by Nicholas "Tri-Clyde" Sikes
Please welcome Nicholas Sikes to our blog. He is a central Iowa amateur triathlete who races in the Clydesdale division. He will be writing regularly on the clothing and gear most important to those who are starting out in the sport. His articles will include, but won’t be limited to, the experiences of larger athletes. This month, find out how he learned about the benefits of high quality bike shorts.
I am not sure what drives most people to become triathletes. For me it was the fact that I have always been heavy (especially following grad school) and, when trying to keep up with my 3-year-old daughter, I realized I needed to set a much better example for her.
I liked biking, abhorred running, and hadn’t swum a lap in over a decade, so I figured triathlon could be a sport that challenged me to train consistently instead of just using short bouts of raw strength. I have always been strong, but I knew something must change when I would run out of breath after only two flights of stairs.
Starting in the winter of 2010, I put my bike on a cheap trainer in my basement and began using the treadmill I had invested in four years prior. With no formal training and only internet research, I embarked on my journey by signing up for my first sprint triathlon in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Since then I have mostly completed Olympic-distance races in my pursuit of losing weight and getting in better shape.
While I still have a long way to go to meet my goals, I have learned a lot along the way and hope to inspire other newcomers as they push themselves to become greater athletes.
In 2013 the USAT changed the weight limits for Clydesdale and Athena athletes. Now men weighing over 220 pounds and women weighing over 165 pounds can choose to compete in their own division. This is a change from previous weights and is a good step in my opinion. Hopefully this encourages other newcomers who don’t fit the “Ironman” profile to get involved in the sport and enjoy competing in events. One thing I have learned in the last three years is the difficulty larger triathletes have in finding apparel, gear, and advice. My intention with this blog is to start providing insight, opinions, and guidance to others that are following along the same path.
High Quality Bike Shorts
One of the most painful lessons I have learned is the “value” of inexpensive bike shorts. I trained the first year and a half using only the race kit supplied by my triathlon club. These tri shorts have almost zero padding and are designed to be worn either wet or dry. After getting a high quality pair of biking bibshorts I have come to understand the enjoyment that comes from riding with almost zero pain. While the price tag can seem steep on a good pair of shorts, I believe it is one of the best investments in training on your bike.
Once I started believing in the benefits of high quality bike shorts, I had to find them. This used to be much more difficult than you could imagine. At that time there were very few online bike/triathlon stores and the local stores just didn’t carry the larger sizes. There are very few brands that offer anything for a waist larger than 36–38″. Fortunately Garneau, Bellwether, and Endura carry many of their shorts in sizes of 42–44″. Stores don’t always have the largest sizes in stock but can order them when you ask. I always wondered why anyone would buy bibshorts until I had my first pair. WOW! I don’t know how I could live without them now. They are less convenient when “nature calls,” but they don’t ride low in the back. This allows me to be less self-conscious that I am showing too much while out on a ride. Endura makes several great options in the XL and XXL sizes. Garneau also makes several great options along with Bellwether.
The large price difference between different pairs is very indicative of the amount of padding and how well the shorts flex with your body. By spending a little more up front, you will see an immediate difference in comfort and be able to push yourself a little harder. It is really hard to stick to a training plan when you can’t fathom sitting back down on your saddle.
More than Just Shorts
If you are having specific pain locations when you ride, head into the store or give them a call. It may not be a problem with your short, but a fit or saddle issue. They are all hugely knowledgeable about cycling and would love to get you more comfortable on your bike no matter where you purchased it from.
Next month I will be writing on biking and running comfort. Keep your eyes open for tips on saddles, shoes, socks, and other ideas to make training a little more enjoyable. Also, keep your eyes open for "Tri-Clyde Approved" notes on more and more products. While it can be frustrating trying to find the right gear I am working to help make it a little easier. Don’t hesitate to contact me directly too! I would love to converse and help answer questions or provide some guidance.
Until I see you next month or out on your bike, Nicholas “Tri-Clyde” Sikes