Looking for Cycling Wear With a Little Protection Built In
My Cycling Style as of Late me plodding along at 46 kph (28 mph) during a race last month photo by FABtroni+camera; used with permission -- Copyright 2017 FABtroni+camera, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 73mm — 1/200 sec, f/6.3, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
My Cycling Style as of Late
me plodding along at 46 kph (28 mph) during a race last month
photo by FABtroni+camera; used with permission

The photo above was kindly provided on Flickr by someone going by the name FABtroni+camera. I appreciate it.

The sport of racquetball involves a high-speed ball in a confined space, so when I started playing in college, I stopped by a sporting-goods store for a pair of racquetball safety goggles. The clerk commented that I was the first person he'd sold a pair to who didn't already have a black eye.

Long-term readers of my blog will know that I've gone through phases in my choice of cycling wear, from jeans on my first ride to hiking/gym wear that I already had, then to visually outlandish (but visually safe) gym wear, eventually morphing to the more-traditional cycling style seen above. That photo is from my first race last month (where I performed pathetically, but that's a story for another time).

(The mask that my apparently-sensitive tonsils forces me to wear is definitely not traditional; the UnderArmour long-sleeve base layer that I wore to avoid sunburn on the 100+km round trip to/from the race is also not traditional.)

Anyway, I'm ready to move to the next step, if I can find it. I'm looking for apparel that provides some semblance of protection in case of a crash. The most common issues with a minor crash are road rash and/or a broken collarbone, so clothes that provide some passive protection in these areas would be good to wear as a matter of habit.

Unlike with the racquetball story, I'm not quite shutting the barn doors before the horses have escaped. I had a wake-up-call crash a few weeks ago that was apparently horrific to wittiness, but caused relatively little damage. I'd like to tilt the odds next time in the same direction by incorporating a bit of extra protection in my clothes.

With all the middle-aged men like me with disposable income and a newly-found sense of mortality, you'd think that the market would be an attractive one to enter, but it seems there's very little out there. I'll describe the best I've found so far, but I'd love to hear more ideas...

Dainese Trailknit Pro Armor Tee

For the upper body, I'm thinking of an abrasion-resistant jersey, such as a Scott RC ProTec or a Pegasus Wear Manifesto, over a baselayer Dainese Trailknit Pro Armor Tee. The latter provides some light (and removable) impact protection, while the abrasion-resistant jersey would help reduce road rash.

They're quite pricey, but less so than new skin.

Things are a bit more difficult for the lower body, because I don't like the padding in standard cycling wear. It makes people look like they're wearing a diaper embroidered with HEY, DON'T NOTICE MY CROTCH! THIS CROTCH RIGHT HERE... DON'T LOOK AT IT.

Apparently my butt is sufficiently strong that I don't need the padding, so normally I just wear Speedo trunks. Even seasoned cyclists I ride with all the time don't notice I'm not wearing cycling-specific shorts until it happens to come up in conversation, and then they're shocked. They're shocked both because I can ride long distances without any padding (for example, this 290km ride), and shocked that I would make such an affront to the Cycling Style Gods. They're like little kids who skin their knee but don't start crying until you point out that they're bleeding.

I'm wearing Speedo trunks in the photo above.

Anyway, I don't need padding between me and the bicycle seat, but I do want padding where cyclists are often injured in a crash: over the tailbone, over the outside edges of the butt/hip, and over the sides of the thighs.

The three companies mentioned above do make lower-body versions of their products (Dainese TrailKnit Shorts, Scott ProTec Bibshorts, and Pegasus Wear Manifesto Bib Shorts), so I could try the same kind of combination, but here I'm more worried about the bulk.

The Dainese TrailKnit padded shorts seem to provide really minimal padding, so instead I could try something with a bit more protection, such as Shock Doctor Shockskin 5-Pad Impact Shorts or Fox Racing Titan Race Liner Short. They provide more coverage with the padding, but the padding just foam pads, so still protection is still minimal.

I'd much rather see padding made from one of the amazing force-distribution materials developed in the last decade, such as ArmourGel and SofShell. They look like they'd be perfect when sewn into an abrasion-resistant set of shorts, but sadly, as best as I can tell, neither product has actually made it to market yet. 🙁

As for the helmet, I've upgraded from my Costco helmet to one with MIPS Technology, which adds quite a bit to the price, but is said to help greatly in off-axis impacts that would normally twist the head like a boxer getting plastered by a left hook. The rotational shock is apparently a big causes of knock-outs in boxers and concussions in cyclists.

Here's a video that explains MIPS well, and another one that shows the extra testing for MIPS helmets. I'll also be sure to get MIPS when I upgrade my motorcycle helmet.

A friend here in Kyoto crashed at high speed a couple of days ago, and the shattered state of his helmet showed that it most certainly saved his life. He did end up with a concussion, though, and I wonder whether a MIPS helmet would have prevented that. The problem is that high-end helmets are extremely expensive in Japan (the MIPS version of my friend's helmet is on the order of $700 in Japan, which is a lot cheaper than death, but this kind of comparison feels real only in hindsight).

Update: I've also found the Fox Ascent Pro line (jersey, bib shorts), which uses craspace abrasion-resistant fabric.

All 2 comments so far, oldest first...

Have you you looked at protective gear sold for mountain bike use? Companies like POC, IXS or AlpineStars might have protective base layers which fulfil your needs.

— comment by Carsten on June 25th, 2017 at 6:46am JST (7 years ago) comment permalink

Crashing is part of racing. You need to master bike handling to protect yourself. It took me a good 2 yrs. Find a velodrome and take a few lessons in keirin.

— comment by Edward Pouso on June 25th, 2017 at 9:49pm JST (7 years ago) comment permalink
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