For Australian Cyclists travelling and touring OS
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I'm hopefully heading off to Alaska for six weeks of touring in July, and I'm staring at a long and expensive equipment list, and wondering if I really need proper padded knicks?
I don't currently used them, commuting 15km each way 5 days a week, and have had no dramas with just normal cheap leggings from Kmart on rides up to 60km (which is the longest I've ever done). But it occurs to me that riding all day every day might be a different matter.
So from those who've done long tours, have you ever done it without special padded shorts, and did that cause issues? I'm especially after the female angle, but male experiences with this are also welcome.
Would it be crazy to try a tour in un-padded pants?
A better question would be to "please analyse my long and expensive equipment list and tell me how i can save money." Also ask this question on a more international forum such as thorntree.lonely planet. or us bike touring forum where there are likely to be more people who've actually gone that route.
As to knicks. I'm female and have cycled with and without. I think get them.
If you want to try to do i without, try to find or make some shorts that don't have any seems in the crutch. I"ve got a pair of mens boxers that have that pattern. Its often the seams that cause the problem. And if you are wearing undies in stead, then is the elasticated legs that cause the problem.
Meditator thanks for the suggestions - on hind sight I have had an elasticised underpant leg irritate me before but I'd forgotten all about it. I guess that's the kind of thing that gets infinitely worse with longer times in the saddle...
I hadn't thought about hitting thorntree, I might take a look. So far I've mainly been haunting Crazyguyonabike for touring stuff.
Lucky you! It's beautiful. I've done a little touring over there, and can't imagine doing any sort of serious daily distance without knicks - preferably three pairs. If you are working hard, you will be sweating = chafing. You will likely also get wet = chafing. Good knicks pretty much eliminate chafing, as well as just being more comfortable. And full days in the saddle day after day are quite different to a commute; well, for me anyway.
I'd also be testing them (a lot) while you are training here, to ensure your bum is happy. Everyone's bum likes some knicks better than others. And we want happy bums. There are very few places to buy knicks in Alaska.
Male experience.....I've read that some of the Brooks fraternity happily tour w/o padded knicks. I'm not in their camp, however I mostly eschew the lycra look on tour favouring multi use gear such as MTB shorts that don't carry the serious look of lycra but with a separate chamois short underneath (ie Ground Effect). I find them just as comfortable and don't raise eyebrows when you hit some hick town in the boondocks. I would not and have never toured without some form of padded short. Whatever you wear, as other posters have said, they must be comfortable for long repeated days in the saddle so try before you leave.
I, and many of my friends, ride on Brooks saddles. Almost all of us tour with knicks. Sometimes (mostly in summer) I tour with liner shorts like GE Juggernauts, but overall they are not as comfortable as a good pair of knicks. Sometimes I find they bunch on the legs and chafe a bit. In cooler weather I wear knicks, so that if it gets colder I can pull on tights over top for warmth on the early mornings and around camp as well.
Riding bikes in traffic - what seems dangerous is usually safe; what seems safe is often more dangerous.
My approach is the same as Uncle Just and I ride all Brooks as well.
My experience is that when on tour your metabolism increases greatly. Nicks with shoulder straps are not preferable, if you catch my drift. Shorts with pads are a good idea. You don't want to be half way through a tour and then want padded shorts.
They are not a necessity. But when/if you DO find you need them they become critical and you won't want to be waiting for the next chance to buy them.
If you manage without then that is good. However, as it will be inconvenient if you find you do need them half way thru, a not too expensive pair would be smart to pack. Just as insurance.
You don't HAVE to spend hundreds any more than you do for much of the other stuff that is now bought by so many ordinary riders with pockets deeper than their needs. I'd suggest that insurance in the form of a pair of knicks would be smarter than splurging on upping a pair of ayups to quads for example.
Unchain yourself-Ride a unicycle
I always wear bib shorts on tour, but still endured the extreme discomfort of a saddle sore for more than three weeks.
Some riders can manage without them, but you would need to know that well before you leave.
I tried the baggy shorts and padded undershorts idea once but didn't find them very comfortable.
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I mainly ride with bib shorts but have done a few rides with just my GE shorts. While I didn't have any issues with chaffing as I have a Brooks saddle I did find it uncomfortable in that my "old boys" would quite often move into awkward positions.
A good pair of knicks or bib shorts may give some good padding but they also keep everything contained...
"It never gets easier, you just go faster..." - Greg Lemond
"Because technology alone is a poor substitute for experience." - Richard Sachs
...sadly I'm thick and apparently need it spelled out. :-/ Why are bib shorts a bad plan?
Anyway, everyone's point about not having them available to buy should I discover that I need them makes all kinds of sense - rural Alaska and the Yukon territory are not known for their extensive bike shops. I think I may bite the bullet and pick up a couple - even if they're just cheap ones.
Bibs aren't bad, but there's a tradeoff. They are more comfortable than knicks due to the absence of a waistband and I prefer them for climbing for that reason, even though I use knicks that don't bite much. However it's more difficult to go to the toilet in bibs because you have to lower the straps, as opposed to simply pulling down shorts. So, I use a full zip jersey if wearing bibs (harder to find than short zip jerseys) because phones have a nasty habit of falling into toilets asa jersey goes over your head.
There are various strap arrangements to bibs (and one really odd design that drops the bum section ). I don't like buckles but everyone's different. I doubt bears care one way or the other. Very wise to use them here I think. There is a bike shop in Whitehorse if you're passing that way, but I wouldn't rely on finding anything like women's knicks there. Are you going through Denali/Fairbanks?
The waistband has never bothered me but having to take off all my gear to go to the loo would, especially in a cold climate. Don't buy them tight. Do'nt anticpate losing weight. buy them for the size you are now. I tend to lose between 5-10 kilos on a tour and my knicks shrink with me. I like sugoi brand but they are the only pair i've ever bought. Cost $80 in 2007 which wasn't cheap but i've never regretted them. They have lots of panels which are said to increase comfort. And they have a good chamois or fake chamois pad. Even if its not convenient to wash them out completely each day, at least wash out the pad with just plain water to keep it wearable and clean enough. For a place like alaska, i suspect you'd want to two pair cause it would be hard to get them to dry overnight. So maybe another thought would be some sort of removable adn replaceable pad and have two of those and one pair of knicks. I wonder if that's possible?
Hah - yeah, the bears will be more concerned by the texture while they're eating me.
(I may be freaking out a bit about bears)
The plan (which is by no means certain at this stage) involves going from Anchorage up through Denali to Fairbanks, and then probably to Whitehorse from there. I may have to bail to go back to work at that stage, or I might make it into British Columbia.
Re finding women's knicks, I don't help matters by being plus sized, so Knicks will be purchased ahead of time, and probably by mail order. Shops seem to do mens plus size cycling gear, but not so much of the women's alas. I'm annoyingly just off the top end of the usual women's size range, and while cycling is shrinking me (Yay!) it's not happening so fast that I'd rely on it.
Yeah, the whole bear thing does that to you. But they don't eat many. And you learn the precautions, like us with snakes.
I'm sure Denali will be wonderful. I went through Skagway but chatted to a Pom one day on the road who said the Alaska Hwy was stunning so I would love to go back and do that, ideally with the Dalton if I win Tatts. Two pairs of knicks would be the absolute minimum for me, to allow drying even if the weather turns ugly. But I'd buy the first pair and be sure they work for you before getting the second pair. If they don't, you can try another brand. I have some 20km knicks and some 100+km knicks, and you get what you pay for ime.
Grasshopper nailed it. Full length zips are essential if touring with bibs with shoulder straps. If your zip is only half/quarter length and you have stuff in your back pockets and all of a sudden (youll probably need to go at least one more time everyday while touring) the turtle is poking its head out...
I don't underestimate the convenience of full zips for lady riders, but why would you carry all your stuff in your back pocket whilst on tour? Most cycle tourists would mount a handlebar bag or some other small bag on the bike so there is no need to put anything in the back pockets.
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...
Thanks for all the information - very helpful! First bike knicks are ordered and on their way for testing.
I wasn't planning to go the bib shorts route - hell, if it's cold, or you're in a hurry behind some insufficient shrubbery I think keeping one's top on at least is a good idea. I doubt I'll put much in my back pockets - I plan to cover my bike in bags of various sorts.
I wore a wool vest as a base layer every day further north (comfy wet or dry and doesn't get smelly like synthetics), so you're unlikely to be actually topless. So, straps over the vest. And the thing about pockets is that you will wear a good jersey with good pockets even on days you're not touring, which is most of the year. I saw a nice jersey the other day - but with flimsy pockets about 10cm deep. For everyday rides I carry a pump in pockets, so it would be useless to me but might suit those with team car. Anyway, just ideas. Good luck with the knicks.
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