Textile riding gear is about the most high-tech clothing you can slip into. But it doesn’t take high technology to protect your gear from improper care and storage, just a few simple tips.
Don’t store your riding gear in the garage where you park your bike and your car. Exhaust fumes can degrade the synthetic materials in jackets and pants, and the EPS liner in helmets. Fumes from that can of lawnmower gas won’t do your gear any good, either. At the end of a ride hang up your gear in a closet inside the house.
If you come back sweaty from a hot ride, open all the vents and hang your gear where it can air dry. Ideally, you’d take out the armor and removable liners, too. If it gets really funky, try some Febreze on the inside lining.
The number-one cause of warranty claims on riding gear is from broken zippers, often caused by someone wearing gloves while fumbling to close the zipper. Note that the little tab you grab is called a pull, not a yank. Take your gloves off before you work the zippers on your gear, and make sure you don’t snag the interior lining when you zip up. Treat the zipper teeth to a drop or two of silicone occasionally, then run the slider up and down several times to distribute the lubrication.
Check your gear after every ride for bug splats, road dirt, and other stains. Catch them early to prevent them from becoming permanent. Wipe them off with a damp sponge, and use stain remover only if the gear manufacturer says it’s okay. Some stain removers are harsh enough to remove both the stain and the material under it.
Wash riding gear according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some recommend machine washing and drying, while others specify hand washing and air drying only. Never use harsh detergents like bleach, which can deteriorate the fabric and break down the layer of PVC used to waterproof the shell. Thermal liners are generally safe to machine wash and dry, but check anyway.
If your gear is so old the original color has faded, the fabric might have degraded, too. Frays, tears, stretched seams, balky zippers, and leaks are all signs that it’s probably time to retire your gear.