The best endurance cycling clothing is something that is learned, discovered and developed, only through extensive trialling and testing (read more about 'How I Test Kit'). Often, it is the testing and development process for this riding kit, which brings with it some discomfort and discovery; this leads to subsequent refinement of your future kit choices for endurance rides.
In this post, I though I would share ten of my Top Tips for endurance clothing; for packing light, but riding far - in comfort...
GlovesGripGrab Easy Rider Mitts are perfect.
When you're touring though, you also need to be prepared for poor conditions; and if you're in the mountains, you need to consider the long descents in potentially cold conditions. For these 'foul weather' conditions, you need a pair of insulating and waterproof full finger gloves - the GripGrab Cloudburst Gloves are ideal.
A further 'Top Tip' for full finger gloves, is to also take a pair of Black Mamba Workshop Gloves with you - with a bit of talcum powder sprayed inside, to help slip them on. Stash these somewhere close to hand. These come in useful when you're in really wet and cold conditions (see Day 3 blog from my 'Coasts and Cols' tour), and your full finger gloves have become saturated; wet gloves aren't windproof, and they're also a nightmare to get on with cold hands. Slip on a pair of slippery latex gloves first though, and it allows you to slip on your full finger riding gloves, and also provides an added layer of insulation and wind protection.
Gore Tex remains king in my book, and the Gore Bike Wear Oxygen 2.0 Jacket is my chosen option. 'Boil in the Bag' lightweight clear jackets are fine for racing; when you're generating so much heat that it might not matter that you're soaking yourself in sweat underneath the plastic membrane, for a few hours. However, when you are cycle touring, you might face 10 hours in the saddle in wet conditions - your jacket needs to breathe, be fully waterproof, and be durable.
This barrier layer makes the difference between comfort and enjoyment; between being wet and cold, or dry and warm. In essence, your riding jacket is a key safety and performance device - make an investment.
Water Resistant Arm and Leg Warmers
Leg warmers might seem excessive if you're touring in the summer months; but just like your full finger gloves and waterproof jacket, they will be invaluable when you're descending mountains, making dawn starts, or riding all day in fog or rain.
Merino Wool Socks
Merino wool also has the added benefit that it stays warm, even when wet. Additionally, the fabric is a lot more breathable, and better at wicking away sweat than many synthetics. These two properties are great to have in wet or very hot conditions; providing better temperature regulation for your extremities. Some wool socks (like DeFeet Woolie Boolies) are a bit thick, I find; but the GripGrab Merino Socks are suitable for three-season touring.
A windproof and insulating gilet is a great piece of riding clothing to have at your disposal; adding warmth and protection for your core, without adding too much bulk to your carry, when it's not in use. I used a Castelli Fawesome 2 Gilet for my 'Coasts and Cols' trip - it was a great added layer of comfort and protection, both in the mountains and on cold mornings.
Lightweight Cycling Jerseys
When it comes to riding jerseys and base layers, I opt for the lightest weight layer I can find. The Castelli RS Superleggera Jersey and Castelli Climber's 2.0 Jersey were the two that I took on the 'Coasts and Cols' tour. Both these cycling jerseys are minimalist, breathable and super fast-drying - ideal for wearing on the bike, not taking up too much room in panniers, and not taking too long to dry after you've washed them at your evening camp.
I would recommend choosing ones with a high density foam pad, and ideally a compression fabric.
You will find that over multiple days of wearing (and probably not machine washing), that the foam pad on cheaper bib shorts will compress, and provide significantly less comfort; a higher density foam or gel pad is therefore well worth investing in.
Compression fabrics can help to reduce muscle fatigue, and they're often faster drying than thicker traditional Lycra. My personal preference from my last trip was Gore Bike Wear Bib Shorts - they are made with from a high end, durable and supportive fabric; combined with a superb quality pad.
Cycling Helmet, Cap and EyewearPOC Octal helmet, rather than an enclosed aero design - I find that combining this with a cotton cycling cap, provides more versatility and adaptability for either hot conditions or wet/cold conditions.
When choosing cycling eyewear for touring or bikepacking, look for photochromic or lightly coloured lenses; these will provide the most versatile option for rides that might start and finish in dark conditions, but also take in the midday sun.
You are best opting for mountain bike SPD riding shoes for cycle touring, even on predominately road based rides. Mountain bike shoes have recessed cleats, and also a bit more flex in the soles; these two properties allow you walk around off the bike in more comfort, while also helping to avoid numb toes - which can occur if you wear ultra stiff race shoes for many hours on end.
Top Tip: Kit Washing and Drying
Here's one final Top Tip on how best to dry kit when cycle touring...
If you have only one set of kit, and you wash it in the evening, then it *might* be dry enough to wear the next day. Slipping on slightly wet kit isn't too bad, and you can always let it dry off with your body heat for the first hour or so of riding - if you cover up with a windproof layer over the top.
However, if you have the luxury of two sets of kit, then you can dry the kit you wore/washed the night before, on top of your seat pack or panniers whilst you ride. My best discovery for this, is to use a mesh wash bag (you can buy them in most home stores); stuff your damp kit in here, and strap it on top of your panniers. As you ride, the heat and wind will dry the kit within the bag - without the risk of straps or zips dangling into your wheels.