cycling kit

Kit Conundrums (Part 1)

It’s that time of year when us cyclists start to think about our kit; the temperature has dropped, the sun now sets alarmingly early, and we rifle through our kit cupboard in an attempt to re-learn the art of layering up. Apart from wondering how long we might cling on to our hard-earned tan, we are preoccupied with what new kit we might fritter our hard-earned cash on.

Just a quick look at the (apparently) millions of online cycle shops, a flick through a couple of reviews and a chat with our mates reveals an absolute minefield of (mis)information when it comes to the cutting edge of kit. The psuedo-science used to describe some of those materials would make a L’Oreal marketing man blush.


Lights for you bikes are measured in terms of Lumens. The more Lumens, the brighter they are. Nobody really knows when this began. Lumens are a little bit like the Lira was in Italy, pre Euro, where to nip out for a bit of shopping meant taking one or two billion Lira with you. Lumens are measured on an equally ridiculous scale.

How many Lumens does a cyclist need? There is genuinely no-one to answer that. The light manufacturers seem to be engaged in some kind of Lumen arms race, the stakes getting ever higher, and they just won’t get around the table and agree a non-proliferation treaty. If you spent enough money on lights and rode at night along the great wall of China you could be the first cyclist visible from space.

Bike Lights (Photo: Akhilesh)
Bike Lights
(Photo: Akhilesh)

Since when were we expected to understand the technical measure for brightness? It’s just tog ratings for lights (Rhod Gilbert has already done the jokes here, click here to view).

It doesn’t really need to be any more complicated than this:

Shopkeeper: This is a good light sir, it’s very bright.
Me: Will it light up a country lane sufficiently for me to avoid riding into a ditch?
Shopkeeper: Yes.
Me: Then I’ll take it.

Rhod Gilbert also rants about candles – the old pre-lumen measure for brightness. Click here for this.

Race Fit

Race fit means very tight – sometimes so tight that you will have the odd alarming moment when, just for a moment, you panic and think you are wearing no actual material and it’s all just spray on. If the kit is race fit and Italian, it should be approached very carefully.

To wear race fit, ideally you need to have a freakishly low body fat percentage. Race fit will display any minor folds of fat mercilessly. In the world of Italian cycling, judging by the kit sizes, Italian men are very tiny people with absolutely no excess fat or muscle on the upper body.

If you buy this you will need help in and out of it, and your companions may need post ride counselling. It looks good on the TV worn by the pro’s, half way up an alpine col with a glorious blue sky as a backdrop. But on a wet Tuesday evening in Cumbria?…. Just be careful.

Water Repellent? (Photo: David Yiu)
Water Repellent?
(Photo: David Yiu)

Water Repellent

Be wary of this term – it does not mean waterproof. Water repellent means it repels some water for quite a short period of time….and then lets it all through.

If your ability to forecast weather is so well-developed that you know in advance of your ride that any rainfall will be both light, and very short-lived, this is the kit for you. Equally, if you are looking for the perfect piece of kit to wear when taking the bins out, something water-repellent should be fine. If neither of these conditions apply, maybe you should go for something waterproof.

4 comments on “Kit Conundrums (Part 1)

  1. Very true when it comes to lumens. I find myself blinded by both the front and rear lights of my fellow cyclists. Will need to start wearing shades at night before long – one lense orange, the other black, cycling with one eye open as appropriate!


  2. Pingback: How to buy a bike (part 1) | ragtime cyclist

  3. Pingback: Dark side of the moo | ragtime cyclist

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: