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The Chamois Solution: A Care and Handling How-To for your Bike Shorts

Care properly for your bike shorts and they'll last a long time. Photo: Michael Robertson

Care properly for your bike shorts and they’ll last a long time. Photo: Michael Robertson

Quick! What’s the first thing you do after a bike ride?

If you didn’t answer, “take off your chamois,” then we’ll give you a moment to rethink your response.

Most of us call them bike shorts.

But years ago, I overheard a professional cyclist refer to them as “chamois,” and I immediately adopted the affectation as my own. It made me feel a little cooler and a little faster than I am.  Try it, and you’ll see.

Regardless of what you call them, bike shorts are integral to riding. (If you don’t think so, you’ve probably never worn them.) Plus, they can be expensive, which is extra incentive to ensure they last.

Below are a few “Dos and Don’ts” for keeping your chamois in tip-top shape.

DO wear shorts with a comfortably snug fit. The material shouldn’t jiggle around, but neither should it cut off circulation.

DON’T wear underpants with your bike shorts. Trust me on this one.

DO care for your shorts as the high performance gear they are. The fact that you can throw them in the wash without regard doesn’t mean that you should.

DON’T ever use fabric softener. Fabric softeners coat garments in a subtle, stain-blocking film, which is the very reason clothes and towels treated with softeners feel so soft to the touch. The problem is that this film clogs up the wicking and breathability features of synthetic and wool fibers.

DO wash in cold water. Heat is the enemy of Lycra and elastic.

DON’T use a heated setting on the dryer, or don’t use the dryer at all. Most people agree it’s best to line dry cycling gear. If you’d like to accelerate the process, use the dryer on no or low heat.

DO use a gentle cleanser like Nikwax BaseWash®.  Harsh detergents wreak havoc on synthetic fibers and the elastic around the waistband and thigh bands. Plus, BaseWash not only cleans, it enhances wicking and eliminates odors. (Bonus: if you’re touring, BaseWash also comes in a handy Travel Gel solution for easy hand washing.)

DON’T assume your “chamois”—and by that I actually mean the part that cushions your bum—is made of suede leather. While this all-important section of the bike short used to be made of sheep hide, most “chamois” from the past 15+ years is fully synthetic and should be cared for accordingly.

DO turn them inside out to wash and avoid wadding them up in the hamper if you’re not planning to wash them right away. This prevents a stink fest. Without going into too much detail (use your imagination), there’s a reason we recommend taking off your shorts immediately after a ride…

DON’T assume you need the thickest chamois on the market. Ask an expert at the bike shop to recommend the right shorts for your type of riding. A general rule of thumb is this: If you prefer an upright position, buy shorts with extra rear cushioning. If you’re more stretched out on the bike, opt for shorts where the chamois foam is more evenly distributed.


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What’s Your Rider ID? Take Our Quiz to Find Out

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Are you a one trick pony, or is your garage a veritable shelter for your bike quiver? Fixie or mountain bike? Do you pedal a state-of-the-art, custom ride? Do you consider brakes “old school”?  Do your besties tell you to wear more natural fiber and less Lycra?

In the words of the great 21st century philosopher, Stephen Colbert, “Facts matter none at all. Perception is everything.”

Face it, if you love bikes, there’s some part of you that can be called a dork. (Trust us, here at Nikwax, we’re all a bit dorky for bikes).

But within that giant cycling umbrella, we all fall into a range of niches. What kind of cyclist are you? Take our quiz to unearth your Rider ID.

First answer the short list of questions, and then add up your scores below to learn your Rider ID.

1. When you dress for a ride, your go-to clothing is:

  1. My full Euskaltel-Euskadi kit. It’s cool because I’m 1/96th Spanish on my mom’s side.
  2. It doesn’t matter, as long as my GoPro is charged.
  3. Dress for a ride? Cycling clothes are so bourgeois. My skinny jeans are all I need.
  4. I opt for the latest in breathable, wicking fabrics. But as long as I have my rear view helmet mirror adjusted, I’m good to go.

…………………………………………………………………

2. When you come up behind another rider, what do you say?

  1. Hold your line! Hold your line!
  2. Dude, on your left.
  3. Talk to another rider? Why?
  4. Hi-da-lee-ho neighbor. Great day to be on the bike, huh?

…………………………………………………………………

3. How do you fuel up for a ride?

  1. A balanced meal of protein and carbs, like two egg whites with steamed veggies and an avocado for healthy fat.
  2. Bacon and Twinkies, which I bought a yearlong supply of on Ebay.
  3. Double espresso
  4. I like to stop by the Farmer’s Market for whatever’s in season.

…………………………………………………………………

4. What about a post-ride recovery meal?

  1. I own every formulation of Hammer Nutrition
  2. PBR – tall boy
  3. The latest pop-up restaurant, or the Thai-Argentine fusion food truck
  4. I like to stop by the Farmer’s Market for whatever’s in season.

…………………………………………………………………

5. On a rest day, how would we find you passing your time?

  1. After a gentle, low cadence spin, I’ll be studying with Rosetta Stone so I can pronounce every European riders’ name without sounding like an idiot! Can you imagine not being able to pronounce Yevgeniy Npomnyachshiy? The horror!
  2. Oh, I do a lot of stuff. I do river trips. I’m starting my own Vimeo channel. You know, the usual.
  3. I’m studying nihilist philosophy and working on a start-up with my roommates.
  4. I like to stop by the Farmer’s Market for whatever’s in season.

…………………………………………………………………

6. What was the biggest after-market upgrade you’ve made to your bike?

  1. Aftermarket? My bike was never prior-market or during-market. Nothing on my ride is standard. I had the frame welded to my measurements and built it out with THE BEST bike builder in town.
  2. An extra 10-mm of travel on my forks.
  3. Removing the brakes and that pesky derailleur.
  4. A hand-woven basket from Bolivia. The trade supports a women’s compound and sales from the baskets bring economic freedom. I found it at my local Farmer’s Market.

…………………………………………………………………

7. If you were to ride a different discipline (road to mountain to track to commuter) – from your preferred discipline – for a day, which would you choose?

  1. Velodrome. I’m not going to waste my time on any discipline that’s not developing more power and a higher VO2 max.
  2. Dude, I’d totally try a fixie.
  3. I don’t live to ride; I ride to live.
  4. Any! The freedom of a bicycle is pure joy, don’t you think?

…………………………………………………………………

8. What’s the best bike movie of all time?

  1. Breaking Away
  2. Breaking Away
  3. Breaking Away
  4. Breaking Away

…………………………………………………………………

9. Who is the greatest cyclist of all time?

  1. Eddie Merckx
  2. Ned Overend
  3. Albert Einstein
  4. My kids

…………………………………………………………………

10.  If I were to plan a cycling-themed vacation, I would… (fill in the blank).

  1. Follow Le Tour de France route, on an Alpe D’Huez year
  2. One word: Moab and Fruita. Oh, that’s two.
  3. Vacations are so bourgeois. But I’d still go to Portland.
  4. Ride across Ireland or wait, maybe a Napa wine tour. No, no. I’d for sure do a philanthropic trip delivering bikes to rural communities.

…………………………………………………………………

Scoring:

If you answered mostly “1,” your bike ID is “Lycra Lovin’ Roadie.”

If you answered mostly “2,” your bike ID is “Dirt Bag Mountain Biker.”

If you answered mostly “3,” your bike ID is “Hipster, Fixie Guy/Gal.”

If you answered mostly “4,” your bike ID is “Safety First Commuter.”

Lycra Lovin’ Roadie:

Lycralovinroadie You know who you are. In July, you wake up at 5:30am to watch the full coverage of the Tour de France before you head out on your training ride. You have little tolerance for “no drop” rides, especially when you’re feeling strong. Criteriums are good training, but the real mettle is in a road race – mano a mano. There’s more science built into your training regime than exists in all of NASA. And speaking of NASA, several of your components were originally conceived of for space missions. Before, that is, they were improved by Campagnolo engineers.

Dirt Bag Mountain Biker:

dirtragMtnBiker You’d hate the “dirt bag” cliché if you didn’t embrace as heartily as you do. No one (save for the hipsters) has ever worked so hard to look like they’ve put so little effort into looking “good.” You love a dirty ride almost as much as you love the BBQ and beer afterward. BMX still holds appeal, with the likelihood of participation in inverse relation to your age. Your dirty little secret is that you’re actually really serious about riding, but that can always be cloaked under your frequent, verbal dismissals of roadies.

Hipster Fixie Guy/Gal:

hipstertumblr_lukbxrms3h1qj1y05o1_500You secretly long for brakes and a derailleur, though the associated social stigma keeps them securely out of reach. Irony runs so deep that you’re beginning to question if it would be more ironic to no longer be ironic… hmm? Your circle of friends looks like they stepped out of Nylon Magazine photo shoot and your Tumblr blog is really taking off. Portlandia was more entertaining before it went mainstream, and Chuck Palahniuk is an under-rated genius. Truth be told, you have wicked good fitness under your scissor-cropped jeans and big-framed glasses.

Safety First Commuter:

commuterYou’re excited about riding and likely have a passable road bike and a mountain bike, along with your commuter. Most of all, you think biking is the most responsible option for the health of the planet and your own body. You’re not too cool to wear a helmet to the grocery store (not to mention in the grocery store) and you volunteer for all the local trail work. You do good things, even if they don’t scream “cool.” You could care less about how fast you are. The feel of the wind in your face every morning on your way to work does more for your sanity and happiness than winning a race ever could.

Regardless of your tongue in cheek Rider ID, the most important thing is that we all continue to define ourselves as bike lovers, riders, cycling geeks and biking advocates. Here’s to you, our two-wheeled friends. Let’s ride.


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Staying Dry on the Bike

Bundling up and treating your gear with care is key for riding in the rain. Photo: bikehugger.com

Bundling up and treating your gear with care is key for riding in the rain. Photo: bikehugger.com

Rain doesn’t ruin a great bike ride.

To the contrary, there’s something empowering about getting off the couch in the gnarliest of conditions. A bike ride is particularly sweet when others scapegoat the weather and leave their bike hanging in the garage.

No, the rain isn’t the problem. Getting wet is.

The only thing that can ruin a good ride is if you allow the rain to soak you to the skin. Mother Nature may call the shots, but you are the one who determines your response. Here are two absolute must-remember tips for staying dry on the bike:

1. Warm Your Core

Luckily, the nature of being on a bike means your upper body will take the brunt of rain. This is a place where Nikwax can help.

On days when it’s only you and the postal service out on the road (you know… rain, sleet and dark of night…), choose your gear wisely. You’ll need:

bike-rain1A base layer that keeps your skin dry.

  • Make that a breathable base layer. Even though it’s raining from the outside, you’ll still be sweating from the inside. Washing base layers with Nikwax BaseWash® prevents build-up of odor-causing bacteria and oils on synthetic garments. It also enhances wicking properties to move the sweat away from your skin. The special formula cleans and conditions, keeping the synthetic fibers in tip-top performance shape.
  • Or, if you’re a wool base layer fan opt for Nikwax Wool Wash. Though durable, wool requires a gentle cleaner like Wool Wash to maintain its balance of hydrophilic inner and hydrophobic outer. Without getting too technical, that is the magic of why you stay warm even when your wool gets wet.

A waterproof-breathable outer layer that wicks sweat away from your body without letting the rain in.

  • On a bike, your jacket gets hammered with rain on wet days and sun and dirt on dry days. This extreme exposure to the elements contributes to a condition known as “wetting out.” The dreaded “wet out” is when your jacket can no longer bead up with water droplets. The result: it ceases to be waterproof and/or breathable.
  • The solution is frequent application of Nikwax TX.Direct®. First, run the jacket through the wash with Nikwax Tech Wash® to clean away any sweat, oil and other dirt. With another run of the washing machine, or with the Spray-On bottle, apply TX.Direct® to revive and enhance your jacket’s water repellency.

2. Remember your extremities: Head, hands and feet.

Keeping your core warm and dry may be the most critical, but thoughtful care to your alternative gear will help keep you comfy.

  • Consider a Merino wool skull cap under your helmet. It won’t keep you dry, but it will keep you warm.
  • Have a pair of full-fingered gloves on hand for inclement days.
  • While some are blended with mesh for breathability, most cycling shoes are leather. We can’t do anything about the mesh, but Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather™ will keep your feet dry from the water falling from the sky. And no, it won’t make your shoes any heavier or hotter for the dry days.

Don’t let a little rain put a kink in your riding schedule. With a modicum of preventative Nikwax care, the only thing standing between you and your personal best is your own motivation.


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Cycling safe

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Cyclists, are you making good eye contact?

A friendly gaze isn’t just for flirting—it’s perhaps one of the most important things bicyclists can do to bike safely through traffic.

Although it doesn’t appear on standard lists of cycling safety tips, making eye contact with drivers at intersections—the most dangerous spots on the road—is crucial.

Paired with hand signals, a little eyeball time helps communicate your intentions. Plus, you get the reassurance that the driver has registered your two-wheeled presence.

May is national bike month, and we at Nikwax are avid cyclists. We want to share our love of two wheels.

So, what else can you do to stay safe? Read on:

Always wear a helmet. Mary Craig, a coach at Seattle’s Cycle University, follows this ironclad rule: Don’t even sit on your bike without wearing a helmet.

If it’s good enough for the pros, it’s good enough for us.

Be visible. Even during daylight hours, wear a bright top—the flashier, the better. Cycling after dark?  Don reflective clothing and add lights to both the front and rear of your bike.

For the handlebars, choose a light that emits a steady white beam. For the rear light, use a red blinking model to catch drivers’ attention. We love the Planet Bike Superflash: mount it to the bike or clip it on a jacket.

Be predictable. Though it’s tempting to weave through gridlock like a Jet Ski buzzing a flotilla of barges—don’t do it. In the eyes of the law, bikes are vehicles, subject to the same rules and responsibilities as cars.

Ride where drivers expect you to be (not on the sidewalk), and use hand signals as if your life depended on them. Because it just might.

Be respectful. Move over at intersections for right-turning cars, don’t needlessly block lanes, and ride (single-file, please) to the right.

But how far to the right is far enough?

Proven tip: When the city pavement shows grooves worn by car tires, ride in the right one. You’re less likely to get “doored” by parked cars, and drivers will instinctively move out and around you.

Get out there. The more bikes on the road, the safer the streets. Case in point: Downtown Minneapolis saw a 174% increase in bicyclists between 2003 and 2008, but a 20% drop in car-bike crashes for 9 years starting in 2000.

There’s safety in numbers. So grab that helmet, level your gaze, and we’ll see you on the road!