If you’re a road cyclist like me, chances are you have at least a small collection of skintight jerseys and cycling shorts in your cycling kit wardrobe. Today I’m sharing a few tips on how I keep mine clean and in good condition.
I have a top-loading washing machine at home, and I typically wash my cycling garments along with the rest of my laundry – same detergent and all. While it’s pretty straightforward washing them, I do take a few specific precautions.
DO THE ZIPPERS UP BEFORE WASHING
Jerseys with full length zippers should be done up before washing. I find that this lessens the chance of them getting snagged on other items of clothing in the same load.
WASH YOUR CYCLING KIT INSIDE OUT
This is particularly important with padded shorts. The chamois pad on your bib shorts is in contact with your buttocks, groin, and taint (perineum) the whole time you’re wearing them or riding in them. While more expensive shorts tend to come with an antibacterial coating on their chamois, you still want to make sure it gets the best chance of being cleaned by your detergent, so turn your shorts inside out to expose the chamois.
AVOID USING FABRIC CONDITIONER
The one thing I avoid using with washing spandex is fabric conditioner. The stuff tends to clog the microscopic pores of the material, making it less effective at wicking sweat away from your skin. (If you use microfiber towels, the same thing applies to them.)
If you keep using fabric conditioner on spandex clothing, I suspect that at some point, you might as well just ride in wet cotton shirts.
USING A WASHING MACHINE? INVEST IN A MESH WASH BAG
These zip-up mesh bags are mainly used for machine-washing delicates, such as underwear. I find they do a great job with cycling garments and helmet foam pads, too, for a couple of reasons.
First, they are an easy form of laundry segregation. Chances are, if you put your cycling kit in them, and make sure the zipper pull is secured before starting the wash, they will help keep all of their contents in one place. This is particularly helpful for smaller items such as helmet pads.
Second, the wash bags with really fine mesh are a great defense against things that can otherwise damage or fray your kits’ bib straps, spandex panels, or stitching. Hook-and-loop closures like Velcro are the most egregious offenders, latching onto bib shorts and not letting go without taking a few top threads.
I have a few running shorts that have pockets with Velcro closures, so any time I have to launder my bib shorts with them in the same load, I make sure I use a fine-mesh wash bag. Not too shabby for something so cheap.
HANG YOUR CYCLING KIT TO DRY
While the spin cycle of a washing machine can remove a lot of the water from your cycling kit, it’s still best to put it on a hanger and clothesline to dry out properly. Due to the properties of spandex, it will dry very quickly, especially in the heat.
Perhaps it’s a little taboo for people with clotheslines visible to the public at large, but I find it best to dry bib shorts with the chamois pad facing outward, too. Fortunately for me, my laundry area is almost completely sealed off, so this isn’t a problem.
This is how I’ve taken care of my cycling kit for the past few years, and so far it’s worked out well. If you’ve got more suggestions, feel free to let me know in the comments.