look for waterproof clothes that have sealed or welded seams (see image). Also, look for waterproof zippers (pictured) or large flaps that prevent water from driving through the zipper. Make sure all the cuffs are adjustable enough to be snugged tight against your skin.

Examples of cycling clothes with taped seams (Left), welded seams (Center), and a waterproof zipper (Right)

A waterproof garment is measured in mm of fluid. For example, a fabric that were 5,000  mm waterproof is tested as follows. Fabric is placed over the end of a long tube. Following that, the tube is filled with 5,000 mm of water and the fabric needs to support the pressure without leaking. For example, take a look at the table below for an quick reference.

RatingResistanceWeather Conditions
0 mm – 1,500 mmWater resistant/snowproofDry conditions or very light rain
1,500 mm – 5,000 mmWaterproofLight to average rain
5,000 mm – 10,000 mmVery WaterproofModerate to heavy rain
10,000 mm- 20,000 mmHighly WaterproofHeavy rain

 

Let Sweat Out

In addition to measuring waterproofness, waterproof materials are also measured for their ability to breath water vapor out. Breathable means that water from the outside cannot penetrate the fabric. However, water vapor (sweat) being produced by your body can escape through the fabric. Breathable fabrics work because water vapor is smaller than water droplets. In order to breath, the material will be perforated with holes small enough to stop water droplets from getting in, but large enough to allow water vapor to escape.

Breathability is important because, as far as insulation is concerned, it’s just as bad to get soaked with sweat as with rain. Therefore, using a breathable material in tandem with base layers designed to pull moisture off your skin is a sure fire way to stay dry and warm.

Breathability is expressed in terms of how many grams (g) of water vapor can pass through a square meter (m2) of the fabric from the inside to the outside in a 24 hour period. To that effect, the larger the number, the more breathable the fabric. For example, if a coat were 5,000 gsm breathable, 5,000 grams of water would be able to pass through a square meter of the fabric in 24 hours.

When Waterproof is Not Important

As the temperature rises, waterproofing becomes less and less important. It’s less important because at a certain temperature, waterproof materials cannot breathe enough to keep you dry. Therefore, if it rains hard enough, and it’s warm enough, you’re going to get wet.

In the spring and fall, be sure to have your waterproof gear ready. The cold temps and wet conditions coupled with the accelerated rate air is pulled away from your body while you ride can be very dangerous if you aren’t prepared. Being dry is the #1 way to maintain your comfort and safety while riding in inclement conditions.

 

Basics of Understanding, Trying, and Buying Bike Shorts

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Why Do you Need Bike Shorts?

Bike shorts combat one of the most common concerns for bike riders – a sore rear end. To best explain how bike shorts fix the problem, let’s look at what the problems are.

-New Muscles

Most people aren’t used to sitting only on their backsides. On chairs, stools, and couches we disperse our weight over the back of our thighs as well as our bottom. Asking our gluteus maximus to suddenly support all our weight is essentially weightlifting for your butt – some discomfort is normal.

-Movement

When riding at a casual pace, you can easily complete 3000 pedal strokes in one hour. That much movement over a bike seat can cause some chaffing.

-Fit

The last cause is the fit of your bicycle and seat. A poor bike fit can cause a lot of discomfort so check that first. Just like anything else you put on your body, it’s possible that your seat doesn’t fit. To find a seat that fits, see our article on saddle fit.

Bike shorts contain a pad that can diffuse the pressure on your backside, eliminating a lot of discomfort from using new muscles. The shorts allow your legs to glide over it and relieve any instance of chaffing. Finally, shorts can sometimes solve issues with a poor fitting saddle by filling in spaces where you need support but your saddle isn’t offering it.

How do I pick bike shorts?

Shorts come in all shapes and sizes. Tight shorts are popular because they offer great comfort as well as unencumbered movement around the bicycle. Baggy shorts are very popular for their casual look and advent of pockets. There are even cycling skirts (called skorts) that offer excellent comfort and great off the bike look.

First, lets talk about the pad (also called the chamois). The pad is the single most important part of a cycling short, it does all the work and has the largest effect on comfort.

-Single density pad

Bike Shorts single density pad

Mostly found on inexpensive shorts, a single density pad consists of a foam pad with a soft material bonded to the outside. These pads are the same thickness from edge to edge. The pad relieves pressure where your body hits the saddle and the soft outer material is smooth on your legs while pedaling.

 

-Multi density pad

Bike shorts Multi density pad

Found on mid range shorts, multi density pads are made from a similar material as a single density pad. Multi density pads offer thicker padding where a rider makes contact with the saddle and less padding where pressure is not as direct. By varying the thickness of padding, this chamois conforms to the facets of a riders body, adds padding where its needed most, and uses the soft material of the pad to combat chaffing where padding is not needed.

 

-Multi part pad

bike shorts multi part pad

This pad is like the multi density pad in concept (more where you need it, less where you don’t), but uses very different materials depending on location. Typically these pads have denser foam where you sit, smoother materials on either side to resist chaffing, and often incorporate anti bacteria materials. These pads are only found on high end shorts, and offer the best possible comfort.

What about the outside of the shorts?

Bike shorts use tons of materials so to go into detail about each one would be impossible here. The easiest way to talk about the outside of the short is to break it into two categories: fabric and cut.

-Fabric

The materials for cycling shorts need to do two things: flex freely when you pedal and move moisture off your body, much like a cycling jersey. Shorts typically use very flexible materials like Lycra to move freely as you pedal. Lycra (or similar materials) flex incredibly well, but don’t to a great job moving moisture (sweat). The more moisture held onto your body, the greater the chance for chaffing and discomfort. To get the optimal flex and moisture management, most manufacturers use a mixture of materials within the shorts. As the cost of the shorts increase, the material typically does a better job flexing and moving moisture. The inexpensive shorts usually flex, but don’t keep you dry.

-Cut

Because the materials used to make the short don’t have infinite flexibility, the cut of a cycling short is very important. As shorts become more expensive, manufacturers use more sections of material (called panels) bonded together to conform to the shape of your body. In baggy shorts, more panels allow you to move freely, and to move seams away from areas that make contact with the saddle (eliminating the possibility of chaffing). A general rule of thumb is the more expensive the short, the more panels it has.

Bike shorts panel comp

The shorts on the left use many panels while the shorts on the right use only four

How do I know if my shorts fit?

Bike shorts are cut to fit best while riding. This means that they are designed to fit snugly while seated on a bicycle. When you initially try them on and stand upright you may feel as if the back of the pad is “loose”. Place your hands on your knees (replicating the leg/back angle on a bicycle) and the shorts should be snug throughout. If the shorts still feel too snug or too loose, it’s best to try a different size.

Now that you know these helpful tips about bike shorts, you should feel comfortable that you can find the right pair for you.

The Importance of a Cycling Jersey

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Wearing a cycling jersey isn’t a requirement for riding a bike, but wearing a jersey does make for a more comfortable ride. What’s so special about these jerseys? The answer is in its material, the fit and the features.

Material

Cycling Jersey material

How breathable fabrics work

Cycling jerseys are made of moisture moving fabrics that pull perspiration off your body and move it to the outside of the garment where it evaporates quickly. By keeping you dry, the Fabric will keep you cooler when the mercury rises. In the case of fall and spring riding, long sleeve Jerseys are built to both move moisture and insulate. Cool weather jerseys will keep you warm and dry.

The Fit

Cycling jerseys are cut to follow the natural lines of your body while riding. They use grippers to stay in place as you move around the bicycle. Long sleeve jerseys are also designed with longer sleeves than normal clothes, those sleeves will maintain coverage even as you reach out to hold the bars.

The Features

Cycling Jerseys back

Visible, Reflective, and Functional

Many jerseys have pockets to help you carry things like food, phones, or tools. If you are a fan of listening to music as you ride, a lot of Jerseys also incorporate ports that let you run earbuds inside the jersey rather than having them flap around in the wind. For safety, Many jerseys include some reflective features making you more visible while out on the road.

Finding the Right Size and Fit

Cycling Jerseys

A few of the many different styles of cycling jersey

Some may be wary of wearing a cycling jersey, because they’ve only seen the ones that look as though they were made out of spandex. Well, times have changed, and there are now many styles and materials to choose from. Looser, Jerseys offer the same moisture wicking material, cycling cut, and features without the form fit look.

When trying on a jersey, consider a few things:

  • When standing bolt upright, the jersey will feel short in the front and long in the back. It’s important to lean over a bit and try to replicate your cycling position (try putting your hands on your knees). If the jersey still feels too short or long, then look for a new size or fit.
  • Costs will vary widely based on the material and complexity of the construction. From synthetic fibers to natural ones with every combination in between, jerseys use different materials to create something that is both functional and comfortable.

Keep these tips in mind when looking for the jersey that’s right for you. With hundreds of brands and thousands of styles to choose from, you are sure to find something that you love.

About the Root River Bluff & Valley Bike Ride Jersey in the Top Picture

If you like the look of the jersey the cyclist (left) is wearing, you can order or register for the 3-day weekend Root River Bluff & Valley Bicycle Tour, this summer July 7,8 & 9, 2017.

The Bicycle Helmet: What it Does and How to Find the Right One for You

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking,com

When you were a kid, wearing a bicycle helmet was probably something you tried not to do. They were heavy, hot, and never fit well. Now you’re older, wearing a helmet isn’t just a logical safety choice, but can be very comfortable. Read on to learn how helmets protect you better, have become lighter, fit better, and are more comfortable than ever before.

Ensuring a Bicycle Helmet’s Impact Protection

bicycle helmet impact testing

Any bicycle helmet sold in the US must pass the same 4 CPSC tests to be sold legally (3 impact 1 roll off). Each of the 4 tests are completed in cold, warm, hot and wet conditions. The varying conditions ensure that the helmet will still do its job regardless of the environment.

New Focus on Rotational Forces

bicycle helmet Mips impact testing

Some manufacturers are also incorporating testing that exceeds what is legally required. These helmets use what is called MIPS (Multi-directional impact protection system), which helps the helmet protect against both impact and rotational forces. The theory goes that while experiencing a sudden bicycle dismount, you could be experiencing rotational forces. Any sudden stop to these rotational forces (impact with the ground) could stop your body but allow momentum to continue rotating your brain and cause damage. MIPS helmets isolate the outer shell of a helmet from the inner portion. This isolation allows the outer shell to absorb rotational forces during impact. Most helmet brands now offer products with MIPS and without.

The Right Fit

Happy tron helmet

Comfort

The biggest concern with purchasing a new bicycle helmet is comfort. You’re more likely to wear one if it’s comfortable, so be sure and test out different brands to find the right one. It should feel snug around your head without any lateral movement, and should not have any individual points of pressure.

Retention

Different helmets will have different ways of being retained on your head. Some low-cost models will use a one size fits all retention device (it works a lot like the dial sizing of a hard hat). The more expensive models usually have multiple sizes and retention devices that can be adjusted for diameter and height. The size specific helmets are usually more comfortable. In all cases, the helmets pads and retention device do a great job absorbing and managing perspiration, keeping you more comfortable.

Ventilation

Ventilation of helmets vary greatly. A more complicated production method is required to get larger vents and better ventilation (cooler) while maintaining impact protection. The more ventilated a bicycle helmet is, the more expensive it becomes. With each passing year, helmet manufacturers are bringing the cost of high ventilation down, so If you are replacing a 4 year old helmet, chances are the new one will allow more airflow.

A helmet’s weight is also important for overall comfort. The most comfortable models will often time be the lightest. What you give up with that light weight is durability. It is not uncommon for commuters and casual riders to pick heavier helmets with hard plastic covers over lightweight mostly foam versions. The added weight of a hard plastic shell helps protect the helmet from impact. It’s important to understand that that shell doesn’t make the helmet any safer, but it will be more durable when knocking around the trunk of your car, or hanging off your backpack while in transit.

Adjusting Your Helmet

Once you have picked the best fitting model take a few minutes to dial in the fit.

Retention

Helmet retention device

Retention in action!

Start by placing the helmet on your head so it is level. Adjust the retention mechanism (in the back) so the helmet is snug on your head (you should be able to lightly shake your head without the helmet falling off or shifting). If the retention mechanism sits too low for your head (or hair) to be comfortable, look inside the helmet to adjust the retention up if possible.

Straps

Having the toggles below the ears, buckle tight, and still being able to speak comfortably means that your helmet is adjusted properly

In tandem with the retention device, the straps hold your helmet in place. Start by adjusting the side toggles on the straps so they sit just below your earlobes. Once the toggles are in place, tighten the buckle enough so it can’t be pulled past your chin when closed. Be sure to not make the straps so tight that they choke you when you open your mouth.

Lifespan

All bicycle helmets will have a production date on the inside. Pay attention to that date, because most manufacturers recommend you replace the helmet every 3 to 5 years after production. With time, the padding and foam inside a helmet can degrade, leaving it unable to absorb impacts adequately.

Follow the above tips and you’ll find the kind of head protection you need. You’ll be on your way to a safer, more enjoyable ride.

Cycling gloves are important for ensuring a safe and comfortable ride on your next bike adventure. Here's some tips on finding the right pair.

The Importance of Cycling Gloves and Finding the Right Pair

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Cycling gloves are one of the few pieces of apparel that make direct contact with both your body and the bicycle. They help you maintain proper grip on the bars when things get hot and sweaty, they protect your skin in the case of an accidental dismount, and they can help alleviate soreness and numbness in your hands.

However, like any other type of cycling gear, you can’t just grab any pair of gloves off the shelf. The gloves have to be the perfect fit for you. Below is some information to help you find the right pair.

The Ulnar Nerve

Through the palm of your hand runs a nerve called the ulnar nerve. It’s the nerve responsible for the shock you feel when you hit your funny bone. It’s also responsible for the sensation in your pinkie, ring finger, hands, and any subsequent discomfort when riding. By holding the handlebar, pressure is placed on the ulnar nerve, sometimes creating numbness or pain.

cycling glove ulnar nerve

The ulnar nerve and the critical pressure point

At the location where your hand, the ulnar nerve, and the handlebar make contact is where cycling gloves offer relief. Many gloves include padding on the palm to disperse the force being applied to the Ulnar nerve. The pad acts as a little bridge over the nerve, eliminating hand discomfort, and allowing you endless miles of comfortable riding.

Cycling Gloves Ulnar nerve correction

Ulnar nerve being protected by pad

Finding the Perfect Pair of Cycling Gloves

When trying on cycling gloves, focus on the webbing between your pointer finger and thumb. The webbing will give you a great indication of fit when holding a handlebar. If the glove is snug enough to avoid scrunching up and chaffing, then it’s a good fit. However, if the glove is too tight through the webbing, then holding the bar will only intensify that pressure.

If this is your first time using gloves, realize that holding a bar with gloves will feel different. If it feels like the padding puts your hand in an unnatural position, try on different pairs until you find one that feels more normal.

Cycling gloves come in two major categories; full finger and half finger. Both types offer the same sizing and padding options. For road and path riding half finger gloves work great. They allow for good feel on the controls and manage sweat well. If you are riding off road, a full finger glove offers better protection in case of an accidental dismount.

Cycling Glove types

Half finger and full finger cycling gloves

When you follow the tips above, you should easily be able to find gloves that help you enjoy mile after mile of comfortable riding.

For keeping your gloves clean and stretching there longevity this article.