What to Wear to a Cross-Country Bicycle Trip


Even not-so-careful observers will have noticed that we always seems to be wearing the same clothes in photos we post about our five month bicycle journey across the United States. And they’re right. We are always wearing the same clothes.

Choosing What to Bring

Because we were bringing so few clothes they had to be versatile – things we could wear cycling and also on rest days or out to a restaurant without feeling too dorky. I wanted to downplay the, “Yes, I’m cyclist in my little lycra outfit” kind of clothes because there are lots of parts of the country where that doesn’t go over well. On the other hand, we need bright colors so cars can see us.

As Joy often says, “I’m cycling across the United States. I can look ridiculous if I want to”

Clothes for 5 Months

The photo below is the extent of ALL the clothes I brought for our five month adventure. Joy’s set of clothes are equivalent. Except she’s got a dress she wears for most non-cycling activity.

Since we started our journey four months ago, I’ve replaced a few worn out items. I’ve swapped out a few pieces for different versions. And a few pieces I’ve just “sent home” because as restricted as my clothing options were, there were still some pieces of clothes I wasn’t wearing so there was no point carrying them.

ALL of Tony’s clothes for 5 months
  1. Bicycle chamois (2 pair). These are padded underwear designed to mitigate the 5-8 hours/day we’re in the saddle. You’ll notice that I don’t have the typical spandex bicycle shorts. Very few people look good in Spandex. I’m not one of them. Plus, I like pockets, so I wear bicycle shorts over the chamois.
  2. Underwear. (3 pair). I wear them in the afternoons/evenings after we’re done cycling, or on rest days.
  3. Socks. Three pairs. Replaced one worn pair.
  4. Thermal undershirt. Only worn a few times early on in the Sierras
  5. Thermal long johns. Often worn in the early weeks when camping in the Sierras and the day it snowed and sleeted while we rode.
  6. Halo skull cap (2 caps) Acts as headband for sweat and keeps my scalp and back of my neck from burning. (Those vents in bicycle helmets can lead to sun burns on your scalp!) I’ve given the white one to Joy and I’ve replaced the red one with a thinner black one.
  7. Shirts (3 pairs). Photo shows 4, but I’ve sent back the grey one. These are running shirts. I don’t like the typical cycling shirt with the pockets in back.
  8. Arm sun guards/coolers. I gave mine to Joy. I just use sunscreen.
  9. Leg sun guard/coolers. I gave mine to Joy, who’s worn through her pair.
  10. Balaclava. Used twice in the Sierras to keep my head warm while camping.
  11. Gloves (3 pair). Short-fingered cycling gloves (worn 90% of the time). First set have worn through and been replaced. Long-fingered cycling gloves worn on cold/rainy days. One pair of warm gloves for camping (worn infrequently)
  12. Non cycling shirts (3 pairs). Two short-sleeved and one long-sleeved. I keep these as clean and possible and wear them in the evening/rest days/when we go out to restaurants.
  13. Cycling shorts (2 pairs) Wear these every day we’re cycling. I’ve swapped out the yellow pair for a black pair. The yellow pair was just too dorky.
  14. Bathing suit. Wear it periodically.
  15. Rain pants. Moderate use. I may need to wear this more as we get close to October.
  16. Down vest. Worn sporadically at camp and early in the trip.
  17. Cool weather cycling jacket. Worn a lot. Sleeves come off for a vest effect.
  18. Cycling rain jacket. Replaced with a yellow version. Worn much more than the rain paints.
  19. Cycling shoes. Worn 90% of the time
  20. Flipflops. Wear these a lot.
  21. Casual/Rest day hiking/Dress Up shoes. All around shoes I wear most days in the evening.

Not shown: my bicycle helmet nor my rain booties.

Thoughts about Going “Clothing-Minimal”

  • With so few choices, deciding what to wear in the morning is so much easier!
  • It seems impossible to have so little clothing for five months, but it turned out that it wasn’t anywhere as bad as I thought. I don’t think I’ll ever own a lot of clothes again. Certainly not 14 pairs of jeans as I chronicled in Becoming Unpossessed! Going as minimalist as we did, though, probably too far.
  • You’re doing laundry all the time. Often we’ll just do a small batch in the sink to extend us for a day (with only two chamois, you’re always doing laundry).
  • After 30 years of having our own washer/drier, I’ve re-learned that laundromats are universally soul-sucking places.
  • Most clothes aren’t made to hold up to the intense use we’re putting them through. Most of my clothes have stains (either food or bike grease), frayed edges, small tears, broken zippers, etc. The majority of the clothes I’ve been wearing will end up being tossed soon after we’re done.

Emergency Shopping

Me in my “MAML” outfit

Yesterday, moments before we set out for the day, the zipper broke on my favorite shorts. Fortunately, I was wearing lycra bicycle shorts. I had to buy these to replace a worn out underwear chamois.

But I hate the MAML (middle aged men wearing lycra) look, and I really miss my pockets. I cycled shorts-less until we found a sporting goods store that sold shorts.

I this photo you see that I’ve pulled up my shirt sleeve and shorts leg to show off my cyclist tan.

3 thoughts on “What to Wear to a Cross-Country Bicycle Trip

  1. I loved looking at your pictures and seeing what a biker like yourself brings on rides. I love cycling, and I’m interested in buying some new bike shirts for my rides. I’m happy that I’m not the only one who doesn’t wear typical cycling shirts.


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