Tevis What to Wear

Nineteen hours in the saddle requires careful choices.
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Nineteen hours in the saddle requires careful choices.

Someone asked me the other day what I wear when I’m riding. Well, that may seem odd but I do work at a company that makes footwear and apparel for riders, so consider the context.

Anyway, thought it might make an interesting blog post. If you have anything to add to this, please feel free to post to this entry – let’s make it a share out! And sorry guys, but this is definitely girl-focused.

Let’s start with footwear. Back to the point that I work for Ariat. In all honesty I have tried other brands prior to coming to work here and I would still choose our products over any other riding footwear. That said, I will agree with those of you who are saying to your screens “but they don’t have enough traction!”. I’m working on it! I have nagged the footwear designers incessantly for a couple of years and they are now working on designs that incorporate better outsole traction for endurance riders.

The issue has been that other discipline riders are concerned about getting hung up in the stirrup and therefore have consistently preferred boots with low traction outsoles. Some of our Western consumers will only wear leather soles in sports where a fast dismount is required.

Anyway…so I wear Ariat boots. I prefer the Volantline – it’s built for high-level performance and is great looking. But it is expensive and only comes in tall boots at this juncture. There are several endurance riders competing successfully in Volant, frequently because they want optimal ankle support.

There is also, of course, the Terrainsystem. The boot comes in a zip and a lace and a bunch of colors as well as waterproof versions. The new and improved Terrain chap is in market now.

Some endurance riders do ride in trail running shoes or hybrid running/hiking boots. Those options definitely work and give you better outsole traction, but the technology in the shoe is not built for riding so you don’t get the steel shank in-stirrup support that Ariat developed.

Moving on to riding pants. I cannot wear Ariat or any other brand of regular breeches, the fabric is too thick and the folds that occur directly behind my knee spell disaster on a long ride. I've taken too many post-ride showers, screaming as the water hits the blisters on that tender skin to risk it.

So I ride in riding tights. I hope this clears things up for non-endurance riders who've been wondering why we prefer riding tights. We are not that confident about our bodies. Really. It’s purely a way to reduce overall post-ride pain.

Last year I discovered a tight/breech blend made by Irideon – it’s called the ‘cargo breech’ and combines one of their best tight styles – the Cadence – with zip-front breech styling that has super-handy pockets. The two slightly unflattering ones on the thighs (which fit a cell phone and your ride card) are balanced by the two very flattering ones on the rump. I have three pair and when they are all in the wash I’m really bummed I have to hit the second string.

Next we move to tops and I’m back into the Ariat fold. The Sunstoppertops are perfect for endurance. I've always preferred to ride in long sleeves because the likelihood that your arm will connect with poison oak or scratchy stuff is pretty high. And then there’s the sun. Ariat Sunstoppers come in a ¼ zip or a polo style and a bunch of colors. There are several other brands making similar technical fabric, long sleeve riding tops and I’m sure those are equally as good if somewhat more expensive.

Now on to the most important aspect of this ensemble, the skivvies. I am – luckily I believe – not large-chested. But still a good sport bra is absolutely necessary. I've once or twice ended up riding in my regular bras and it is no fun. I generally look for something that is both supportive and flattering, but I think we all have our preferences when it comes to sport bras so I won’t try to teach you that here – just get a good one.

I will share more wisdom in the area of underwear. I've tried most of the options, except for going commando. I know people do ride without, but I can’t imagine or face the attempt. I prefer to ride in a compression short. Compression shorts are made for working out and constructed of a thin performance fabric designed to ‘hold you in’. Which is really nice (see previous reference to riding tights). I like the Nike Pro series, but Under Armor and a couple of other sport companies make some good-looking options. I would recommend at least a 7” leg length. They come in 5” and 3”, both of which seem to be more inclined to ride up.

I do have to reach inside my pants to pull the shorts down when I first put them on, but after that they seem to stay in place fairly well. They are hotter than some of the other options, but it doesn't bother me enough to sacrifice the other benefits I’m getting from them.

I also always ride with gloves on – I took a series of jumping lessons many many years ago and blistered my hands in the process. Now they blister easily so I never ride without gloves. I do wear Ariat, in this case because I can get them inexpensively. They are good gloves, but SSG and Heritage make a host of nice options as well. If you can find a pair with smartphone friendly material on the finger tips it’s a nice feature.

So that’s the outfit! What do you think?