Cycling gear isn’t designed for longevity, it’s designed for performance. But, there are ways to prolong the life of cycling kit if you care for it properly.
Pro Cycling Outlet owner, Dave Walsh, is an oracle of information on all things cycling, from how to wear cycling socks to which tools you need for an at-home bike workshop. But ask him how to wash cycling kit so it lasts longer and his answer is: “Don’t you just shove everything in the washing machine?”
There is logic to Dave’s perspective, albeit not very kit-friendly thinking.
“My view on this is that it depends on how much you ride. For a pro, you almost view kit as disposable. Ride in it, wash it, when it wears out, throw it away.”
And even expensive pro cycling clothing doesn’t last (which is another reason to buy ex pro kit secondhand!). There’s not much difference in the lifespan of a 400€ vs a 50€ jersey because the fabric and design technology aims to improve the rider’s performance, not how long they have to go between shopping trips.
That’s because, to be aerodynamic, cycle clothing has to be tight – uncomfortably tight in fact. But lycra can’t hold its shape for more than about six months of frequent wear. For a pro, once cycling kit has lost its functional fit, it’s useless so there’s no point taking great care with washing it to extend its life.
For the rest of us though, here’s how to take care of your kit so you get the most life out of it.
We’re not talking about the helmet shell, which can be wiped clean easily. Think about how much sweat is soaked up by the straps and the inner padding. It needs a shower every bit as much as you do and your shampoo and a nail brush won’t go amiss on either you or the helmet.
Some people prefer to hand wash cycling clothes, but a washing machine is fine as long as it’s on a cool, gentle cycle. Use a perfume-free detergent and avoid fabric conditioner as it interferes with moisture and sweat wicking.
The other key thing is how you dry it: air dry only, as flat as possible, preferably out of direct sunlight, and never put it in a tumble drier.
Avoid using the machine if you can and clean the outside with a soft cloth or brush and mild soap so the shoes don’t get damaged. Remove the insoles and wash and dry them by hand. Don’t dry cycling shoes near heat as they can warp the tight fit they need to have.
The above is a general guide. To get the best out of every piece of cycling kit, follow the manufacturer’s instructions as they will take into account the particular fabric and tech specs.