Most sports and activities, whether it’s running or rock climbing - all have special equipment and clothing, and cycling is no different. There are specific clothing options for both mountain bikes and road cycling. Recommending the right cycling clothing is difficult, as different people cycle differently - for some a bike ride is a 8 hour blast across open moorland and downhill trails, for other it’s a 50 mile road cycling blast, and for others - it’s a short commute into work or cycle to the shops.
The variation in cycling activities means that suggesting one item of clothing does not always work - as everybody’s requirements are different. If you are just nipping down to the shops on your bike, then specialist cycling clothing is not all that important - although we still recommend wearing high visibility cycling clothing.
For those carrying out more strenuous cycling activities, then specialist cycling clothing is a must. The main reason cycling clothing is so important is really simple - it’s all about comfort. Normal clothes cannot be compared to cycling clothes when it comes to keeping you comfortable on a ride, as well as protected from the elements.
Why Cycling Clothing beats Normal Clothing
Cycling clothing has been designed to fit perfectly for when you are leaning over the handlebars. Jerseys, t-shirts and tops have all been designed with longer backs to keep the bottom of your back covered when out riding - and cycling shorts, tights and trousers all have higher waists to ensure coverage as well. The items are also shaped to provide flex on bends, such as around the elbows and knees.
This movement is really important, allowing you to ride to your maximum potential without feeling constrained by clothing. Lycra and stretchy fabrics are used to provide plenty of stretch, flexibility and to avoid chafing.
On top of all this, cycling clothing is also designed to wick sweat away from the body - meaning that you remain at a good temperature, and again comfortable when riding. Outer layers are also designed to be breathable, even when providing waterproof and water resistant properties.
When it comes to cycling shorts and tights, the vast majority has padding of some sort included with the system. The padding protects your body against the often hard saddle of the bike - and padding thickness often varies.
Performance wise, cycling clothing is designed to be tight fitting and aerodynamic - meaning that wearing cycling clothing VS normal clothing allows you to travel at greater speeds, with less wind resistance.
Types of Cycle Clothing
Cycling Shorts are the number one most important item of cycling clothing - as well as providing a comfortable fit for long days in the saddle, these shorts have been designed to prevent chafing - all whilst providing excellent levels of padding to protect your behind from the saddle. There are two main options to choose from, bib shorts (which are held up by braces) and waist shorts, which have a waistline like a normal pair of shorts.
We think that Bib Shorts provide the best performance when out on the bike, as they remain firmly in position - and the lack of a waistband removes the opportunity for discomfort. Lycra cycling shorts are the most popular option, but other materials are also available, especially in the world of mountain biking and gravel biking.
Jerseys are one of the most recognisable items of cycling clothing - with the famous Tour de France using their own famous yellow jersey. Jerseys are designed to provide the most comfortable cycling top available. Jerseys are typically designed like a t-shirt, but long sleeve cycling jerseys are also available. Other design features include a high neck to protect your neck from the sun, a zip at the front (can be full zip or half zip) and some pockets at the rear of the jersey for cycling essentials.
Jerseys are usually made from a mix of synthetic, wicking fabrics - but some also include natural materials such as Merino wool. As jerseys get thicker, there becomes a grey area as to what is a jersey and what is a jacket.
Gloves are another massively important item of cycling clothing. The classic cycling glove has a padded palm, which softens the impact on the hand off the handlebars - soaking up vibrations and rough terrain. As well as making each ride more comfortable, these gloves also provide important protection for the hands in the event of a fall.
If you are one of the hardcore that cycles all year round, then cycling tights will be go to product during the winter months. These tights are made from a thicker material than shorts alone, these tights can be either waist tights, or bib tights. Tights are usually also fitted with padding to protect against saddle soreness.
As well as full length tights, three quarter length tights are also available - which keeps enough weather off the tops of your legs whilst also providing a bit of fresh air and coolness. As you would expect, all cycling tights have been designed to provide plenty of movement, and be comfortable enough to ride in.
Base Layers are an often overlooked piece of kit. Designed to fit between your cycling jersey and your skin - base layers are vital in keeping you warm and dry. As well as adding another layer of insulation, base layers also move the sweat from your body to your jersey - where it can come into contact with the air and become wicked away. Some base layers have extra features such as a windproof fabric built in, which is excellent during the winter months.
A cycling gilet is designed to keep the wind away from the torso of a cyclist's body. These gilets work really well with long sleeve jerseys with spring and autumn months - as well as windproof materials, they can also be made from softshell materials. The front is often a weatherproof material, with the back being a breathable nylon to help prevent your back from getting sweaty.
Arm & Leg Warmers
Arms and leg Warmers are ideal for cold mornings, when you set off cycling. Easy to store away, they slip on and off the legs and arms easily - and provide some important warmth. They take the chill off really well, and can be easily packed up when warm enough.
As mentioned in the jersey category, cycling jackets are heavier outer layers when compared to jerseys. Jackets vary from fully waterproof jackets to water resistant softshell materials. Softshells are a great choice as they are softer than traditional materials, providing plenty of warmth. Again, cycling jackets have been tailored to a specific discipline - so you can expect massive levels of comfort and extra features.
Cycling Socks are another important addition to the cycling wardrobe. These socks are made from sweat wicking fabrics. During the winter months, Merino Wool is the ideal choice which provides excellent thermal properties.
One of the most unique things about cycling shoes is their rigid and stiff sole. These shoes also usually have attachment points to allow the shoes to be clipped into the pedal. Racing style road shoes have cleats in, which make them more difficult to walk in off the bike - and standard road bike shoes are easier to walk in - which makes them great for those riding recreationally only.
What not to wear Cycling
As much as it’s important to wear the right kit when cycling, it’s also important to know what not to wear when cycling. Although the above is a list of what everybody should have and wear - in the second part of this post, we discuss what you shouldn’t wear:
Cycling in jeans is a recipe for chafing and discomfort. As well as jeans having seams which are too thick and which can rub, jeans are not flexible enough to be worn during the full range of motion when cycling. The result is a chunk of hard material wedged between your legs at the back of your knee. If you get caught in the rain in your jeans, you can expect them to also become incredibly heavy, incredibly quickly.
Although this is not strictly an item not to wear - not wearing gloves easily makes it onto this list. Wearing cycling gloves not only protects your hands from the weather, they also protect your hands from the ground in the event of a crash - reducing abrasion and scratches. Gloves also mean that there is some give inbetween your hands and the bike - reducing vibrations which can lead to long term damage.
Wearing baggy clothes when cycling can very quickly make you feel like either a tent or a parachute. As well as ruining your timings and aerodynamic efficiency, baggy clothing can also make a ride uncomfortable. Tighter layers are also more insulating, as they trap warm air VS allowing cold air in.
Avoid wearing old battered trainers which do not protect the feet. It’s also a good idea to avoid laces, as they can get caught in the chain of the bike and cause an accident. Much in the same way that running shoes are designed for running, cycling shoes are best for cycling.
Dark Clothing is not the best item to wear on the bike - instead, choose brighter, reflective or fluorescent clothing which allows you to be easily seen when on the roads, or if you get into a position where somebody needs to find you.
Online Cycling Clothing
At Westbrook Cycles, we stock and supply a massive range of cycling clothing - that we supply online. Working with the world’s best cycling clothing brands, we cater for all budgets and all requirements - meaning you can cycle comfortably, and with confidence. You can view the complete range of clothing across our site - and please do get in touch if you have any questions about the collection.