Cycling shoes are a nice way to add a bit of sparkle to your outfit. It could be something to do with the kind of material that they are made of, but I like to think of them like dancing shoes. They’re smart, shiny and offer a chance for you to show off some personality and attitude.
Admittedly this was more true in years gone by, when cycling kit was plainer than it is now. If you’re wearing plain kit then you can get away with shoes that are as loud and as brash as you like. Nowadays, cycling kit has now moved on in design, and there are more colours flying around - so you might want to be a bit more cautious in your shoe selection.
What should your shoes match?
The first rule of choosing a cycling shoe style and design is that it should (at worst) compliment the rest of your outfit, and (at best) do a good job of bringing it all together. At a minimum, you should aim for your shoes to match your helmet and/or glasses. I have a friend, let’s call him Curly Dan, who owns 3 bikes, 3 helmets and 12 pairs of shoes. Naturally he chooses whichever pair of shoes match the bike and helmet he’s using that day.
Curly Dan is one of the most well turned out people I have ever seen on a bike, everyone is impressed when he rocks up for a ride. He also smells amazing (thanks to whatever he’s using to wash his kit), but that’s another story….
Even if you don’t have the budget to ‘do it like Dan’ you can still make an effort to match your shoes with your bike and kit. A white shoe is the most versatile all-round colour to go for, and it’s guaranteed to match whatever you’re riding in. That said, if you’re wearing white shoes, they’ve got to be clean. Dirty white is never a good look.
Black shoes used to be a no-no, but in recent years have become more acceptable, probably linked to the fact that there's bright kit readily available. If you're brightly clad on your top half, the shoes can be toned down so that not every inch of your body is competing to shout the loudest. The added bonus with black shoes is that they also don’t show up the dirt quite so badly.
Straps, fasteners, laces or ratchets?
How your foot is held in place during the ride is another important point to consider when you’re buying shoes. I have seen guys get left behind on a club run because they’ve stopped to re-tie their lace up shoes.
The other downside to laces is that if you get the tension slightly wrong in one area of the foot, you can end up in a lot of pain for the duration of the ride. Your feet naturally swell and shrink quite a lot at different temperatures, so it’s good to be able to adjust your shoe throughout the ride.
If you're only concerned with the aesthetics of a shoe, then laces certainly look smart. I have a pair of Bont GB flag (Brad Wiggins) design that are lace ups, and I loved them for the period that I wore them. Now I use a Boa fastener however - it’s just so much more convenient and versatile for riding, and really easy to adjust on the move.
As a professional bike rider you get used to putting up with a huge amount of discomfort, you can tolerate a high level of pain, so having sore feet doesn’t make too much difference when it’s compared to the pain you are already experiencing on a regular basis in your legs. At slower speeds however, in training or on leisure rides, discomfort in your feet will be more noticeable, and has the potential to ruin what is otherwise a lovely ride.
Taking it to the next level
To round things off – let’s get personal. We all like a bit of personalisation, and some have taken this much further than just adding their initial to the sole in permanent marker.
Adam Hansen from Loto Sudal has made a business out of manufacturing personalised custom build shoes, which he uses himself in races. Interestingly, there is a UCI rule that says all kit used in races (including shoes) must be commercially available to purchase. So to find a way around this Adam has made his shoes available to purchase, but for over $1,000. I get the feeling that he’s not interested in making and selling hundreds of pairs…
At the end of the day, the type of shoes you go far is a very personal thing. It comes down to a combination of style and comfort, and a decision around whether you want to blend in or stand out from the crowd.
I often get asked what my favourite mountains to ride are, and although there were a number of great examples in last week’s blog – it goes without saying that no two rides up a mountain will ever be the same, even if you’re riding up the same mountain!
THE PHILOSOPHY OF CLIMBING MOUNTAINS
I have always found taking on a mountain climb to be quite a transformational experience – in the sense that you mature as the ride goes on. In the moment, the climb may feel like a real struggle, and you might be hard pushed to find any enjoyment in it at all. In my experience I’d go so far as to say that you might actively hate the experience of pedaling uphill for such a long period of time.
And yet, in looking back, suddenly you see the joy in it all. You understand that the mountain offered you an opportunity to face down and overcome a significant challenge, and that challenge gave you the chance to be a stronger rider. Yes, it hurt a lot, but it gave you a lot in return – and I’d say that’s a fair trade for any day out on a bike.
IT'S MAKE OR BREAK OUT THERE
Not only do mountains make or break each man, they can also make or break friendships. I remember a friend of mine who recalled that when he took on the Etape de Tour one year, it was both the best his best and worst day he’d had on a bike, ever. He said that he’d witnessed grown men crying at the side of the road, in agony through cramp and exhaustion – unable to carry on.
On the last col of the day in that particular year, my friend was making his way up the Hautacam. He passed another rider at the side of the road, who had all but given up. This other rider insisted that he didn’t have the strength to carry on. My friend stopped his own bike, and said sternly to the guy: “Get up! C’mon! You’re not going to fail this one so close to the end.” They ended up riding the final few kilometres together, counting through pedal strokes on the last 5km, each time repeating ‘just five more strokes, just five more…’ I know that my friend is still in touch with that stranger to this day. It’s amazing that a mountain has the power to bring people together like that.
DISTANCE CAN BE DECEPTIVE
Something that always amazes me when you’re out on a big mountain ride is that 1km can seem like a really long way. On a mountain climb, it’s possible see 3km, 4km, or even 5km up the mountain – you never get that kind of view on a ride out on a flat road, and it starts to play tricks with your mind. When the road twists and snakes on, for what seems like an eternity above your head, it’s not unusual to think ‘Sh*t. Have I still got that far to go!?’ The whole thing can seem daunting, and it’s a mental battle not to let the mountain defeat you in that way. I remember having a similar battle when riding up the Galibier - that mountain is a monster!
MIND OVER MATTER
As you become a more experienced rider you tend not to let those scary views get to you so much, and you’re able to be more disciplined in your approach. The focus shifts from being scared of what’s to come, to instead calculating the effort you need to produce to get up the climb. When that happens you start thinking in more detail about precisely how far there is left to go, about the speed you’re riding at and how long it is before you think you’ll make the top. It’s then that you can begin to rhythmically count down kilometres, and push on for the summit.
MY WORST MOUNTAIN RIDE
Unless you’re the strongest person in the race, a mountain is never likely to be your favourite part of the ride. It’s going to hurt, but most pro riders like hurting – they have to. If a pro cyclist doesn’t embrace the hurt, then being a pro probably isn’t the right career choice. That said, when you’re on a mountain and in a lot of pain – getting dropped by the bunch is one of the most difficult things to ride through. Mentally, that’s tough.
Last year, I crashed at 70kph in a bunch sprint in the Tour of Croatia. I went down hard and lost a fair amount of skin from all areas of my body as I scraped along the ground. That crash happened the day before the big mountain of the tour, and a stage which finished with a 1,500m climb! That’s a big climb by any standards, but taking it on at a time when I was so broken - with bruising and muscle trauma - I found that I could only output 65-70% of the power I should have been able to sustain.
That lack of power meant I spent a lot of time on my own that day, and in the end I finished outside the time cutoff, and I was eliminated. I was really disappointed with myself. There were so many times when I’d wanted to just stop and get off the bike, but I’d ploughed on. To get to the finish and realise that it was all for nothing – it cracked me. That was one of my hardest days on a bike.
MY BEST MOUNTAIN RIDE
My favourite time to ride up mountains is actually during training. I’ve done many training camps in my career and one that stands out was last year in the Alpes, when we were staying at Isola 2000. We had fantastic weather, and selected routes which took us on long, sweeping climbs along smaller, quieter back roads. Quite often there was no traffic at all as we pushed on through the day, climbing for an hour at a time in a small bunch of six riders.
That was one of the most rewarding weeks of riding I can remember, hanging out with a really cool bunch of guys and riding spectacular roads. It helped that we were all riding at a similar level, so no one could really dish it out too much. I’m sure that contributed to everyone having a good time. On that day I remember thinking ‘This the best job in the world - to get paid to do this!’
With the start of the tour comes a huge amount of excitement and anticipation. Many of the riders taking part have raced a lot already this season, but as always the Tour is the big one, and it's the one that really counts.
Fresh from the National Champs
The Tour always starts just one week after the National Road Race Championships have taken place. This means that many riders aren’t in their usual kit, but instead are riding out in their National Champs jerseys, making it even harder to work out who is who in the bunch.
Arnaud Demare (riding for for Francais De Jeux) is one of the major names to look out for in this year’s Tour. He’s certain to feature in many of the bunch sprints throughout the three weeks of competition. Fabio Aru (riding for Team Astana) is also in good form, coming into the tour off the back of a strong performance in the Criterium De Dauphine. And definitely watch out for our very own Steve Cummings. With a record ITT and Road Race double title under his belt, he’ll be proudly riding in the British Champs jersey. He’s certain to feature in breakaways and will likely take a British stage win. In between the breaks, look out for Steve sitting in the back of the bunch – his customary position when not challenging up the front.
Others to keep an eye on
Other exciting names to keep an eye on include Richie Porte - who enters the tour as favourite in the General Clasification. He and Chris Froome have a bit of rift to settle after the Criterium De Dauphine, where Froome rode against him - significantly aiding Jacob Fuglsang in winning the race that day. Incidentally, Jacob Fugulsang is also one to watch and will definitely feature in the GC standings.
Over the past few years, Dan Martin has been improving and developing as a Grand Tour contender and so you should expect to see continued progress from him this year as well. He appears to be in great form at the moment, and is certainly ready to rise to the challenge in this year’s race.
Predictably, Peter Sagan will be hard to beat on certain stages. He too seems to be on good form coming into this years race and is a prime contender again for the overall green jersey.
In the breakaway
Keep an eye out for Jasper Stuyven. He was 3rd in the Belgian National Champs and really knows how to ride the breaks. And if he can build on his debut tour last year, Dan McClay should feature heavily in the bunch sprints alongside the big boys. Lastly, after a fantastic stage win in the last few days of the Giro, Pierre Rolland should also be up there in the intermediate mountain stages, and in the breakaways.
The Young Gun to watch
On a final personal note it's great to see so many brits in the field, spread across a number of different teams - including with one of my old teammates from last year Dion Smith, (riding for Wanty Group). He is a proper legend and a really tough kid - look out for him in the breaks between the high mountains.
P.s ride like a pro this tour season in our summer Pro Air Jersey
Sunglasses are an important accessory for any cyclist. They are one of the first things you notice when someone turns up for a ride, and have been a coveted accessory for many years, as long as I can remember anyway. There are a lot of different brands out there who make sunglasses, but unfortunately very few brands who make truly great glasses. My two top picks are Oakley and Salice.
Is there a ‘right’ way to wear sunglasses for cycling?
In my opinion the answer is always yes! Glasses should always be worn straight with arms over helmet straps. This is to keep helmet straps tight against the head and stop them flapping in the wind - creating extra noise and drag. You should definitely give your glasses a good clean before the ride too, you wouldn’t turn up to work with dirty shoes, so why not give your weekend ride the same level of respect?
Cycling sunglasses and style
I’m a stickler for making sure you look as stylish as possible while out on the bike, and in an ideal world, your sunglasses should always match your kit. That said, having a drawer full of sunglasses isn’t for everyone, so if you’re just going for one pair then standard black or white frames look good with pretty much everything.
There was a period through last year when old-style glasses were really in back fashion, like the Oakley Heritage Edition for example. But that period was pretty short lived. More recently, I’ve noticed that multi-colour camo or paint spatter frames are popular, likely because there are number of different colours in the design, and so they go with a wide variety of kit styles. Personally I’m a huge fan of these more ‘out there’ multi-coloured styles – and they compliment the type of designs we like to work to at Le Col, including our Anti-camo and Battleship jerseys.
What type of lenses should you go for in cycling sunglasses?
Just as with the frame colours, there’s a lot of choice when it comes to lenses too. Before deciding on what lenses to go for, it’s a good idea to have a think about where you might actually be wearing your glasses.
Iridium lenses are the top-dollar choice. They eliminate much more light, and most importantly 100% of UVA, UVB, and UVC light. The added bonus is that they look great too. These technical benefits and style mean that you’ll pay more for an iridium lens – so if you’re looking for glasses to go with your second-hand commuter bike, and riding in kit that’s a few years old – then flashy iridium lenses might be a bit over the top.
However, if you’re out and about in your ‘Sunday best’ then Iridium lensed shades are a great accessory to bring your outfit together. Just as with the frames, your lens choice should compliment your style of riding and the kit you’ve chosen to wear that day.
Clear lenses are best if you ride or race in the rain. When you’re out on a long ride, or doing a stage race, clear lenses are crucial to keep the muck and grit out of your eyes. They’ll also help to prevent your eyes from drying out – riding into a wind that’s blowing into your face all day can really cause your eyes to sting!
Sometimes it can be difficult to know when to take your glasses off on a wet and windy ride, and my advice would be to just apply your common sense. If the glasses are really hampering your vision and increasing the likelihood of having a crash because you can’t see a thing – then of course, take them off. But if it’s just a case of the glasses steaming up every now and then, then do what you can to keep them in place. I’ve ridden in wet and windy stage races and removed my glasses because they were steaming up, but by the end of the stage my eyes were really red and sore! It’s about finding the balance you’re comfortable with out on the road.
What do sunglasses mean to the pros?
Let’s be honest, pros look pretty slick 90% of the time and so, just like Bono, they can get away with wearing shades whenever they like. Tactically, there’s not any real benefit to hiding your eyes behind particular lenses so that your opponents can’t see them. Cycling isn’t a game in that sense, you either have the legs for the race that day, or you don’t, and that’s got nothing to do with what your eyes are doing.
A well-honed poker face will go a lot further in convincing the other guys in the group that you’re feeling strong in a race. Laurent Jalabert had an amazing poker face back in the late 90's, and early 2000's.
Plenty of pro teams will end up using glasses that match their team helmets. Sponsors tend to negotiate the two products as part of one deal, which leaves the pro rider with little choice on what to wear. If the riders had a choice, I know that almost all of them would pick Oakley or Salice.
Knowing a pro by their glasses choice
Pro’s certainly have a preference when it comes to their glasses of choice. When you’re riding in the peloton it’s easy to identify particular riders based on their eyewear alone. My friend Jeremy Hunt, when riding for the Cervelo Test team a few years ago, would wear fluo glasses every day. It was always easy to pick him out, even though they didn’t match his kit (at all!), which was black and white that year. Also Geraint Thomas has a favourite model which makes him easily identifiable in the bunch.