Aerobics Gear is for Aerobics - should we ditch lycra?

Aerobics Gear is for Aerobics - should we ditch lycra?

Wrtiten by April Drage 

Cycling has no uniform.  Don't feel like you need to wear what everyone else wears. Plenty of people ride without lycra and a surprising number of bikepackers and endurance cyclists ride without lycra or a chamois (including many of the Curve squad)!
In 2020 I went through a movie montage worthy, bikepacking bootcamp to transform myself from a road and gravel riding weekend warrior to Race to the Rock finisher. Desperately seeking all day comfort, I experimented with alllll the bikepacking clothing options during a 7 months period between decision time and start line. Expensive bib shorts didn’t survive the odd tumble, barbed wire fences or spikey trail-side plants and the traditional jerseys from my previous incarnation as a road cyclist lacked versatility and weren’t so comfortable to sleep in. I ditched the jersey in favour of a merino t-shirt. Ultimately, I found myself at that Race to the Rock start line wearing a pair of mountain bike shorts, lined with some high end bib shorts. Unconvinced about the selections I’d made, I packed mountain bike liner shorts and a pair of merino boxer shorts on that journey from Normanville to Uluru. Taking a variety of options seemed like a smart move. I had underestimated the big difference between the multi-day training ride comfort and what lies beyond. It didn’t take long on that ride to Uluru, for me to reach the point where I never wanted to wear anything involving a chamois ever again. Sitting on squishy, damp padding that is awkward to wash, impossible to get dry, not very compact to pack and uncomfortable to nap in was not something I was willing to endure again. 
Upon finishing Race to the Rock, with my sights set on as many bikepacking adventures as I could fit into the life line up, the experiments resumed. Merino boxer shorts were an improvement, but weren’t especially soft or durable. I tried allllll the saddles Goldilocks style; too hard, too soft and everything in between until I found my just right. Somewhere in the latter part of these experiments, I started to think that maybe everyone riding long is just really uncomfortable. Maybe my problem wasn’t my backside, maybe I just wasn’t tough enough to suffer hard for a long time; maybe I just needed to learn to endure.  When I had almost abandoned these expensive experiments in favour of simply ingesting a tablespoon of cement, I came upon the Specialized Power Arc Pro Elaston. This piece of saddle gold was even more eye-wateringly expensive than some of those fancy knicks I’d been destroying, but google told me that the saddle provided “the feeling of sitting on 1,000 miniature pillows rather than one piece of foam”. This seemed like a ridiculous claim… but I just had to try it. Around the same time, I stumbled upon seamless, bamboo women’s boxer shorts (thanks Step One. Eureka! 
Many, many kilometres later in all kinds of weather, in all kinds of places and there’s still no need for that tablespoon of cement or any more aerobics gear. Being tough and dressing like a superhero is overrated!
Wearing shorts and t-shirts for bikepacking makes sense beyond improved hygiene and the smaller packed size.These are the other things I enjoy about ditching the aerobics clothes:

  • The clothes I take adventuring work well on and off the bike. Packing is simple and I feel slightly less conspicuous hanging out at country pubs. 
  • Underpants dry faster than knicks.  
  • Loose fitting clothes made from natural fibres, results in more air-flow on hot days and increased comfort. It also takes longer before the bikepacker stench kicks in.  
  • No need to get changed in order to be comfortable when it’s time to sleep. 
  • Nature breaks are easier without bibshorts.
  • Whatever I wear on a bikepacking trip has a pretty hard life; inexpensive, versatile clothing is a game changer.
What works for me will undoubtedly not work for everyone; there’s no substitute for trial and error and time in the saddle. Besides, bikepacking experiments are the best excuse to go  riding! 
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