September 13, 2017
by Marcus, NY
I was diagnosed with MS in the spring of 2013. Since then I have had 3 major exacerbations during which I had partial to full paralysis on the right side of my body. I have been fortunate to find a treatment course (Tysabri for 2 years and now Rituxan for 1.5 years) which has kept me exacerbation free and allowed me to regain full mobility on the right side of my body. Even though I haven't had any exacerbations in 3.5 years, I still have lingering heat sensitivity which can result in drop-foot on my right side and excessive fatigue. By managing these symptoms though, I have been able to go to the gym regularly, run a half-marathon, and compete as an amateur road cyclist.
My number one passion is road cycling. During the summer I log somewhere between 100-200 miles per week. Spending hours in the saddle baking on hot asphalt be a unique challenge for someone with MS-based heat sensitivity. Keeping my core temperature as low as possible is key when trying to log long training rides on hot days. Proper nutrition and hydration are important as well, but this post is specifically about gear.
Below I will outline the bicycle gear I use and why I like it. I spend like a drunken sailor on my cycling hobby, so try not to get sticker shock. Hopefully the insights into why I chose the gear I use will give you some things to think about when choosing cycling equipment for yourself.
Helmet -- POC Octal - $240
This is one of the more expensive helmets on the market, but is worth every penny. I was able to save a few bucks by not getting the AVIP high-visibility helmet or the MIPS system. For the past few years manufacturers have been following the logic that more holes = more ventilation. POC went against the grain and created a helmet with fewer large holes. The result is a superlight helmet with far superior airflow to any other helmet I've tried.
Top -- Castelli Aero Race 5.1 - $179.99
This is not a traditional day-to-day training jersey. It is one of Castelli's high end racing jerseys. Standard bike jerseys that you can buy at your local shop for $60-$80 are great and much more durable. On the hottest days, however, I like something with a bit more breathability. The entire back of this jersey is made ultra-light moisture wicking mesh that feels like you're not wearing anything. Many manufacturers also make "climbing" or "KOM" jerseys that are made with more breathable materials (at least half mesh). Also, stick to light colors. Black jerseys can look really cool, but they get hot in a hurry when the sun comes out.
Shorts -- Pearl Izumi Elite Escape Bibs - $140
I grew up riding in traditional bike shorts, but after making the switch to bibs last season I'll never go back. The great thing about bibs is that they don't sit as tightly around your upper waist/lower back. I call the middle of my lower back my "thermometer." It's the area I feel to check my core temperature. Keeping my head and lower back cool are my number one priority, so wearing clothing that allows more airflow around the area is important to me. I really like how light the mesh bib portion of these shorts are and how low on the short this part starts. I also like that they are available in lighter colors than the traditional black bike short.
Socks -- Sock Guy 3" Sock - $10
Sock guy does some really fun designs. They fit my feet well and are very breathable. You don't have to spend a fortune on socks to find something light and moisture wicking (NOT COTTON). Find something that fits well and lets you express yourself.
Shoes -- Specialized Torch 2.0 - $150
These shoes are pretty middle of the road as far as cycling shoes go. They're the highest level made with an acrylic bottom, while more expensive shoes are made with lighter, stiffer carbon fiber. I find the little bit of flex in the acrylic to be a bit more forgiving. I also like that the top half of the shoe has the boa fit and the bottom half has adjustable Velcro. It's important to have shoes that fit well and are adjustable so that your feet don't go numb while you ride. If you want shoes that really breathe well, consider trying triathlon shoes. They tend to have an open top that allows much more airflow to your feet.
Final pro tip
Ice is your friend on long rides. ThermApparel is great for keeping your core temperature down for 30-60 minute training sessions. For longer rides, I freeze two water bottles so that I can keep one in my middle rear pocket, and then swap it out for the other frozen bottle when it melts. I really like the Camelback Podium water bottles, because their level of insulation allows the ice to melt at a slower rate, but is not so high that it prevents temperature exchange between you and the ice inside.
This blog article was written by a guest writer. The views and affiliations are the writer's own and are not indicative of ThermApparel's views and affiliations.