Fashion for your peloton: How to kit up for cycling
I loathe golf almost as much as I loathe… no, wait, there’s nothing I loathe more. Not even the sport of curling. That said, what I do admire about it is just how spiffy you can look no matter whether you are a pro or a noob who keeps swinging with all their might but only ends up unearthing divots of fine Bermuda grass
This, by the way, never happened.
Another sport which allows us to dress up is cycling. Sure there is the unsightly issue of your belly and other areas of fat protruding through the fitted gear, but MAMILs (middle-aged men in lycra) are as common as people walking about with hair transplants and nose jobs in Istanbul, so not to worry.
This is good because the ongoing pandemic has had an odd outcome — people the world over now have a sudden penchant to pedal their way everywhere. Cities in the West are having to allocate new dedicated lanes for cyclists and, as one journal put it, “Cycles are selling out faster than toilet paper!” Well, it is a buyers’ market and having been a cycling enthusiast since before the Corona effect, I am a tad more well-informed than most about how to turn up for your first ride looking like you just won the previous stage at the Tour de France.
The most basic of requirements, budgets range from a paltry ₹5,000 to well, the Eastern European black market price of two working kidneys. Find your sweet spot and settle in. Italy is the spiritual hub of everything on two wheels so, just like with your dinner order, when in doubt, go Italian. Pinarello and Colnago (₹3 lakh+) are my top brands, but there is also Bianchi (₹50,000+) and Cipollini. Others such as Cervelo (₹2 lakh+) sound Italian but are actually Canadian. So is Argon (Canadian, that is) and way too speedy to be inert (like the gas). The US has some top brands, Trek being the worldwide leader for quality premium bikes. Their latest, Madone (₹3.5 lakh), is an American product with Italian appeal, much like Frank Sinatra. Giant is reliable but ‘mass’— you can get a great bike cheap. Me, I ride a Specialized, which sits somewhere in the one arm and half a leg price zone.
You will need this because if you don’t record and post about a ride, did it even happen? The range is vast, but you’d do well to stick with the leaders: Garmin or Wahoo. How much data you want depends on how nerdy you are and how deep the pockets go. A basic Garmin 130 (₹20,000) will resolve most biker needs, but an 830 or a 1030 (₹60,000) will show you coloured maps. Wahoo comes in two versions: Bolt (₹24,000) and Roam (₹37,000), and here too the bells and whistles go up with the price. Of course, there are others, from Sigma and Lezyne to Cateye, which are significantly cheaper. I settled for the 130 because it does it all.
Assos makes some of the best cycling gear out there, so just suck it up and pay. Rapha is another luxury performance brand as is X-Bionic (but ill-suited for Indian climes). If not these, you can go for Castelli, Roka, Agu and a relatively unknown brand, Pas Normal Studios. Padded cycling shorts are crucial (for where you connect with the bike) so make sure they are top-grade. I use the Mille GT by Assos (₹8,000) and no complaints thus far.
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Helmets and gloves
For the former, it can be safe, light and aerodynamic or heavy and cheap — you decide. I use Catlike Mixino (₹18,000), a fairly off-beat (and now defunct) Spanish brand and the Giro Aeon. But Kask, Met, Bell, Smith, POC (another off-beat pick), Specialized… the choices abound. Try and get an MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) if you can, else Trek’s new Bontrager WaveCel helmets (₹12,000) with their hair net weave inners appear to be a technically-advanced design in terms of safety. Gloves with gel work best. I use half-finger Giro and Specialized gloves for summers and fleece-lined ones for winters (₹1,000+).
You can get stock or clip ones, which your regular sports shoes lock into. Or else, you can be super-dedicated to the pro look and invest in clipless pedals — the cleat underneath your cycling shoes lock into it. That way you aren’t just pushing the bike forward and uphill, you can pull it too. I used Shimano clipless, from which I upgraded to Look Keo Carbon — much lighter and left my wallet feeling similarly so (₹7,000). If you want to step into a whole new range of pedal pricing, go for the kind that come equipped with a power meter (₹50,000+). It is a metric and it is nerdy — measures wattage being churned out by the rider — so if you aren’t too caught up about it, don’t bother.
Sidi is the way to go: Italian and stylish, even if a little loud and fiendishly expensive. Shimano, Fizik, Specialized and Bontrager would be my other equally-laudable options. Expect to spend upwards of ₹7,000 on a good pair. The higher you go the lighter they get, as also snugger which means your foot gets to transfer all your force to the wheel, and convey all the pain of wearing such stiff shoes directly to you!
As a general rule, the more expensive the cycle, the less it comes with. Forget a stand or a carrier, not even pedals are supplied with the top-end stuff. So you will need bottle cages (₹500 each) and lights (₹500) at the very basic. Bontrager is a great premium brand but frankly, just get anything that is bright, USB-rechargeable, doesn’t weigh a ton and can be locked snugly in place. Too expensive and they are bound to get stolen, especially the lights. Mudguards are debatable. I don’t have any; I’d rather have stained clothes on a rainy day than a tarnished pro image.