So you’re all kitted out with your helmet, water bottle and gloves. Let’s take a look at some cycling specific clothing that you can invest in. Ultimately you can ride wearing anything, but if comfort is your goal some of these might be worthwhile. Riding in light coloured clothing so you can be seen or even the type of stuff you may wear to the gym or to run in, can also be good when starting out. Choose light weight fabrics that wick away sweat and breathe.
Lycra Bike Shorts
If you only invest in one item of clothing for cycling, make sure it’s a good pair of lycra bike shorts. There’s one very good reason for wearing them: comfort. Anyone who’s ever ridden a bike knows that time spent in the saddle wearing anything other than a pair of padded lycra shorts will tear you to shreds. Tight yet unrestricted, the lycra short is designed to keep padding (or the chamois) where it’s needed the most, while working with your body to move moisture.
The tight synthetic materials keep things smooth and free from bunching up while also being aerodynamic, sweat wicking and fast drying. They’re meant to be worn without undies to minimise seams and excess where it might cause the most painful rubbing and chafing.
Women’s lycra shorts Women’s Lycra shorts generally have shorter leg lengths, narrower waists, larger leg openings and a slightly longer rise (the distance from the front waistband of the shorts, under the crotch and up to the back waistband) than men’s styles. The pads are also shaped differently – smaller overall, but proportionately wider at the rear and narrower in the centre. They also lack a bulky terry pad at the front.
Panels and fabric The more panels the better the fit, is the basic rule when it comes to buying bike shorts. Six is the accepted standard, with eight found on higher-end shorts. However, with the progression in fabric technology, manufacturers are now mixing panels of different fabrics and contouring their shape for improved fit and performance in the saddle
Stitching Make sure your shorts have flat stitching ensuring comfort next to the skin. There should also be no stitching near areas like the inside of the leg. Contrast stitching also makes the shape of fancy panels stand out and look good
Chamois This is the heart of it. Chamois made from synthetic materials provide padding for comfort while wicking away moisture to keep you fresh and prevent soreness. The chamois in your shorts should be ribbed and contoured to fit your body’s curves, and bonded into shape to eliminate the need for stitching around the delicate areas. A combination of wicking material and padding from gel and foams is often used to provide cushioning.
Leg grippers Elastic is used to keep the shorts tight at the base. Look for shorts that use silicone grippers to maintain the hold of the elastic against the skin and prevent the hems from riding up.
What’s wrong with wearing a cotton T-shirt? Cycling jerseys cut to a woman’s proportions with flared hips offer several advantages over casual wear such as t-shirts. Here’s what to look for:
The jersey needs to be made out of technical fabrics providing moisture-wicking properties. They remove the sweat from your skin and bring it to the surface where it rapidly evaporates. This increases your comfort while riding and keeps you from becoming cold and damp when you come to a stop after a period of heavy exertion.
Look for a jersey with handy back pockets providing a convenient place to store keys, money, gloves, energy bars, or even a lightweight jacket. The pockets are located on the back instead of the sides to prevent them from rubbing against your legs while pedaling.
Long front zippers are great for allowing you to adjust the ventilation while riding and regulate your temperature.
Extended tails cover your backside when you are bent over in a “tucked” cycling position.
Snug fitting jerseys absorb and evaporate sweat faster, don’t flap in the wind, and won’t snag on obstacles (like tree branches) as easily as loose-cut garments.
A good safety tip is buying a jersey in bright colours with reflective piping as this makes you more visible to other vehicles on the road.
Women’s cycling jackets come in several variations. The proper jacket for you will depend on the type of riding you’ll be doing. There is a trade-off between breathability, weight, packability, and water resistance. Fully waterproof jackets can be somewhat heavier and less breathable than their merely water-resistant cousins. For shorter rides where you might only get sprinkled on, a lighter-weight, more breathable jacket is often preferred.
Waterproof jacket features
- Waterproof yet breathable membranes like Gore-Tex repel water droplets while allowing water vapor from your sweat to escape.
- Pit zips allow for adjustable amounts of underarm ventilation when you start to overheat
- Back vents and adjustable wrist closures create cooling airflow up your sleeves and out your back
- A storable or removable hood sized to fit over (or snugly under) a bike helmet is a nice feature but not a must-have
- Lightweight, thin fabrics breathe well and allow the jacket to be stuffed into a jersey pocket, pannier or handlebar bag
- Reflectivity increases your safety when riding at dawn, dusk, or night
- Rear pockets allow for storage that doesn’t get in your way while pedaling
- Convertible jackets have zip-off sleeves and convert into a vest for added versatility
Vests are perhaps among the most under-appreciated items available to cyclists. Combine a vest with a pair of arm warmers, and you are ready to tackle almost any temperature variation you’ll encounter along your ride. Best of all, when the time comes to take the vest off, it’ll fit easily into your jersey pocket. Features to ask about when in-store include:
- Good quality wind blocking fabrics to keep the wind-chill effect from sapping your body heat
- Look out for vests with mesh back panels allowing you to vent excess heat when you are exerting yourself.
- Back pockets are convenient for storing items or for self-stuffing the vest into when it is not in use.
- Reflectivity and bright colors help you be seen and be safe on the road.
A good ol’ beanie can make a huge difference in keeping you warm especially on those chilly mornings for under your helmet. Make sure you look for the following features:
- Get a sculpted fit coming down over your ears without getting too low on your forehead
- Specialised warm/windblocking fabrics will provide additional warmth and protection from cold winds
- Should have low bulk and a snug fit allowing you to wear the cycling beanie underneath your helmet.
- A great feature is a ponytail port allowing your hair to pass through and results in a more comfortable fit.
- Alternatively a stretchy head band can also be pretty comfy under your helmet – but it won’t keep your head as warm.
Arm warmers and knee/leg warmers come in handy when the weather starts out cold but warms up during the day. You can easily strip them off and stuff them in a jersey pocket, handlebar bag or pannier. What to look for include:
- Gripper elastic keeping the warmer them from sliding down your arms or legs
- Specialised warm/wind-blocking fabrics provide additional warmth and protection from cold winds
- Look for the smaller sizes for women with shorter lengths and smaller openings at the upper arm and leg.
In cooler months, wear longer tights or skins under your bike pants or buy a pair of long bike pants. They will keep you snug as a bug.
You’ve probably seen cyclists wearing Skins. These close fitting garments are typically comfortable, protective and supportive. The engineered gradient compression will also improve your circulation, naturally getting more oxygen to your muscles to help you power on.
Leggings also work but don’t breathe as well.
No, not booties for your baby – for you!! These are like big socks that go over your shoes and keep your feet nice and warm.
Bicycle shoe covers are available in several forms and most models will incorporate heel and cleat cutouts. Common booties or shoe covers include:
- Lycra shoecovers – these offer some wind resistance and keep your shoes in pristine condition. These bike overshoes generally come as one size fits all
- Neoprene booties – this technical fabric is100% windproof and rainproof keeping your feet dry and warm.
- Windtex booties – these are 100% windproof and offer reasonable water resistance. They are semi fitted and have a decent stretch. They do keep your feet warm. Whilst not as waterproof as neoprene booties they are very popular as they are quite warming and “feel nicer” than neoprene.
Not essential, however you can buy cycling specific socks. If you run, you will know the benefits of running specific socks – they tend to prevent blisters, let your feet breathe a bit more and offer a level of comfort. Cycling socks are the same.
It’s understandable that a lot of riders might be taken aback at paying over $20 for socks.
However like many cycle clothing products, underneath their simple styling bike socks are sneakily technical. A good pair of cycling sock are very comfortable. They should offer a supportive, but not constricting fit and the material should feel smooth and soft against the skin.
As you’d expect cycling socks should wick and breathe very well and offer a reinforced toe and heel area.