After getting started with a few basics, most cyclists draw on different kit for different types of rides. Whether we like it or not, this often signifies a sense of allegiance or gives away the range of things we value about the sport, writes Kath Bicknell.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

Participation in cycling in Australia has undergone a small explosion over the last five years. With it has come more bunches on the road, more events on the weekend, more purpose built trail networks, and more things to buy to support the way you ride.

In terms of what we wear on the bike, choices are more diverse than ever before. And whether we like it or not, these choices, like off-bike fashion, lead us to make assumptions about the people wearing them. Correctly or incorrectly, these might include who they ride with, what type of riding they enjoy, ideas about fitness, skills, loyalties, values, where people have traveled, where they might be from.

The boutique, high quality, limited run

Brightly coloured, fine materials and a fit that's made to work best over an athletic body. With carefully coordinated jerseys and bibs, this kit is designed to be worn as a set. It doesn't come cheap, but you believe in paying for quality, innovation, and supporting a niche brand with local roots.

The fit rewards the long miles you've been putting in on the bike. In times when your training volume is low, this kit makes you look like you've been smashing out the kms more than you actually have.

Do:
Buy more than one design from this company to emphasise your loyalty, support and the edgy, freshness of your on-bike style.
Use social media to share photos of yourself and your well-dressed mates.

Don't:
Pair this kit with socks of the wrong colour, style or height.
Wear this kit on recovery rides. Your slow speed will ruin the image you're trying to cultivate.

The custom run
This kit shows loyalty to your club, local bike shop, a specific organisation, a team or a group of mates who had a good idea: A custom design manufactured by a brand that offers a good fit for a reasonable price. You have some vague thoughts about how to tweak the design for future runs and wouldn't mind a better chamois or more durable bibs.

You feel proud to wear this kit because you love the design or the meaning behind it and it signals that you're part of a group. It looks its best when a bunch of your wear it together on a ride or at an event, or when someone takes a photo of you crossing a finish line after a very tough day.

Do:
Find ways to give back with your time or skills to support the organisation that enables the riding you love.
Share photos with members of your group if you get a podium or reach the summit of an iconic European ascent.

Don't:
Run red lights. It's not just your attitudes and values you're flaunting, it's the group's.
Miss the email for an upcoming kit run. They're often months apart, and no one wants to wear worn out knicks.

Well-worn kit that continues to serve you well
You've been riding for some time, a fact that you're proud of. You don't see any point in shelling out cash for new versions of products you already own, especially when they still perform as well as the day you got them. Your clothing may have sentimental value and positions you as a rider with stories to tell.

Do:
Take enormous pride every time you overtake a poser riding around in a boutique run.

Don't:
Let your shorts get so old they become loose or transparent at the rear.

The shiny, new basics

You're new to cycling and want to start exploring the sport. The price of kit is expensive on top of all the other gear you've recently bought. Some well-designed, colour-coordinated basics make you feel confident to get out there and find out what it's all about. The brand of your jersey and shorts may not match and the fit may be a little looser than you'll end up buying after a few more miles or time spent with people more immersed in the sport.

You don't want to look pro because you're not. You're just loving getting out there, learning about new places to explore and pushing yourself a little further with every few rides.

Do:
Ask shop staff for advice on how to find the right fit and feel for your needs.
Enjoy upgrading your kit if you loose weight or find yourself riding so much that the washing machine is suffering from overuse.

Don't:
Wear underpants under your new knicks (just don't).
Wash your kit in hot water or you'll dramatically reduce its life.

Internet kit tied to an online giant

You ride a lot and are quick to justify internet purchases because you "can't afford" x, y and z. This kit costs less compared to prices at your local bike shop and is reasonable quality. Every now and then you order a dud because your best guess off the online size chart is far less accurate than trying something on.

It's the riding you care about more than supporting your local cycling community, but you're glad shops are there for advice, repairs and the occasional organised ride. You come across as a bit of a tight arse, but you strongly believe that local industry needs to get with the times.

Do:
Join a club to learn about cycling etiquette and practical riding techniques from other riders and for extra motivation through winter.

Don't:
Expect bike shops to give you a discount when you're blatantly advertising that you'd rather spend your money elsewhere if you can.

A lot of cyclists embrace different trends for different rides. Or sometimes their style points to something else entirely: Brand loyalty. Baggies. Functional, non-lyrca commuter wear. Fan kit, for a team or a brand. A prize or a gift…

The assumptions we make about other riders are likely to be right as often as they're wrong. But they do have a way of sparking certain conversations at the lights, indicating who we might want to overtake, or whose wheel we might be jumping out of our skin to hold on to for a while.

What does your Lycra say about you?