How To: Wear with care

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Synthetics are awesome but so are some natural fibers like wool. For us it is choosing the right tool for the job. Polyester is generally hydrophobic and does a be er job on the top than a nylon, however for durability in cycling shorts, we’ll often prefer nylon. And if you want compression, an elastane blend is necessary, however, it makes a top really perform poorly because it will soak with sweat/moisture and stay soaked resulting in a heavy and uncomfortable experience.


Laminates, the layers that are impervious to water, have a microporous structure that has “pores” large enough for water vapor to escape but too small for liquid water droplets to drop through.


If you’re shopping for bike shorts, look for a quality pad. If you’re buying at a bike shop, ask if anyone at the shop has used it. If they haven’t, ask them how they know it is good. After that, look for quality leg finishes that will last, and a weighty enough main material that will be supportive over time.

Thanks to: Sam Foos, Bontrager


Whatever you are comfortable in! Range of motion is key. Comfort is most important. I would not bring a knife to a gunfight, so if it’s race day and you’re comfortable in Lycra, by all means go for it. The Lycra should have strong compression and the fit around the crotch and legs should be snug but not overly tight. For most road rides that are mildly competitive, training oriented or racing, I choose Lycra kits. For casual all day rides, touring or general casual mountain bike rides I choose baggy shorts and a loose fi tting top for comfort, airflow and breathability.


First, there is a large range in fabric qualities and trims. Fabric quality is very important when it comes to the cost of a garment. The higher the quality and additional treatments you have, the higher the price. Also high tech trim pieces such as waterproof zippers and seam welding will add to your end cost as well.

When it comes to fabrics the main difference in quality comes down to the yarn and weaving or knitting level. Higher quality yarn increases the price but also increases the hand feel, comfort, performance and longevity of the garment. The weaving process has a part in this pricing formula as higher quality weaving of yarns facilitates good structure in the finished fabric and affects the hand and the life of the yarn.

Lower quality coloring processes result in a lack of color fastness and promotes fading early in the life of the garment. Quality of craftsmanship also plays into this. Most clothing items are man-made. Very low price garments are mass produced and we mean MASS. The quality on these pieces is very hard to control.

Thanks to: Becky Lamphier and Mia Stearns, Club Ride Apparel

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For base layers and things that you are sweating into, wash them as regularly as you would your gym clothes. A technical cleaner for base layers will help remove embedded odors (you know what I’m talking about!), as well as enhance the wicking ability of your next-to-skin gear. First, be sure to empty pockets, as washing lip balm into your clothing creates quite the mess! Then zip all zippers, and close all Velcro. No need to turn inside out. Really hot water can be good for getting things clean, but can also be bad for elastics, so be mindful of what the care label allows!

Hang dry if possible, and never, ever use fabric softeners, including dryer sheets, as they will leave behind a gunky residue which will reduce the performance. For outer layers, cleaning regularly with a technical cleaner will make sure they perform their best as well. If you notice visible dirt, then it is time to clean.

If your jacket is “wetting out” or absorbing water, that is also a great time to clean it. It is very important to use a technical cleaner meant for water-repellent items, as household detergents leave behind a residue that attracts water—not what you want in a jacket that’s supposed to repel water!


Always read the care label, but most items are fine in the washing machine. Usually tumble drying on low is fine, too. Again, check the label.


The best way to get out a stubborn stain is to pour a small amount of undiluted cleaning product directly on the stain and scrub it gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Let it sit for a few minutes, scrub again, then throw it in the wash. This technique works well on stubborn stains on cuffs and zipper areas.

Thanks to: Heidi Dale Allen, Nikwax North America

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Duct tape is a decent quick fix for outerwear, but folks need to remove the tape as soon as they can. If left in place too long the adhesive residue from the tape will stay on the fabric even after the tape is removed. This leaves a sticky mess which is difficult to remove when it comes time to make a more permanent repair.

If someone wants a quick and more effective long term repair than duct tape, we recommend using Tenacious Tape Repair Tape made by Gear Aid/McNe Corp. It comes in a small 3 inch x 20 inch roll (or pre-cut shapes) and can be cut with scissors to a shape that suits a specific need. They also make it in multiple colors and works great on tents and outerwear. We prefer the colored versions over the clear because the colors are made of fabric and seem to hold up be er in most situations that the clear.

The only downside with Tenacious Tape is that it can be even more difficult to remove that duct tape, so if someone uses it, they should plan on keeping it in place for a long period. Gear Aid also makes a number of small outdoor gear repair kits that include sewing related supplies and the right ingredients for repairing a leaking sleeping pad.


Dirt, oil, sweat and detergent residue can mask the waterproof coating. Also, over time the water repellent finish will wear off. When either of these happen, you will notice water absorbing into the outer fabric of your jacket. Luckily, in the former instance, cleaning with a technical cleaner is all you need to restore the water-repellency.

If, after cleaning, your shell is still “wetting out,” then it is time to apply a waterproofing product like Nikwax TX Direct Wash-in, a Durable Water Repellant (DWR), which is a chemical finish that most technical fabrics have on them when new. The original DWR tends to wear off over time from normal use and then water will no longer bead up and shed off the fabric.

I find that the trick with re-applying DWR is to throw my jacket in the the dryer for about 10 minutes on medium to high heat after the wash cycle in order to better “set” the DWR onto the fabric. Doing this is probably not recommended by most outerwear companies because most pieces of outerwear these days have welded or bonded construction as well as seam tapes that are applied with heat. Always read the garment label for recommended drying suggestions or contact the manufacturer.

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Regular washing of outdoor apparel and equipment is probably the most important thing people can do the extend the life of their gear. Body oils, sunscreen and other contaminants can do long term and irreversible damage to technical fabrics. Zippers also benefit greatly from frequent washing. Fine dust and road grime gets into zippers and can wreak havoc on the way a zipper functions. Essentially that fine dust becomes an abrasive and every time you zip or unzip that tent zipper or jacket, the dust starts to damage the teeth and the zipper slider.

For technical garments, tents and sleeping bags we suggest using only a front loading washer (top loading agitator columns can damage tents) and a two-cycle wash. On the first cycle use Nikwax Tech Wash to clean the items, and then using Nikwax TX Direct Wash-in for the second wash (only the first cycle for sleeping bags). To dry a tent we suggest hanging it up by the stake-out loops in a garage or basement for a few days. Always make sure your tent is completely dry before packing it up for storage, otherwise you may find mold and mildew the next time you take it out, and that often is not something that can be fixed.

To dry a sleeping bag (or puffy jacket) you’ll need a decent-sized dryer. Put the dryer on low heat and check regularly to see if it is dry. If it is a down insulated bag or down jacket, toss 5-8 tennis balls into the dryer with the item being dried. The tennis balls will bounce around and help break up the wet clumps of down and the bag will dry faster. Resist the temptation to turn up the heat setting or you may find that you have melted the fabric of the item you are trying to maintain.

We also suggest storing a sleeping bag in a hanging position much like they have them hung up on a retail floor of an outdoor store, or at the very least in an oversized co on stuff sack so that the bag is not always compressed. Keeping a sleeping bag compressed all the time will reduce its temperature rating and won’t keep you as warm in the long run as it did when it was new.

For panniers or bikepacking bags we suggest washing them in the bath tub or utility sink with Nikwax Tech Wash and make sure to use an old toothbrush to clean out the teeth of the zippers that might have dirt or dust in them as well as any tough stains. Hang these items up and let them air dry.

Thanks to: Ma Menely, Mountain Soles & Outdoor Threads



10 tips for every cyclist

Words: Richard Belson, Instructor at the United Bicycle Institute

spiderman-NEW1.) A couple years back, my son brought a Mylar Spiderman balloon home from a birthday. Eventually, it got droopy, so I finished the job and stuck a folded up Spidey into the seat bag of my commuter. A month later, I slashed my tire on the way to work—I used the balloon as a tire boot by folding it back on itself and placing it between the cut casing and the new tube. Two years later, when replacing the worn out tread, I realized that Peter Parker had been accompanying me through over 500 days of riding to work.

2.) The only way your chain will stay clean is if you never ride your bike. If you ride your bike, you need to clean your chain.

3.) If you want your bike to feel like new again, replace the cables & housing—even if you think it’s in good shape. It wears so gradually, it’s hard to tell that it’s causing any problems. As soon as you shift and brake with the new stuff, you’ll wonder why it took so long.


4.) Don’t underestimate the refreshing feeling of brand new bar tape or grips.

5.) Dunk-degreasing your chain removes more than just the dirty, unwanted exterior gunk off—it also removes the irreplaceable factory grease from its inner mechanisms. We prefer over-lubing a chain with your preferred lube, then wipe off the excess with a clean, dry rag. The extra liquid will wash away the majority of the accumulated dirt and spent lube from the chain’s exterior, while allowing the chain to retain its inner stock lubrication.


6.) Isopropyl Alcohol (91%)—available from most pharmacies and grocery stores—makes a great, affordable degreaser. Also, it leaves no film behind, so it’s great for suspension service, and it won’t harm sensitive parts, finishes or seals. If, after you’ve tried alcohol, you need more muscle, then move to biodegradable or chemical degreasers. But read labels carefully—many degreasers will etch polished or anodized surfaces, or dry out rubber seals.

7.) Learn which derailleur hanger your bike requires, buy an extra, and put it on your keychain. You’ll head Murphy off, and will have it on hand if you ever need it.


8.) Keep a couple different sized master links in your seat bag—if you bail a buddy out of a jam while out on a ride, you may get free beer, coffee, or dinner!

9.) Support your local bike shop whenever possible—you’ll be bummed when they’re gone.


10.) Get and use a Park CC-3.2 and thank me later!

This article was originally published in Bicycle Times #41. Subscribe to our email newsletter to get more great content like this delivered directly to your inbox each week!


How to ride in the rain and not be completely miserable


By Aixe Djelal

The bicycle has been my preferred mode of transportation since the fourth grade field trip where Benjamin Gray barfed up beef jerky and chocolate milk in the back of the school bus.

I learned how to ride a bike when I was five years old. Impatient after weeks of holding onto the bike’s banana seat as I wobbled around the block, my father (who can ride a horse but not a bike) took me to the top of a grassy hill, threw caution to the wind and gave me a firm push downhill. I remained upright and pedaled hard — Charles Darwin would have been proud.

Fast forward to college in Portland, Oregon. I rode my Trek 800 all over the city, thrilled to be away from Indiana, enjoying the mild, rainy winters. My bike gear consisted of an itchy alpaca sweater that stank like a wet dog, a Gore-Tex jacket (no pit zips), heavy leather hiking boots and baggy striped cotton pants from Guatemala that soaked up water like a sponge. As I pedaled up a busy street late at night, a policeman pulled me over and said he wouldn’t ticket me if I promised to get bike lights the very next day. I did, and I am still grateful to him.

Portland’s public transportation system has a fine reputation, but I can’t get past the sour smell of dirty laundry and halitosis that is the hallmark of every bus I have ever ridden. I live three miles from work and the fastest, cheapest, most pleasant commuting option is my bicycle. I ride an eight-year-old Trek Soho commuter year round.

In the elevator at work many people are astonished that I ride in the winter rain, unconvinced that I don’t melt in the water, incredulous that I am comfortable, safe and dry on two wheels in a downpour. In order to cycle in the rain, all you need is a bicycle and the desire to ride it. In more than 20 years of commuting, I’ve found a few extra things that make riding in the dark, damp winter months even more pleasant.


Hey motorist, here I am!

Some cyclists say that wearing bright colors puts the onus on the cyclist to be seen, and diminishes the responsibility of motorists to look for bikes. Although I empathize with that point of view, on the rare occasion that I drive a car, I‘ve noticed it is much easier to see cyclists dressed in bright or light-colored clothing. Since I prefer to remain alive on Portland’s imperfect roads rather than be “dead right” on the issue, I wear a yellow rain jacket with reflective accents.

A helmet can help in a pinch

Wearing a helmet is a choice for adults to make in Oregon. I have no illusion that my helmet will save me from the beer truck (or the Fiat 500) that rolls over my head. I wear a helmet because if I crash onto the road, it could help prevent a serious head injury. I‘d be less inclined to wear a helmet in a truly cycling-oriented city like Amsterdam or Copenhagen where there are many more bicycles and fewer expectations that cyclists keep up with the speed of motorized traffic. Cyclists in these cities ride more slowly, which reduces their chances of crashing.* My helmet also serves as a useful platform for a rear light and a camera.

*My experience is that rush-hour bike traffic in Amsterdam is just as frantic and fast-paced as auto traffic in the U.S.! Still seems a lot safer, though. —Editor


Eye protection for visibility

Clear plastic glasses keep the rain and road grit out of my eyes while still allowing me to see suicidal squirrels, potholes and other people on the road. Fancy cycling glasses are not necessary — for $7 the local safety supply store will sell me children’s shooting glasses that fit my narrow head (also available in adult sizes).

Lights on

Oregon law requires a front white light visible from 500 feet away and a red reflector or light visible in low car headlights from 600 feet away. On gloomy days and at night I use a blinking white light on my handlebars, pointed toward the ground so it doesn’t get in the eyes of oncoming cyclists and motorists. I also use a couple of blinking rear red lights, one on my bike rack and another on my helmet.

Ears are the eyes in the back of my head (approximately)

Even though I use a bar-mounted mirror, nothing beats my ears for awareness of motorized vehicles coming up behind me. Although I would enjoy listening to music while I ride, I would rather have my ears available to alert me to what I cannot see. Rear-end collisions are responsible for 40 percent of cyclist fatalities.


Treat your bike right

In any weather, a bicycle with a clean, lubricated chain and reliable brakes is more enjoyable to ride. The wet weather and road muck are hard on chains and brakes. I check mine regularly, along with making sure my wheels’ quick release levers are tight and locked in place.

Slick tires aren’t slippery

Slick soled shoes are sketchy on wet surfaces. Slick tires are a different story. I used to think that a healthy tread improves traction and now I understand that the opposite is true. My tires are closer to slicks than knobbies, with a tiny tread. Tires do wear out, so I check mine for baldness and tears periodically.


Fenders are gutters for bicycles

Houses without gutters get flooded basements. Cyclists without fenders get wet feet, inverse skunk stripes up their backs and dirt stuck in their teeth. Bike frames, chains and saddlebags enjoy the protection of fenders, too.

Waterproof top to bottom

A waterproof jacket with a breathable membrane and pit zips keeps me dry and comfortably ventilated. I add waterproof pants in a downpour, but in a warmish, light rain I would rather have slightly damp legs than the annoying friction of rain pants against my knees.

Cyclists who carry anything they want to keep dry should invest in a waterproof bag. There are lots of options these days — backpacks, saddlebags, trunk bags and handlebar bags. I’ve had my Ortlieb panniers for more than a decade and they’re still going strong.

Happy feet

I cannot find waterproof cycling shoes that I like, so I use neoprene shoe covers. They are not completely waterproof, but unless it’s raining biblically, they keep my feet dry enough. Wool socks keep my feet warm even if they get wet. Polyester fleece socks are warm and dry out quickly. Cotton socks are a disaster — they get soggy and take forever to dry. I keep an extra pair of socks in my desk drawer at work.

How to appear vaguely respectable after a rainy ride

Cold wet weather chaps skin, so I use moisturizer on my face and lips before I set out in the morning. I keep extra deodorant at work because I tend to run cold and overdress for winter riding. Waterproof mascara keeps me from looking like a raccoon on downpour days. Speaking of wildlife, I cultivate the “hair like a bird sanctuary” look, but for those who do not, I recommend keeping a comb or brush handy for the end of the ride.

There are many, many options for staying dry and safe on a bike in wet weather. I’ve seen people with capes, plastic bags over their shoes, and even umbrellas attached to their bicycles. Not all bicycle gear is expensive, and not all expensive gear is good. Find what works for you and use it. Enjoy the ride!

Aixe Djelal most recently shared her “Helmetography,” some of which is featured in this post, in Bicycle Times Issue #37. You can follow her at and on Instagram and Medium.



How to make a DIY fender buddy flap


Fenders are usually designed to keep the rider dry, but very rarely do they extend low enough to prevent a spray tail from rising to splash a friend riding behind you, or to keep your feet dry. In places where it rains a lot you’re likely to see all sorts of DIY and store-bought ways riders have found to keep the road spray to a minimum, often made from bits of old tubes or water bottles.

I’ve seen some really nice buddy flaps that you can buy, but I thought I could accomplish the same task on my own, and for less money. Roving the halls of my local big-box home improvement store I was looking for something that was somewhat stiff, but still plenty flexible for inevitable bumps and bangs.

I settled on this For Sale sign, and because it was so cheap, just $1.99, I bought a large 15-by-19-inch one so I would have plenty of material to work with. You can find these signs on the “mailboxes” aisle, where I also grabbed some silver reflective tape for $3 a pack. Even if it’s dry the extra reflective material out back is certainly not going to hurt visibility.


I also grabbed some extra zip ties I already had, so the total cost investment here was $12.


The first step was the measure how long you want your flap to be. This fender used to have a rubber flap extending it, but since it had long ago shuffled off its mortal coil I would be adding about 15 inches of the new flap.


Since the sign is 15 inches tall, measuring was simple. I drew it to flare from two inches at the top to three inches at the bottom.


Snip snip.


Then I drilled some attachment holes. Word to the wise: it’s probably a good idea to remove your rear wheel for this step, lest you drill a hole right through your tire.


I test-fitted the flap and marked some holes to punch.


Then I added the reflective tape. Because the tape was only available in 2-by-24-inch strips I had to get creative with how to apply it, though I’m sure some mathematician readers could fill me in on how to do it more efficiently. The flap attaches by zip-tying through the holes. Tighten each of them a little bit at a time so you don’t get stuck with a crooked flap.


I had a few stickers left over from a Fiks Reflective sticker pack, so I added those on there to cover the blank spot.


The camera flash shows just how reflective the tape is. I only used one pack so my total investment here is $5.


I had plenty of material left over to add a little flap to the front fender and on my other bike too.

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