The clothing you pack for your trip will need to take into account the environmental conditions of the area you will be touring in. As you have limited room and the potential for lots of other gear, you will likely need to rationalise your clothing somewhat.”One to wear, one to wash” is a good principle when you have minimal space. That said you will likely have specialist cycling clothing, eg. knicks (padded pants), that aren’t necessarily suitable for wearing off the bike, so you’ll require extra clothing for rest days and after cycling.
The volume of options for travelling and hiking clothing available these days is testament to the popularity of getting out there and exploring the world. This type of clothing is designed to be lightweight, functional, and quick-drying, making it perfect for cycle touring. The hiking/travelling pants that have zip-off legs, are a good investment giving you pants and shorts in one tidy package. Head to your local outdoor supply shop and take a look at what sort of clothing is available. Checking online suppliers is also worthwhile, as they often have great deals (just be cautious of sizing and make sure they have a good returns policy if the clothing doesn’t fit).
At intrepidcycle.com, our mission is to raise awareness of melanoma (the most deadly form of skin cancer) and to raise money to support research into a cure for this disease, so we take sun protection very seriously.
The amount of UV radiation (the spectrum of sunlight that causes sunburn and skin damage) will vary greatly depending on where and when you’ll be touring. UV radation is highest during the summer months, particularly on clear days, but even on cloudy days you are still exposed. In the southern hemisphere, the hole in the ozone layer of the atmosphere greatly increases the amount of UV radation that reaches the earth’s surface. Altitude also increases the amount of UV radation you are exposed to (higher elevation = less atmospheric impedence = high UV exposure).
According to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), all fabrics provide some level of protection from ultraviolet radiation, but not all fabrics provide adequate protection. In 1996, ARPANSA released a standard for rating the UV protection of clothing (the Ultraviolet Protection Factor or UPF). Fabrics that have been tested and rated will carry a UPF rating of between 15 and 50, top level fabrics are rated as UPF 50+. Clothing that provides sun protection and has been rated by an agency like ARPANSA will be clearly marked.
Factors that contribute to the UPF rating of a fabric are (source: ARPANSA):
- Composition of the yarns (cotton, polyester, etc)
- Tightness of the weave or knit (tighter improves the rating)
- Colour (darker colours are generally better)
- Stretch (more stretch lowers the rating)
- Moisture (many fabrics have lower ratings when wet)
- Condition (worn and faded garments may have reduced ratings)
- Finishing (some fabrics are treated with UV absorbing chemicals)
The Cancer Council of Victoria recommends these five steps to protect yourself from UV radation:
- Slip on some sun-protective clothing.
- Slop on SPF30+ sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every 2 hours afterwards.
- Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears.
- Seek shade.
- Slide on some sunglasses: make sure they meet Australian Standards.
Regardless of how well you plan your tour, you cannot plan the weather and you must carry adequate clothing to cope with bad weather scenarios, or even climate changes along your route.
Rain – even in warm conditions riding in the rain can sap heat from your body and make you feel cold and possibly lethargic. It is best to keep your core dry, but not uncomforably hot. There are literally hundreds of cycling jackets out there that boast fabrics like Goretex® which is renowned for it’s utility in extreme weather. It would be wise to invest in a jacket that boasts properties such as: breathable fabric, a low hem at the back to deal with spray from the wheels, and zippable vents in convenient places like under the arms.
Humidity – fabrics that are lightweight, breathable, UPF-rated, and capable of wicking moisture away from the skin will make you feel much more comfortable. Cotton fabrics are not recommended as they tend to hold moisture, which will make you feel sticky and hot.
Dry heat – same as for humidity above, but with serious emphasis on sun protection as dry heat means little cloud cover. Be particularly conscious of your hands, arms and back of your neck, as the cycling position leaves these areas of your body most exposed.
Wind – cycling in windy conditions really blows (excuse the pun, I couldn’t help myself). There’s not much you can do, apart from wearing close fitting clothing to avoid the parachute effect and wearing glasses to stop junk being blown into your eyes.
Cold – think in terms of layers. Each layer of clothing will trap warmth between itself and the next layer. There are some excellent synthetic thermal materials on the market, but don’t overlook natural fibres like Merino wool which is super comfortable and really warm when you need it.
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