Keeping your kit clean won’t just keep other cyclists from looking at you funny as you waft up to a stop light, it will keep you healthier and more comfortable. A clean kit helps avoid saddle sores and lets a chamois do what it is designed to do: pad and protect your most sensitive areas.
Cycling clothing is unlike other athletic clothing, and many new riders can be confused as to what exactly they are supposed to do when it comes to cleaning the thin fabrics and padded chamois. So, we spoke with Tom Keller, a competitive cyclist who rides more than 12,000 miles a year and regularly competes in gravel races of over 200 miles. Here are his tips.
How important is having a clean kit, a clean chamois when you start your ride?
To me it is absolutely vital. I don’t mess around with double rides per chamois, it’s always a fresh kit.
The big thing about the chamois is the sensitivity of the skin and where the contact points are. For myself and a lot of competitive cyclists, saddle sores are something you want to avoid. Anything you can do to keep that clean and from happening you are going to be a lot happier from a sensitivity standpoint.
A lot of people are into antibacterial soap. It’s kind of a preventative post ride thing. I’m a big believer in a chamois balm or chamois butter, a cream you put on. The key thing is to get it spread across where all the seams are, the outline of the chamois, and a little over the middle so it creates a nice layering and you’re going to enjoy your ride a lot more. That really helps with lubrication and prevents chafing. Those are all key things for me.
Do you take care of it differently than other athletic gear? What’s the process?
Common mistakes are taking a kit off at a trailhead after mountain biking, putting it behind the car’s seat and then realizing that you forgot about it for a couple days. That’s pretty nasty. I’ve made a similar mistake at home just throwing it in the hamper. Regular clothes get on top of it. Then when you get to doing your laundry, it’s been sitting at the bottom for three or four days, it’s a pretty nasty thing to touch.
Try to air dry it before you put it in the hamper so it’s at least dry, or try to wash it right away, those are the two things that I’ve found work best. In the beginning I started buying more expensive sports athletic detergent, the price is crazy in comparison, but I didn’t really notice a big difference when I didn’t use it. So, I stopped and went to the standard detergent.
Always wash on cold and air dry. A lot of it has wicking fabrics or extremely sensitive stretchy material so try not to wash it with anything that has velcro or stuff like that, it can snag and ruin your expensive kits pretty easily.
Do you need to worry about any special storage considerations?
The more you spend on it the more you baby it. Like anything else you don’t want that getting thrown around or snagged on anything else.
When you wash your bibs, hang them on a hanger with the little indents to air dry. Most bibs have straps that fit in the slots. The outside will dry out a lot faster than the chamois will, that’s a big thing.
So the way I do it, when it comes out of the wash, I put it on the hanger inside out. I’ll put the jersey on the same hanger fully unzipped, once it dries out you can flip the chamois back to right side out and then zip up the jersey. Then you can have the full kit on one hanger.
What about your helmet?
Helmet is not too bad. Most of them have a lot of air holes and vents, but you’ll notice the padding is pretty thin. It has velcro on one side. Once you start taking it on and off it ruins the lifespan. I’ll use a nice cloth or rag, that’s a good way to clean it out, especially where your forehead rubs. If you start getting into gravel or mountain, you are just going to get a lot of dust and dirt that get up there.
Shoes, though, can get rank very quick. It can be one of those things where maybe you forget and leave your shoes stored somewhere in the shade, or it’s cool, then you go to put it on the next day and it’s just that squishy feeling that nobody enjoys. It’s not a good first vibe.
Airing those out, a lot of people don’t think about taking the insole out of the shoes. That is where the nastiest sweat and moisture sits. It just doesn’t air out or doesn’t dry very quickly. Whether it’s taking the insoles out of the shoes, and letting them sit in the sun somewhere, or what I have actually found, which comes from my background in hockey and snowboarding, is actually a boot dryer. It’s basically a tiny little machine that has spots to put gloves and shoes. It’s great. Now when I get home the first thing I do is take my gloves and shoes and I put them on the dryer all year round.
Another bonus in the winter is that it has heating and air. So I preheat all my stuff before I ride in the winter, it’s just that added nice warm sensation before you go out in 20-30 degree weather to put warm shoes and gloves on. Like when we were kids and we were done playing pond hockey and you sit on the air vent, it’s that same kind of vibe where it just gives you that warm starting point.
Gloves can get pretty rank, too. They are pretty sensitive though so it’s nice to let those dry out after a ride. You don’t want them out in the sun baking where they get crusty like a sports glove, an old golf glove. It’s the same thing putting them on that drying rack or the boot dryer, it just gives them a better way to dry out.
I then wash gloves after two to five rides, depending on conditions. Usually I would say the sniff test is a pretty good policy to follow. Wash them in the machine, but a lot have velcro that can snag on things like your expensive kit. I’ve seen little pouches you can put stuff in, I’ve seen people use them for socks to keep them together, you can use them for gloves as something to keep them from getting snagged on your kit. I’ve had some pretty nice kits where you pull it out and there is something stuck to it then you go to pull it off and there are all kinds of snag marks. There goes your styling kit that all of a sudden looks better with a vest on.