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How To Keep Your Cycling Gear in Great Shape

Every cyclist knows the importance of airing out their cycling equipment after every ride. If you fail to do so, your gear will soon develop a rather … unfavorable aroma.

But airing out your gear isn’t the only thing you have to do to keep your gear fresh. Neglecting to care for your your equipment can make it not only smell foul but fade, fall apart or simply wear out faster. To keep your equipment in good shape for the long haul, you need a good care routine that works for each piece of cycling gear.

After decades of cycling, Coach Darryl MacKenzie practically has this down to a science. Here’s how he takes care of each component of his cycling wardrobe.

Keep Your Shoes Shiny and Stink-Free

Cycling shoes can become particularly pungent if left unattended, especially for cyclists or triathletes who don’t wear socks. Not only that, but they tend to get worn down with a dull, dusty look, taking away from your cycling shine.

To keep the stink at bay, Coach Darryl recommends using a shoe deodorant at least once a year. These come in powder or spray forms. Darryl used to prefer the powder, but the spray has become more effective and is easier to spread around the shoe. In either case, you need to open the shoe up as much as possible and spread the deodorant around the inside — don’t neglect the toe area!

To address the dull and dusty fade, simply rub a damp cloth over the shoe. This is purely aesthetic, but It works wonders and restores the shine to your cycling shoes.

Keep Your Gloves Intact

Gloves don’t necessarily need to be cleaned after every ride, but they typically shouldn’t go more than two or three rides. Darryl recommends giving them the “nose test” to decide if they’re ready for the wash. 

When they are due for a cleanup, wash a few pairs of gloves — and only gloves — together in one load. Ensure the Velcro straps are tightened down, too. If any of the Velcro material is exposed, it can snag onto other gloves in the wash and cause pilling in the fabric.

Once your gloves are done washing, you can attach pairs together by strapping the Velcro of the left glove to the Velcro of the right glove. Never put them in the dryer — simply hang them to dry to keep the fabric in good shape.

Keep Your Arm Warmers/Coolers Bright and Clean

Arm warmers and coolers are essential accessories for certain times of the year, and you want to keep them sturdy and clean for when you need them. Arm coolers are white and tend to pick up dirt easily, so they need more frequent cleanings.

Darryl keeps a few pairs of these so he can wash at least two pairs at a time and only with like colors. Don’t wash them with other items — especially gloves or vests that may have Velcro on them. Darryl once ruined a pair of arm warmers while volunteering at a cycling event when the Velcro on his yellow safety vest nearly wore a hole through the arm warmer.

Protect Your Heart Monitor

Your heart-rate monitor is strapped around your chest on every ride, and it’s bound to soak up sweat and grime over time. Darryl recommends cleaning it once a year, but he emphasizes the need to care for the wiring inside the strap when you do.

Although Garmin straps say you can put them in the washing machine, Darryl errs on the side of caution and prefers soaking them instead. Simply fill a cup with water and mix in a small amount of laundry detergent. Remove the monitor and drop the strap into the water. Allow it to soak for four to eight hours. Remove it occasionally and rub thoroughly with your hands, then rinse and hang to dry.

Soak Your Helmet Straps

Over time, your helmet straps tend to get white and crispy from soaking up all the salt in your sweat. To restore them, Darryl recommends a good soak right after a ride so they have plenty of time to dry before your next outing. 

In this case, fill two glasses almost full with the same type of detergent solution as you’d use for the heart-rate monitor strap. You can then balance the helmet on top of the two glasses and let the straps hang down and soak. Remove occasionally to rub the soapy water into the straps with your hands. When finished, rinse and hang dry for several hours.

Don’t Mix Your Jerseys

If you want to keep your cycling jerseys looking sharp, there’s one important rule: don’t mix them with other items. Wash your jerseys together, inside-out and safe from black bike shorts or other items that will take away that bright white gleam. After you wash them, hang them to dry — they won’t take long, as they’re made from lightweight, quick-dry material.

Keep Your Shorts in Shape

Always wash your bike shorts together (noticing a theme here?) to prevent the black colors from bleeding onto other items. And, although it may be tempting, don’t turn them inside out, as this can damage the chamois when washing.

One particularly important point about shorts is the water or air temperature when washing or drying them. Never wash them in water cooler than 50 degrees Fahrenheit or hang them to dry in a garage where the temperature drops below 50 degrees. For some types of chamois, exposure to cooler temps when wet can cause the material to degrade quickly.

Keep Your Socks Fresh

Socks are generally fairly easy to keep clean, but never wash white socks with colored ones to prevent bleeding. Although most are fine to put in the dryer, some newer materials such as bamboo require air drying.

Wash Your Jackets With Your Jerseys

Since they don’t make direct contact with your body, jackets and vests typically don’t need to be washed after every ride. Whether you wash them every time or wait a few rides, you can wash them with your jerseys. Many cyclists try to keep matching jackets and jerseys together in the wash so they’re always clean and ready to wear as a pair.

Wipe Down Your ID Bracelets

Finally, there are the road ID bracelets that many cyclists wear. These don’t tend to get too dirty, but they will pick up sweat and grime over time, so it’s a good idea to wipe them down with a damp cloth as needed. There’s no need to put them in the wash.


Looking for more pro tips on caring for equipment and becoming a better cyclist? Follow our blog and sign up for our newsletter to keep up with the latest from Coach Darryl. You can also find more of his insights on his website.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash