Follow this guide to get the most out of your kit with the least abuse on your wallet (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery
Editors Note: This article is courtesy of the team at Art's Cyclery. The original post can be found here.
As your wallet is most likely well aware, cycling is a very equipment-dependent sport. From the bike itself, to the individual components, it's easy to make a dent in your paycheck every month. To make matters even more stressful on your finances, your bike is only part of the equation. Apparel can be just as important in its ability to make or break your riding experience.
A poor-quality kit can make a ride miserable, while the proper threads can make the miles feel almost effortless. But, notice we use the words 'poor-quality' rather than 'affordable.' While cycling apparel can definitely get a bit pricey, there are certainly options out there that enable any rider to maximize the bang for their buck.
Pearl Izumi's Elite In-R-Cool bibs and a great choice (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery
We're not going to go into why a good set of bib shorts with a well-tailored chamois is the single most-important foundation of any good cycling kit-it would involve too many horror stories involving some pretty sensitive areas, and some horrible metaphors involving sandpaper and bleach. Long story short, the bib short is the interface between your most sensitive contact point on the bike, and you'd better make sure it's a comfortable one.
So first off, a well-tailored chamois is of paramount importance. While some might think padding takes precedence, padding is the last thing you'll be thinking about when you're wearing what feels like the adult equivalent of a diaper. A properly tailored chamois is designed to meld seamlessly with the shorts, making for a pair that fits-and moves-with the contours of your body instead of just providing a saddle-specific equivalent of a memory-foam mattress pad.
Secondly, bib shorts are a must as opposed to bib-less shorts as the straps do a much better job at keeping the chamois in place, limiting the chance of chafing.
After these two requirements, fabric performance is your main concern. What we're looking for here primarily is moisture management. A good pair of bib shorts will wick away sweat to keep you dry on all but the hottest days.
One of our favorites is the Capo Pursuit bib short (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery
All that said, it's definitely worth budgeting a bit more cash for a good pair of bibshorts. Spending money in this category will earn you the biggest dividends when it comes to improving your riding experience. However, there are still options that provide plenty of comfort and performance and don't require dipping into savings. Case in point: the Capo Pursuit Bib Short. Featuring Capo's Anatomic-L HD Carbon chamois, it incorporates varying thickness densities to provide an exceptional amount of padding with minimal bulk. Several years ago, the chamois featured in the Pursuit bibs would have been comparable to some of the most high-end chamois on the market.
Another pair of shorts we'd like are Pearl Izumi's Elite In-R-Cool Bibs. Mineral-infused In-R-Cool fabric lowers body temperature by five degrees, along with speeding moisture transfer and dry time. The anatomic P.R.O. Seamless 1:1 Chamois is light and thin while providing ample comfort and blood flow.
Continue to page 2 for more advice on buying quality, affordable cycling kit »
Mavic Ksyrium Elite road shoe offers good bang for the buck (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery
After bib shorts, shoes are the largest deciding factor in the role apparel plays in your ride experience. While fit is paramount here, quality construction, adjustability, and weight are also important considerations when making a buying decision.
After finding a shoe that fits, be sure to choose a model with a sole that allows for efficient power transfer. While this is relatively easy to do with the plethora of shoe options out there, finding an option that also happens to be light while still sporting an agreeable price tag is a bigger challenge.
Why does shoe weight matter? For one, it's rotating weight, which means you're expending energy to lift your foot (and obviously your shoe as well) every single pedal stroke. While a few grams most definitely won't be noticeable after just one pedal stroke; after a few thousand, those extra grams start to add up.
Offering a great fit that keeps seams off your skin, solid construction-and a nice lack of heft to boot, the Mavic Ksyrium Elite Road Shoe is a solid deal, offering the performance and features of shoes twice the price.
Giro Savant helmet is another quality bargain offering (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery
While this is clearly the most important piece of kit you'll buy, it's third on this list only because, thankfully, you can get plenty of safety and performance out of a helmet at a price that won't lighten your wallet too much. Giro's Savant Helmet offers everything you should look for in a helmet-protection, plenty of fit options as well as ample ventilation-plus it's nearly as light as Giro's top-of-the-heap Aeon, but less than half the price at $80, leaving some leftover green to put into the bib short budget.
While certainly not as important as the bib straps they cover up, the jersey is still an important piece of kit. The right jersey will make the difference between feeling like you actually went for a bike ride instead of a swim when you finish your ride. Proper fabric selection will accomplish this, so be sure to look for a jersey that features a fabric with solid moisture-wicking credentials. Storage is also an important consideration, so make sure your jersey has ample pockets - and that those pockets are well supported. The last thing you want is saggy jersey syndrome. Proper fit will also help in this regard, so size wisely.
A standout jersey that ticks all of the right boxes aside from the one labeled 'expensive' is the Gore Element Adrenaline II Jersey. Featuring soft, stretchy, breathable polyester construction, the Element II Jersey utilizes a ventilated surface to allow for both excellent breathability and moisture management.
For another option that looks and performs great, but won't break the bank, check out the Capo Fonda Jersey. Constructed from a lightweight polyester with proven moisture management properties, the Fonda Jersey will keep you comfortable year-round.
No kit is complete without some cycling-specific eyewear, and Tifosi makes some of the best value priced shades. Tifosi Podiums offer a wide, optically clear field of view with a lightweight, comfortable frame that practically disappears when you put it on. Plus they look cool - and they cost under a hundred bucks.