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Biking Style and Comfort

Tips on What to Bring on a Biking Tour
by Susan Van Allen

Panic set in last May as I was packing for a week-long bike trip to Italy with Backroads Adventure Travelers. How was I going to pull together outfits that were both comfortable and stylish? Luckily, I had girlfriends who'd been on bike trips and they gave me essential tips for the comfort dilemma:

1. GET PADDING: Even though most of us don't like to voluntarily add size to our bottom halves, padded bike shorts are a must. And don't wear underwear with these, it cuts down the comfort that the padding provides. Also, wear padded gloves to prevent blisters and hand-numbness. And when you're offered a gel-seat for your bike, go for it.

2. PACK WICK-AWAY FABRICS: Cotton t-shirts that are fine for an hour or two at the gym won't cut it for a day of riding. Look for fabrics that will take moisture away from the body so you can cycle in cool comfort.

3. LAYER-UP: Temperatures from morning to afternoon can range from chilly to hot, so be prepared with lightweight, loose fitting tops and pants to slip over your basic apparel.

4. PREPARE FOR WEATHER: Rain is a fact of nature everywhere we travel, but carrying an umbrella while cycling just isn't practical, so bring along a windbreaker and breathable rain gear just in case. Plastic shower caps you get in hotels work great slipped over a helmet to keep your head dry.

5. DON'T SPEND A FORTUNE ON NEW BIKE SHOES - Hard-soled gym shoes will be fine.

For the stylish part, I searched the Internet for on-line shops that carry women's cycling apparel and found these to be tops:

REI: WIDEST SELECTION OF BRANDS
A large selection of quality apparel for outdoor activities is available here for women, men, and kids. I was grateful to have their lightweight rain suit and neon yellow windbreaker for a chilly wet morning and a windy afternoon. Check out the site for sale items and REI Adventure Tours. rei.com, (800) 426-4840

SPECIALIZED: PADDING EXPERTS

This company is well known internationally for the top-notch engineering that goes into their bikes. They take the same scientific approach to their cycling apparel, offering shorts and gloves with padding, ergonomically made to conform to a woman's shape and size. Even after a 40-mile ride, wearing their shorts and gloves I felt no pain, thanks to their Body Geometry design. specialized.com, (877) 808-8154

TEAM ESTROGEN: MOST FASHIONABLE SELECTIONS FOR WOMEN

Biking enthusiast Susan Otcenas of Oregon began this company 10 years ago with the goal to provide comfort and style to women cyclists. This was my favorite site for its range of clothing and accessories in vibrant colors and flattering cuts, in petite to plus sizes. I chose an adorable skort ensemble (it even came with matching socks) which made me the envy of the other gals in my riding group. Their web-site offers great sales, biking adventure stories, tips for cyclists, discussion forums, event listings, and even bike jokes. teamestrogen.com, (877) 310-4592

ZYFLEX SPORTSGEAR: TOP QUALITY APPAREL AT BUDGET PRICES

The folks at Zyflex have worked to engineer the best durable, lightweight fabrics that wick-away moisture -- essentials for a comfortable ride. Their biking shorts and jersey dried just hours after washing and their sports bra is the most comfortable I've ever owned. zyflex.com, (877) 499-3539

To read about Susan Van Allen's Italy Bike Tour experience, click here.

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