Words by Hannah Reynolds
If you’ve invested in premium priced bib shorts you will want to look after them, to prolong their lifespan so they remain to look great and feeling comfortable, but hands up who actually bothers with the fancy mesh bags and expensive specialist detergents?
On our recent visit to ASSOS, we visited the laboratory where extensive textile testing takes place. Here garments are washed thousands of times, exposed to many hours of UV light and even put into a snagging box to tumble around with metal spikes, but once out of the labs, it is in our hands to influence how well our garments wear. TWC spoke to Simona Febbi - R&D Officer Textiles at ASSOS on the best way to take care of your cycling shorts.
“All the tests that we do in-house we wash at 40 degrees with commercial soap instead of the delicate one. We also use powder with phosphates and all the possible detergents so we simulate what a non-careful consumer might do. We are pretty sure that we have made as much effort as possible to simulate the worst care a consumer might give their shorts, so we can be sure that our textiles are able to cope with it but if you pay a lot of money for an ASSOS pair of bib shorts you should also take care of them. We put a care label in all our garments with recommendations to wash at 30 degrees on a delicate cycle and possibly using ASSOS' own cleanser."
The temperature - always 30 degrees - and the mildness of the detergents are key. That expensive blue fluid ASSOS sells isn’t just to be fancy, it is designed to be super gentle on your kit so that colours and textures last longer, “some detergents are very aggressive, and can affect colour fastness and lamination of the layers. We use commercial powders in the lab with phosphates to see how garments respond. These aggressive powders are for your bed sheets, not your expensive cycling shorts!"
The final component of good washing is the spin cycle, “new washing machines have specific cycles for sportswear with shorter cycles and reduced spinning. Cycling fabrics should only be spun at 600-800rpm if it is more than that it may damage the garment. As with your jeans, you should always wash your kit inside out when you wash your bib shorts this way you know the insert is properly washed and the colour is more durable."
Visit the home of most regular cyclists and you are likely to find an overflowing washing basket of sweaty kit, we are certainly guilty of leaving shorts in kit bags or hanging in the changing rooms at work, Febbi put us straight on that one, “If you are a good rider and understand the value of your garments and the effect they have on your performance, you should immediately wash them. If you leave them on the floor for a couple of days with sweat or grime on them, it will be harder to get them back to their original state. The best way to take care of your stuff is to put it directly into the washing machine the way you would put your body into the shower. Using a delicate and antibacterial detergent is important to get rid of all the bad smells and to protect the finishes we put on the fabric such as water repellents. Even using 30 degrees is less aggressive than 40 degrees and will make the finish last longer."
If you are away on a cycling holiday, training camp or race you might not have time or access to a washing machine to lovingly take care of your shorts but Febbi’s advice is pragmatic, “using what you have available is better than leaving your shorts sweaty, even entering the showering with your garments on and rinsing them is a good compromise. Cycling kit can also be washed by hand if a label says wash as 30 degrees this can be done by hand. Our body is 35.5 degrees, so we need to use water that feels cold because if it feels warm to your hand it is already more than 30 degrees. It’s not one washing that destroys a garment it is repeated bad treatment."
5 steps to washing your shorts
- Wash at 30 degrees in water that feels cool to your hand
- Use delicate and antibacterial detergents to get rid of smells and maintain colour
- Wash shorts inside out to make sure the insert gets properly clean
- Spin at no more than 800rpm
- A rinse in the shower and being left to dry is better than packing sweaty kit into a bag.