Rolling My Own... cycling clothes?

While I don't consider myself a "serious enough" cyclist for real cycling clothing (aka "spandex striders", "lycra louts", etc.), it's hard to argue with its functionality. Cleats give me a 360-degree stroke; close-fit spandex means the legs don't interfere with that stroke, my pants don't get caught in the chain, and I can (in theory) access tissues, a map, or a cellphone mid-ride. I could argue that with the Dolce, these garments are a necessity, as there's no room to mount a handlebar pack on the small, perfectly-fitting frame.

For the few cycling-specific garments I have, many have been tried on and discarded for incorrect fit, discomfort, desire-versus-need, or lack of budget. There has been, however, one garment I have not been able to fit off-the-rack, regardless of size – a “rain cape” (a water-resistant or waterproof outer garment with removable sleeves). The reason I have trouble with this specific garment is that it is made from fabric that does not stretch-to-fit; as a result, anyone with larger hips, buttocks, or thighs than the “average” for that size ends up with a garment that will not zip at the hem, or that is too wide to be functional at the shoulders and back, or both.

This leaves two options: finding an outfit that will custom-fit cycling clothes, or making my own. The first, I’ve not yet found (and doubt I could afford). The second has its own issues, primarily that of obtaining technical fabrics in the home-sewing market.

As it turns out, some years ago I purchased a bolt-end of high-visibility yellow rip-stop nylon with the intention of making a few lightweight rain ponchos. The fabric has lain unused. The rain capes and windbreakers I tried on gave me some idea of some of the finer points of cycling-specific construction (no side seams, shoulder seams covered by the all-in-one detachable sleeve-and-yoke).

One issue with modern tailors’ expanding the hip line of no-side-seam clothing is that we are trained to keep center front and center back seams on the straight-of-grain – that is to say, in line with the weave. This was not universally the case in the Renaissance, when much of the fitting was done by pinning the front of a garment closed along the body line, trimming it down, and sewing it up to-fit – leaving a center front that was decidedly off grain. Releasing myself from the modern mindset allowed me to create a main garment with more room in the hip than the shoulder, and no side seams.

Another issue I have with commercial cycling clothing is that most of it is completely unsuitable for use after dark. The reflective spots on the garments are small and far between, so all a motorist sees is one's tail light, reflectors, and reflective vest -- none of which is set up for direction signalling to be visible, putting the cyclist at risk. I therefore decided to run a row of reflective trim across the entire back of the over-yoke, rendering me visible (I hope) from wrist to wrist, plus two rings of reflective trim to run around my left wrist and just below my left elbow, such that someone behind me should (again, I hope) be able to tell if my arm is outstretched (left turn signal), raised (right turn signal), or lowered (slow/stop signal). In addition, the Nite-Ize reflective light I wear around my left ankle (the leg that unclips at a stop) should help indicate my intention to slow or stop.

Close-ups will show that the garment is poorly stitched and unfinished. The nylon thread I used kept breaking, making it almost impossible to sew the fabric correctly. As the nylon does not breathe or wick, it's not an ideal fabric for most cycling. However, it is waterproof, reasonably windproof, and reasonably visible.

Not bad for a version 1.0