So we’ve done the bike, now to deal with the other big area of equipment: what to wear for the big day.
The most important elements to get right are those that will have most contact during the ride: shorts and shoes.
Shorts are a deeply personal affair for numerous reasons including their contents and their fit. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you because my sit bones and thighs aren’t yours.
What does generally hold true is that this is an item which rewards a bit of extra spending. If you are someone who finds a cheap pair of shorts that fits like a second skin and gives you the padding and comfort you need, then you are truly blessed.
Otherwise, I’d suggest that you should be looking to spend upwards of 50GBP on a pair. How high you want to go will depend on how high you need to go to find the desired level of fit and comfort.
Again, this comes down to you and nobody else. One thing I’ve found is that a shoe that is comfortable in milder weather might not be so in hotter conditions. I’ve got my old Specialized S-Works Boas that I’ll be taking with me as well as my Bont A1s to cover such eventualities.
Getting custom footbeds done for your shoes really helps. I’ve got one pair that gets transferred into whichever shoes I’m riding and which give me excellent support because they are made for my feet. You can probably get some done for around 50GBP and the investment is worth it.
I say this regardless of the event: DON’T WEAR JERSEYS YOU HAVEN’T EARNED. There’s something fundamentally wrong about wearing a classification jersey if you haven’t earned it.
Here’s why: A pro gets a bloody hefty fine for not wearing the jersey they are entitled to, at least 1500 Swiss Francs. Just remember that the next time you think about wearing something like the rainbow or polka dot jersey replica.
There are literally hundreds of jerseys on the market that look good, wear well and are suitable for riding the Etape. Light colours are recommended, white if you are happy for it to be nowhere near as clean at the end as the start. They’ll reflect the heat better. There’s a wide array to choose from on the market.
If the ride is as hot as it tend to be then it needs to be made from a lightweight material but one which holds its shape well and won’t sag when the pockets are full as they will be. Full zip or half zip depends on whether you fancy displaying your pasty chest to the passing Pyrenean mountain goats.
Talking of pockets, it needs to have plenty of space in them and be accessible. Try a few on to find out which one works for you as almost every manufacturer positions them differently and some are more accessible than others, depending on your size and flexibility.
Traditionally three pockets is the style but there’s a few out there now with two. I like three for the ease of segmentation it offers – solid food and money in one, waterbottle or gilet in the middle, gels and powders in the other.
If you want something retro then try Prendas. Pro team kits are allowed if they are no longer an active jersey. That is the only exception to the “no pro jerseys” rule I will allow.
As you’re required to wear one, it’s worth spending the cash on the lightest, most comfortable one you can afford. That will be dictated by the size and shape of your noggin and the depth of your wallet.
Personally I’d be happier not wearing one but, as it is, I’ve invested in the Giro Prolight which is incredibly comfortable and light enough not to feel like a burden on the longer days.
As a main contact point these are again somewhere that finding the right pair can make a big difference. Look for something lightweight and which isn’t going to feel like you’re wearing clown hands.
I’ve got a preference for classic leather mitts and I’m still wearing the same Rapha criterium gloves that I rode my first Etape in. But I do like to ride without mitts at times so I’m investigating something a bit lighter on the backs of the hand at the moment, preferably without the annoying velcro fasteners.
A good baselayer is one of the best pieces of kit you can invest in. It’ll help reduce road rash if you fall and removes that horrid clinging dampness that jerseys can suffer from.
On descents it acts as a bit more protection from the chill and on the climbs it’ll draw the sweat away from the skin.
I like the merino wool ones but lots of people swear by the Defeet mesh ones. Most manufacturers feature them in their range, so there’s no excuse for not getting one.
And no, they don’t cause you to overheat.
Unless it’s extremely wet you’re only going to need something to keep the windchill off your torso on the descents. Don’t waste time taking arm and knee warmers that take up pocket space.
Take something that packs small and even then don’t waste pocket space with it. Instead, shove it up the back of your jersey where the elastic and contents of the pockets will keep it in place. If you’re worried about it slipping out, then shove it in the top of your bib shorts. After about ten minutes riding you’ll forget it’s there.
I’m going to take my Montane Velo which packs down to the size of an apple but I may also take a look at what else I can get my hands on in the event of wet weather.