Bib or Drawstring Shorts?
Bibs are a must for serious cyclists. Drawstring shorts restrict your abdomen, making it harder to breath. Plus, bibs eliminate potential plumber's crack.
Chamois Cream or None?
When it comes to backside health, a little chamois cream goes a long way. This is especially true if you're jumping back into big miles. Lather up during rainy rides or races. Road grit from the asphalt can get everywhere, so best protect your assets.
Sleeves or Sleeveless?
In the past, the Hulk Hogan look was faux pas. But lots of pro racers have been seen with their sleeves torn off, giving the sleeveless movement momentum. Just beware that crashing on bare shoulders can leave a nasty scar—and ruin your cool tattoo. Also, the rulebook says you must have sleeves to race.
Gloves or Barehanded?
It's okay not to wear gloves when training. It helps stop lame below-the-knuckle tan lines. But when racing, put on a pair to help protect your precious hands in the event of a fall, because even a small palm scrape can keep you off your bike for days.
Base Layer or None?
In cold weather it's a no brainer. Layers keep you warm and give you options if the sun does come out. On hot days, a thin base layer helps wick moisture away from your skin—and provides one more layer between you and the road if there's a pile-up.
Short or Tall Socks?
There are lots of fun options available from plain white to smiley faces. Here's a simple guide: White socks for good weather; black socks for bad weather. High socks for skinny legs; low socks for stocky sprinters. Bumper-sticker slogans on your socks? No.
Cycling Cap Under the Helmet?
Why not? It's a good mix of retro fashion and necessary function. But watch out on cold days. Wet cotton against the head is a bad idea. Use a synthetic cap instead. Keep your cap on while fueling up at the coffee shop—you've got a horizontal indent across your forehead underneath.
Jacket Versus Vest?
Jackets help keep you warm and dry, but serious cyclists prefer vests because they usually do the trick with less bulk. That's especially important when you're continually taking it off and putting it back on during those long road rides.
A former pro in Europe and the U.S. with Saxon-Selle Italia (now Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner), Don Powell is the founder and president of Panache Cyclewear.
Attention cycling fans: Subscribe to VeloNews—the Journal of Competitive Cycling—and receive 15 huge issues filled with behind-the-scenes race coverage, news analysis, action photos, rider interviews, expert training advice, unbiased product reviews and more.