What you wear while riding your bike can have a huge impact on how much you enjoy the overall experience. There is a reason why avid cyclists swear by certain brands, styles, or can’t hit the road in just any old pair of shorts. Years of experience and engineering have gone into making cycling clothes that are comfortable and functional. That being said, it can be a bit tricky to navigate all the expensive gear available. And depending on how serious of a cyclist you are, your needs will vary significantly.
Here are some guidelines to get you started when selecting bike riding outfits for your next expedition:
1. Bike jerseys
Now you can certainly find plenty of torso-hugging jerseys, but it is more important that they are made of a reliable form-fitting material rather than tight enough to be considered a second skin. This fit helps reduce drag when you ride and the technical fabrics, of which most jerseys are made, also enhances performance by wicking away sweat to keep you drier.
Likewise, bike jerseys have other special cycling-specific features. These bike riding outfits include shoulder cuts and sleeves designed for a forward leaning stance, in addition to longer cuts and back pockets for easy on-to-go access.
2. Bike shorts
Unlike regular shorts, bike shorts incorporate stretch for a fuller range of motion and a padded crotch liner to reduce friction and help you feel more comfortable in the saddle. If you’ve never spent much time on a bike, you might not fully appreciate the value of padded shorts, but it likely won’t take you long to be singing their praise. For the best possible experience, try on several pairs to determine which is truly best for your anatomy.
3. Bike tights
If you’re riding in cooler temperatures, you might require bike tights of leg warmers in addition to your regular bike riding outfits. Just like shorts, many tights come with a built-in chamois and should be chosen using the same guidelines for fit and comfort. As an added bonus, tights often include weather-resistant front panels and reflective detailing for dark, winter rides.
4. Cycling jackets
Cycling jackets are also specifically engineered to keep you comfortable on a bike and accommodate the stance you will riding in. You always want to make sure that your pick out something waterproof that offers wind protection but remains lightweight. It is also worth looking into jackets that can be converted into a vest via zip-off sleeves. These bike riding outfits are super handy as they are suitable for year-round use.
5. Layers, layers, layers
Speaking of lightweight, you always want bike riding outfits are will be easy to take on and off and store over the course of a ride. Layering your clothing will mean that you can maintain a consistent core body temperature while you ride. It is important to remember that being too warm can be just as bad as being too cold because your body wastes energy at both extremes trying to regulate itself.
To dress according to the 3 traditional components of layering, go with the following: a next-to-skin layer (e.g., long underwear) that wicks away moisture, an insulating middle layer, and a weatherproof or windproof outer shell. This should leave you prepared for just about anything.
6. Cycling shoes
Bike shoes can get pretty technical depending on what level you’re riding at. If you’re just starting out though, or are a commuter or casual rider, you’re likely with any “sport” style shoe that will also be appropriate in the office or coffee shop. Those looking to up their road cycling game are going to need a lightweight, aerodynamic model, while mountain bikers need something with a durable sole that offers ample tread should they need to grip the trail. Shoe covers are also a good investment if you’ll be riding in cold or wet conditions.
7. Added accessories
Whenever you are buying your next bicycle, make sure you take time to browse through the bike gears and accessories as well. From special socks, to caps, gloves and arm warmers, there are plenty of other accessories you can pick up to make your ride even more comfortable. Caps will help keep your head warm in the winter, while a simple sweatband might be more appropriate for summer rides. Gloves should likewise be selected primarily according to the temperatures you will be riding in.
As surely many will be relieved to hear, you don’t need to be dressed in Lycra from head to toe in order to be comfortable on a bicycle. Especially if you’re just using your bike to get around town or two and from work, it might not even be necessary to change your clothes at all. That being said, for longer rides you will definitely be more comfortable in cycling clothing and thankfully, you have plenty of options. Lycra is great if you’re hoping to go really fast, but there is also lots of great cycling gear that isn’t skin-tight.