Girls on tour - Clothing
How do you decide what clothes to take and wear on a cycle tour? The main consideration of course is weight, so most of your wardrobe will have to be left behind! However you may need clothes for all weather, clothes to cycle in, something to wear when not cycling and of course underwear.
Female hygiene is important to us and none of us like to smell, yet long distance cycling and camping can pose a challenge. Finding fabrics that are smell resistant, comfortable and quick to dry when washed, is the key. I often wonder if I'm carrying too much underwear, but then at the same time, I feel like I am always having to wash knickers. I have 2 pairs of Icebreaker knickers (merino wool) which are extremely comfortable, don't smell and dry quickly, and two pairs of Tilley knickers (synthetic) which also dry quickly. However I tend to wear these when I am not cycling, and wear padded cycling shorts during the day without underwear, but of course these need washing often too. I wear a M&S sports bra for cycling and have 2 t-shirt bras.
So what do others carry and wear?
"I think I started with just 4 pairs of knickers on constant washing rotation but this was too few as it involved washing every day. I think I probably ended up with about double that as I figured they were fairly small. I took two sports bras to wear alternately while cycling. I found these comfortable and took one other for days off." Susie
"I wear bike shorts and only change into underwear at the end of a day after a wash so I never found I went through much. I always try and take underwear made of material that dries quickly." Marjorie
"I do wear a sports bra, but find that it gets very smelly very soon. I hope to buy one made of merino wool and use that in the future as I think that would solve the smelly problem. I haven’t found a good pair of underwear that I like. I have a pair of expensive moisture wicking underwear but the fit is all-wrong. I prefer to ride with just my cycling shorts, no underwear but then the shorts get dirty (smelly) faster. " Heidi
"I’ve been around the block on this issue. I used to wear padded bike shorts and was sure they were the best! But then I tried the unpadded wool running shorts from Ibex and found I prefer them over padded shorts – by a LOT! I carry four pairs of the wool running shorts and wear them as underwear. I can almost always wash them out every night, but have found with the wool I can wear them a couple days without them stinking if I have to. I strap them on to my bike and let them dry while riding.
My first major tour I wore just regular bras and they were fine. Now I am using sports bras and feel they are more comfortable. In the end, I think any comfortable bra would work. I only carry two bras." Nancy
"I started with some sports-specific items like sports bra, but the more I cycle, the more I prefer just normal clothes. You fit in better and it's easier to find replacements whenever something wears out. We had about 5 pairs of underwear – a few more than the typical recommendation to take just 3, but on a longer trip it's nice to not have to wash your underwear every day." Friedel
"I carry lots of underwear and when they are worn out I just toss them. I only wear sports bras." Cindie
"Yes, underwear is a funny thing I still haven't decided about yet... I never used to wear underwear under my cycling shorts but since I am cycling most days and only have 2 pairs of shorts, I don't want to wash them every night so have resigned to wearing underwear.. Nothing sexy – practical the whole way! :) I like to wear a sports bra too or a sports style bikini top under my t-shirt." Kate
"I have three pairs of Exte Ondo underwear. I used to have four but I lost one pair somewhere over the past year. They wash easily and dry quickly, but the synthetic material isn’t very smell-resistant. I too am washing underwear all the time. I tried a pair of SmartWool boxer briefs for women because merino wool is so great for resisting smells, but the fabric was too thin. They developed holes almost instantly when I washed them by hand. I would love to try IceBreaker’s underwear at some point. Merino is definitely the way to go if you can find sturdy stuff. I do have a sports bra, but my favourite top has one built-in. My “Fizz” cycling tank made by Sugoi is hands down my favourite thing to wear all summer/spring/fall!" Tara
"2 pairs of knickers and 2 bras. I never wear knickers while cycling, just my bike shorts. So two is more than enough... I love sport bra's from 'shock absorber' I had two of those, one I used up, the other one got stolen of a washing line in Asia." Mirjam
"Don't wear a sports bra as I consider that more for sports like running where you'd jiggle around, so just a cotton bra for me. I have one bra for on the bike and one for off the bike, 3 pairs of pants, which I wash out in a sink, the sea or a river every night and 2 pairs of socks." Margo
What do you wear to cycle in?
Most of us favour padded cycling shorts and a lightweight t-shirt. When choosing padded shorts try different styles and see which feels most comfortable, also look for those with Chamois padding. The chamois systems keeps moisture away from the surface of the fabric and helps avoid chafing.
For t-shirts you can choose a synthethic fabric, which will 'wick' better than any fabric (extract moisture away from the skin and dry quickly), great for cooler climates.
Have a look at a merino wool t-shirt, in a hot enviornment it will keep your skin cool as it absorbs sweat, but will dry out quickly once you stop cycling. In a cool climate it will keep you warm and insulated. Merino is also great for being smell resistant, it's amazing. Despite it being wool, the fabric is very fine and soft, it doesn't feel like woolin the wooly jumpy sense!.
Check out Icebreakers's fine t-shirts (140), we cycled in these t-shirts for 1 year and loved wearing them.
"Just tracksuit bottoms and a T-shirt / sweatshirt. I have a strange dislike of wearing constricting clothes and prefer cotton. My Brooks saddle thankfully saved me from discomfort. I put on a waterproof jacket when absolutely vital but otherwise prefer to get wet if it is warm enough and just dry off naturally." Susie
"I wear a long sleeve shirt when cycling and long cycling shorts, when I am off the bike I change quickly into pants." Cindie
"Cycling shorts with padding and a lightweight top made of quick dry material. I hardly take anything with me that isn’t quick dry, even underwear." Marjorie
"I cycle in padded cycling shorts and a t-shirt or my mountain bike team top (it's not ideal for hot weather though). Ihave only one set of clothes for off the bike. We keep our weight to a minimum.. I also have a white cotton shirt to keep the sun off." Margo
"I cycle in padded cycling shorts and keep a regular pair of shorts close by to slide on top of them for walking around town. I love anything made of merino wool – favourite cycling gear – it wicks moisture, is machine washable, is thin – the benefits are endless." Heidi
"I ALWAYS wear my bike shorts. Either by themselves or under some loose fitting pants. And a shirt.
What I wear is different in different countries. In Tibet (in winter) I cycled in Ski-pants and three pairs of gloves.. In Australia I cycle in my shorts and a t-shirt... In Iran you cover up completely... " Mirjam
"I wear padded cycling shorts. I also have 2 cycling jerseys with me (which I would wear while road cycling in the cycling club) but can't bring myself to wear them now – I feel like too much of a 'cyclist'." Kate
"I mostly wear Shebeest Shindigger Capris - great padded cycling pants, cute enough that I feel comfortable wearing them around town. I also have padded shorts and one padded skort. I like all of them, but the capris are my favourite. Icebreaker Shirt: It is merino wool so it dries fast, keeps me cool when it is hot, warm when it is chilly, and best of all: is smell-free for weeks at a time (possibly forever). My advice? Get all merino wool clothing. There are enough good companies out there using the fabric that you can even find nice styles. You can see all of my gear listed here: http://www.goingslowly.com/gear/." Tara