From the moment I got the training wheels off my Strawberry Shortcake bicycle in kindergarten to the starter mountain bike I got for high school graduation to the first bike I bought with my very own money, nothing has ever made me feel as free as cycling. In my childhood neighborhoods, in the foothills of my beloved North Georgia Mountains, on these frazzled streets in New York City. No matter where I am in the world, the feel of the wind in my face and the rhythm of my legs pedaling are bliss.
The truth is the only thing you actually need to start cycling is a bike and a helmet (for real, buddy, wear a helmet ) — but bike-specific clothes are fun, and I find that saving up for good quality stuff makes the experience more enjoyable for me and it also means my clothes last a lot longer. I think of cycling gear is an essential investment in my physical and mental health.
REI recently sent me some really rad pieces from their Extended Sizes line and I couldn’t be happier with them. There’s a stigma around women and non-binary folks’ bodies in all outdoor activities, and cycling is no exception. But I felt as comfortable in these clothes as I do in my own 41-year-old tender butch body.
I run hot always, so unless it dips down into the teens, you’re going to catch me in cycling shorts, like these Club Ride Eden’s with a removable liner and several pockets. But up north, tights are a must at least in the coldest months. My PEARL iZUMi Pursuit Thermal Bike Tights are warm enough I never need another layer over them. Up top’s a different story, and depending on the weather and the length of your ride, you’re going to be shedding or adding layers outside the golden days of late spring, summer, and early fall. A midweight base, a thermal jersey, and a jacket to break the wind gets me through winter of cycling every day, even in the “greatest snow on earth” in Salt Lake City. Whatever else you decide for the cold weather, do not skimp on the Balaclava. Keeping your ears and the front of your face covered will make all the difference in the world.
Tech & Gadgets
You could always pay someone at your local shop tune and clean up your bike, and even swing by to top off the air in your tires, but I find the process of keeping my bike in shape super empowering and relaxing. A good floor pump will last you a decade and a good multi-tool will allow you you to do 85% of bike adjustments and minor fixes yourself. Keep your chain and drivetrain clean and that’ll pretty much take care of your bike outside of occasional derailleur or break adjustments. You can definitely use your iPhone to track your ride, but there is something so satisfying about watching your stats roll out right in front of you, and if you’re heading to unfamiliar terrain — especially off-road — the map is an excellent help. Bike lights and a really solid lock are a must in the city in all weather and seasons, and, for me, so is a gel saddle designed with a vagina-having rider in mind.
Supplies & Accessories
Whether you’re heading out on an endurance ride and need a pack for hydration and to hold your snacks/camera/books, etc.; or you’re heading to a work meeting or gal pal meet-up and need a place to store a change of clothes and your D&D dice, either or both of these backpacks are a great fit. Hydration packs are super helpful in the summer or on those rides where you’re just out wandering.
Some days the weather’s just not good enough for riding. On those days, why not pick up some repair advice and practical riding tips from the pros? The more you know and the more you can help other queer folks know about taking care of their own bodies and bikes and gears, the better we’ll all be — on the holigays, and every day!