Outfitting Yourself

Helmets

Using a helment can reduce the chance and severity of injury, and may even save your life, if properlt sized, adjusted, and consistently worn. Here are some important points about helmet use:

  • The helmet should fit snugly and be worn level on your head. If tilted back, it will not protect your head. Side straps should meet in a ‘V’ below your ear lobes.
  • Bicycle helmets are designed to withstand one crash only. Structural damage is not always visible, so always replace a helmet that has been in a crash and never buy used helmets.
  • Light or fluorescent-colored helmets make you more visible to motorists as does reflective tape applied to your helmet.
  • You can never tell when a crash is going to occur, so wear your helmet every time you ride, no matter how short the trip.

Visible Clothing

Woman traveling to work by bicycle.

Woman traveling to work by bicycle.

Wearing bright clothing or accessories (e.g. reflective arm/leg bands, vests) can help make up for the fact that drivers often are not used to scanning for objects smaller than cars. In daylight conditions, fluorescent or light-colored items are very visible; but at night, reflective items are most visible.

Bike Shorts

Cycling shorts reduce friction and provide cushioning. For short commutes, they may not be necessary.

Rain Gear

Riding in the rain is possible, and rain gear makes it easier. Look for breathable fabric. Non-breathable fabric can cause you to overheat and sweat. “Pit-zips” in the jacket allow perspiration to evaporate. An inexpensive waterproof poncho, while not breathable fabric, allows good ventilation. Rain pants should be long enough to cover the top of your footwear to help keep your feet dry. The cuffs of the pants should cinch snugly against your ankles to keep them from getting snagged on anything (such as your bike’s chainrings).

Footwear

Ideal cycling footwear is stiff-soled and comfortable to walk in. Some cyclists use special shoes, but common footwear such as light hiking boots, sneakers, or even dress shoes may suffice. Weatherproof booties fit over most any footwear.

Cold Weather Clothing Tips

Cycling, like all exercise, warms you up. In cold weather, put a thin, wicking layer against your skin to keep yourself dry. Then use an insulating layer on top of that, and finally, if you need, a wind or rain jacket. Make sure the jacket has full front zippers and/or pit-zips to allow for ventilation. Your head, hands, and feet tend to get colder faster than the rest of your body. Ear warmers and thin, knit head coverings (like balaclavas) and gloves allow you to cycle comfortably in cold weather. If you have to be wet (due to rain or perspiration), at least be warm. Avoid cotton, which loses its ability to insulate when wet. Synthetics or wool keep you warm when wet, and dry out quickly.

Office Clothes

Cycling in partial or full office attire is often feasible, especially if your trip is relatively short or you maintain a moderate pace. Even in summer, it is seldom very hot in the early morning. You could also buy a garment bag that attaches to a bicycle (available at bicycle stores) and change when you get to work. Rolling clothes instead of folding is a great way to reduce wrinkling. Some health clubs offer “runner‘s” memberships, where, for a reduced rate, you can use the showers and the locker rooms. You could bring in an extra set of work clothes or have them cleaned near work. If your office has a casual day, use that as your first day for bicycling to work.