Cycling and Knitwear: A Peculiar But Perfect PAIRING
From the dandy horse to the velocipede to the Penny Farthing and The Tour De France, the bicycle has a long history of transformation. Much like the evolution of the modern-day bicycle has led to its efficiency, the advancement of cycling gear has undergone a similar transformation.
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When one thinks of cycling gear, an image of tight - and, oftentimes, scratchy - spandex shorts and fluorescent-colored jerseys with multi-colored sponsorship messages plastered about comes to mind.
A little known fact is that some of the earliest cycling jerseys were made out of wool.
While such woolen jerseys made in the 1900s were often heavy and uncomfortable, at its core, wool contains certain properties that make it highly desirable in the manufacturing of cycling apparel, even today.
But what exactly are these coveted characteristics? And how do they form such an unlikely connection between cycling and knitwear?
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MOISTURE WICKING AND THERMO-REGULATION
To begin with, fabrics made from wool are excellent for moisture-wicking. Drawing moisture away from your skin to the surface of the material is how moisture-wicking works to evaporate sweat more easily. One may think that wearing a woolen jersey during summer would be far too hot, but in actuality, the moisture-wicking propensity of the fabric keeps you drier and cooler in warm weather. In winter, you wouldn’t want to wear clothing made from synthetic fabrics that retain moisture and dry slowly. Lightweight fabrics such as Merino wool helps insulate your body in cool temperature.
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Another characteristic of wool is that it rapidly reduces the rate of skin cooling and post-exercise chill, which can be dangerous. In fact, wearing garments made from synthetic fabrics can cause three times more chilling than wearing woolen garments.
Let’s face it - even if you’re riding in a slight summer breeze or a frosty winter chill, you’re bound to work up a sweat. One of the best things about wool is that it doesn’t only absorb moisture, but also odor molecules from sweat. These are only released upon washing, meaning that you will feel - and smell - fresher.
Merino wool is also UV resistant, so you can safely ride under beating rays knowing that your cycling jersey is helping to protect you from the sun.
With all these properties in mind, knitwear may be your new best-biking-friend (after your bike, of course!) But the enhanced safety benefits of knitwear don’t stop with the maintenance of your ideal body temperature or UV protection…
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INNOVATIONS IN SAFE CYCLING KNITWEAR
As more and more cars appear on the road, bicycle safety has been a key area in the advancement of cycling apparel. Cyclists who are concerned with their safety and dangerous drivers have turned to high visibility gear.
Fluorescence, bright colors, and patterns are some of the ways cyclists remain visible - even from afar.
Reflective clothing is one of the most used methods for gaining visibility. A knitwear company, Glow and See, has even created a line that incorporates reflective materials into knitwear for better visibility. Their beanies and snoods are knitted with wool and light-reflective glass fiber. Taking the “day to night” look to a whole new level, their pieces look normal in the daytime but - literally - stand out at night by reflecting streetlights and car headlights.
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All in all, cycling jersey designs have made a full 360 over the past decades. But with such superior characteristics, the recent reemergence of wool as the fabric of choice could be here to stay. Perhaps the future could see simpler, reflective, woolen jerseys replace the luminescent lycra ones we have become accustomed to.