How to choose bicycle clothing
How to decide what bicycle to buy: Read our guide to find out which bicycle will be the right choice for you.
How to Choose Bike Clothing right
Comfortable bike clothing makes for a comfortable ride, whether you are on the road, hitting the trail or commuting to and from work. The right bike clothes can help you perform better, ride longer or simply enjoy the world whilst you are on 2 wheels.
Here are a few things to consider.
Cycling Jerseys, Shorts and Tights
For anything beyond casual rides around town, you will appreciate cycling-specific styles.
A bike jersey of Lycra® spandex or other form-fitting material reduces drag when you ride. This does not mean, however, that you need to squeeze yourself into a skin-tight top covered in corporate logos just for a trip to the corner shop.
Many brands offer cycling jerseys that look and feel very much like regular T-Shirts and tops but include a few ideally placed pockets and zips. Their technical fabrics help to improve performance by wicking away sweat to keep you feeling more comfortable.
Stand–up collar to shade your neck in summer (or seal in body heat in cool weather).
Front zipper for ventilation when your temperature rises.
Shoulders cut wider for arms–forward comfort.
Sleeves specially shaped for forward lean.
Back pockets for easy access.
More body-hugging cut to reduce flapping.
Longer at the back for coverage when leaning over and riding.
Some clothing will also have a reflective trim or highlights for night riding.
Additional features for winter riding:
Long sleeves for more warmth and coverage.
“When your legs scream stop and your lungs are bursting, that’s when it starts. That’s the hurt locker. Winners love it in there” – Chris McCormack
These are distinguished from street clothing primarily by 1) added stretch for full freedom of movement, and 2) a padded crotch liner to reduce friction and help wick sweat. If possible, try several on to determine what style best fits your anatomy and your typical seat position whilst riding.
Road-bike short features:
Panel construction: In the past, a greater number of panels (typically 6 or 8) correlated to a more comfortable fit. While this is still generally true, fabric technology has recently progressed to the point that the number of panels doesn’t necessarily mean “better” for everyone.
Padded liner: A smooth, soft pad of “chamois” (these days, all are synthetic and not leather) minimizes friction, wicks moisture, prevents bacterial growth and helps cushion bumps. It’s the most complex part of a bike short. Suffice to say you’ll find a multitude of shapes, thicknesses and materials among brands and genders. Some general guidelines:
Multi-density, open-cell foam liners deliver high-end performance and comfort for long rides.
Gel/open-cell foam liners offer greater recreational or mountain-bike cushioning but tend to be less breathable on long, hot rides.
Closed-cell foam liners offer good performance at a lower cost.
Legs: Longer-cut legs and leg grippers prevent saddle chafing and keep shorts in place.
Waist style: Most road shorts feature stretchy but non-adjustable spandex. A yoga-style cut offers less-restrictive comfort and is available in some women’s shorts.
Also worth a mention: All of the bike-short padding in the world will not make up for an uncomfortable or poorly adjusted bike seat.
Other styles of bike shorts include:
Mountain bike shorts: Sometimes called “baggies,” these have a loose outer short in addition to the spandex chamois liner. The waist is fastened by a button or hook-and-look patch for loose-fitting comfort. Pockets are also common. Choose these by their features and quality of construction, but also make sure the cut of the outer shorts feels comfortable and allows for full leg rotation and flexibility.
Bib shorts: Popular with cycling enthusiasts but a comfortable option for any rider, these don’t have an elastic waistband that can restrict breathing. Worn with a jersey, they look like any other bike shorts.
Skorts: For women, some brands make cycling skorts, where the spandex short is covered by a skirt. Skorts can be worn on the road, mountain or even around town.
Bike Tights, Knickers and Leg Warmers:
For cooler temperatures, you may opt to purchase cycling tights, which cover the entire leg, or knickers, which cover the knee and above. Just like shorts, many tights and knickers come with a built-in chamois and should be chosen using the same guidelines for fit and comfort. Tights often include weather-resistant front panels and reflective detailing for dark, winter rides.
For layering purposes, some tights and knickers come without a chamois liner so they will fit over a pair of cycling shorts with no problem. Additionally, leg warmers are a handy cycling accessory that can be used to make a pair of cycling shorts into tights or knickers on the fly.
The top 2 considerations when selecting a cycling jacket: Will it keep me warm? Will it keep me dry? Some cycling jackets will do both, but it is good to keep the following in mind:
How warm is warm? The jacket you select for winter riding in California, will probably be different than the one you would use for winter riding in Siberia. The level of warmth you are seeking depends on the extremity of the conditions. But do not overdress; you will warm up from exertion during your ride. Jackets for maximum warmth will protect you against the wind and offer some insulation, mostly in the front and arms of the garment.
How much rain is forecast? For rainy days, you will want a waterproof cycling jacket. These provide a longer back and sleeves cut for a forward lean; some offer an oversized hood that fits over a helmet. While these often offer less insulation (which can be offset by layering) and are less breathable than other jackets, they will keep you dry if you’re caught on a long, wet ride.
Not sure what to expect? For milder winter conditions, it’s best to go with a highly breathable waterproof or water-resistant jacket. These are typically made of lightweight materials that offer varying degrees of wind and water protection, and they can be easily stowed in a shirt pocket or pack when not in use. This is great if you want to hit the road or trail in short sleeves, but need a backup just in case. Additionally, some cycling jackets can be converted into a vest via zip-off long sleeves. This feature makes for a particularly versatile jacket that can be used year.
Layering Your Clothing
For cool-season rides, long-sleeve jerseys, tights or warmers can all increase your comfort. Layering your clothing offers another good option.
The goal of layering is to keep your core body temperature consistent as you ride. Being too warm can be just as bad as being too cold because your body wastes energy at both extremes trying to regulate itself.
The 3 traditional components of layering:
1) A next-to-skin layer (e.g., long underwear) that wicks away moisture.
2) An insulating middle layer.
3) A weatherproof or windproof outer shell.
Bike Shoes and Socks
If using clipless pedals, choose shoes that work with your cleats (typically SPD or Look-style) and match your riding style.
In recent years, the variety of options in cycling shoes has exploded. For the commuter or casual rider, consider a hybrid style that acts like a cycling shoe but looks like a casual “street shoe,” perfect for the office or coffee shop. For the mountain biker, look for a shoe with a durable sole that offers ample tread to grip the trail if needed. Road cyclists should seek a lightweight, aerodynamic model with slick soles.
For wet or rainy rides, toe covers (which cover the shoe from arch to toe) or shoe covers (which cover the entire shoe and part of the ankle) are a great way to ensure your toes stay toasty. Both offer some wind protection or insulation, and many shoe covers will offer water protection, too.
For chronic cold toes or mud puddles and stream crossings, toe covers will probably do the trick. For more inhospitable conditions, consider the full shoe cover. Both should fit snugly over your cycling shoe, but be able to be pulled on and off with little difficulty.
Your feet can produce as much as a cup of perspiration when you are pedalling hard. In winter, this can lead to cold feet. In summer, it can mean blisters unless you wear synthetic or merino wool socks that help wick the perspiration away. Avoid cotton socks for all but light workouts.
Note: Wool is a surprisingly good alternative to socks made out of synthetic materials (such as polyester or polypropylene) for summer or winter riding. It is not only wicking, quick-drying (for the summer) and insulating (for the winter), but it does an exceptional job of insulating while wet, which is perfect for those who enjoy the occasional stream crossing or unexpected rainstorm.
Bicycle Accessory Items
Helmet: Don’t ride a bike without one. In addition to saving your skull, a helmet provides warmth in winter and shade in summer. Some models come with as many as 21 vents to channel air through the helmet for excellent heat control.
Caps: These add insulation to your winter rides, while a headband or a thinner skullcap can serve as a sweat barrier and help wick moisture for a cooler head during summer riding.
Sunglasses: Protect your eyes against wind, sun glare, bugs and sand or grit kicked up by other riders or cars. Always use plastic lenses that cannot shatter on impact. Many sunglass manufacturers also offer styles with interchangeable lenses, featuring different lens colours to match the light conditions. They are ideal for those who prefer one pair of glasses for all seasons. Also, be sure to try on the glasses with your helmet on for a good fit.
Bicycle Gloves & Other Bits
In summer, gloves with short-cut fingers are the popular choice. Your gloves should also have a padded leather or synthetic-leather palm and moisture-absorbing terry cloth for dabbing sweat or a runny nose. For cold-weather rides, a pair of wicking, breathable, full-finger bike gloves are a must. Most gloves also offer some protection against the wind. For maximum warmth, consider using a thin liner inside the glove.
These provide a little extra warmth while taking up minimal space in a shirt pocket or pack. Each is essentially a sleeve that fits over your arms or legs to cover exposed skin. Most are made out of synthetic materials such as fleece or natural insulators such as wool. Arm warmers and leg warmers should be slid on under the jersey and shorts and fit snugly to avoid slippage during a ride. When temperatures rise, they can be easily slipped off and packed away without having to unbutton, unzip or change anything