Lycra repair tips

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Whether you’ve crashed, got snagged by a branch on the trail or the washing machine ate your favourite bibs, you’ll learn that lycra —despite its many qualities— is not tearproof. You’ve likely spent a good amount of money on your kit, and this is not how you imagined parting ways with your favourite chamois. Good news! Most tears and cuts are repairable.

Some brands like Assos, Rapha and Capo offer repair services, but if that’s not the case for your favourite kit, here are your options:

Find a good tailor.

Ask your cycling friends and guaranteed you’ll get some recommendations. Don’t just drop it off at your local dry cleaner as lycra is a unique fabric that requires specialty care.  If you can’t find anyone with cycling apparel experience, look for someone who specialises in dance, gymnastics or swim wear, which are often made of similar fabric.

A good repair service will not only have experience with the stretchy fabric and a stretch stitch, they might even be able to patch multiple colors in an effort to keep the kit’s design (and sponsor logos) intact.

Do it yourself! 

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If you have (access to) a sewing machine, you can fix the shredded fabric yourself. Here’s how:

Lycra repair tips:

Following the crash or tearing, hand-wash your items.
“Wash it gently because it could rip further. I would hand wash it, cold, just to get the grime out of it as best as you can so you’re not sewing the grime into it when you’re sewing it back together,” recommends Carol Douglas, the number-one recommended cycling kit repair expert in the greater Seattle area.

Buy or scavenge some lycra fabric.
“Go into your closet and find an item of lycra that you don’t wear anymore, and doesn’t have sentimental value, to scavenge fabric from it,” said Douglas. “Not all fabric stores carry it. And whatever fabric you get, it’s important that it has four-way stretch.”

Sew on the patch. 
Place the patch of fabric behind the tear, on the inside, and sew it on iwith whatever means you have. But for the best results, Douglas recommends that you’ll use a (serger) sewing machine, a stretch stitch and a stretch thread:

  • A sewing machine. You can surely patch something by hand in a pinch, but for a quality, neat and lasting repair, a sewing machine is key.
  • A ballpoint needle. “You should use a ballpoint needle because it doesn’t pierce the threads. If you use a sharp point needle, what will happen is that as the fabric stretches the tiny holes get bigger and the patch can tear along the stitch line,” explained Douglas.
  • A zig-zag or serger stitch. “For most road rash, I use zig-zag because it’s a stretch stitch and you can cover a large area and you can match colours to blend it in,” said Douglas, who will use various coloured patched to keep the kit design and sponsor logos intact.
    A cover stitch is more of a straight line to put seams back together, explained Douglas, and is best used for frayed seams and alterations.
  • Wooly nylon thread. “It’s a stretch thread. I will use a polycore or polyester thread because it’s more UV resistant than cotton. I wouldn’t recommend a cotton thread.”
  • Place the patch behind the damaged area and, if it’s a tear or cut versus a big hole, overlay any cut edges before sewing.  “To sew the cut edges back together, you are best off to overlap the fabric and sew it that way.  You want to prevent creating a ridge because depending on where the tear is on the kit, that can cause irritation and abrasion,” said Douglas. “I place the patch on the inside but work from the outside so I can see the patterns and logos.”

So don’t despair when you tear your kit! A good repair is hardly noticeable and will keep your kit going for many, many more hours in the saddle.

“A tear is no reason to throw away a kit. I haven’t come across one I haven’t been able to rebuild,” said Douglas. “Some do look pretty scarred but they’re back on the road and for some, it’s a badge of honour.”

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