Guide to Cycling Clothing
The right clothing can make all the difference between a comfortable, enjoyable ride and a ride that you can’t wait to end. Cycling specific clothing is made differently than other clothing in two main ways. First, bicycle clothing is made of breathable material that transfers sweat away from your body. Second, bike clothes are cut to fit correctly in the cycling position. This guide will help you determine just what you should be looking for to maximize your ride.
We’ve all probably thrown a t-shirt on for a ride at one point, but there’s a good reason you see serious cyclists wearing jerseys. Jerseys are key for repelling moisture, ventilation, and wind resistance.
Most jerseys are made of polyester, which repels moisture instead of absorbing it. Another key feature of jerseys to pay attention to is the zipper. Zippers provide ventilation—the longer the zipper, the more possible ventilation. If you’re mainly hitting the road and looking for speed, you’ll want to look for a jersey with an elastic hemline for wind resistance. The following are some other features to pay attention to:
- Back pockets (on-the-go access!)
- Long cut in back (coverage even when leaning)
- Reflective highlights or trim (perfect for dusk/night riding)
- Collar style (stand up collars prevents painful sunburns)
Bike shorts may look like a simple article of clothing, but with thousands of options out there, it’s important to understand the high-tech components of a good short.
The general rule has been the more panels, the more comfortable the short. This is still widely true, but you may find a short with fewer panels that is more suited to your body. The only way to find out is to try them out (that’s why we’re here!). Generally, a short with 6-8 panels will mean greater curvature and a more natural fit. When looking at the panels on a short, make sure the seams are flat to prevent chafing. Some shorts will also come with leg grippers to prevent ride-up.
Nobody enjoys saddle sores, so to help prevent them shorts will include padding to protect against friction, which in turn protects against chafing. Padding will differ by gender and by thickness. The thickness is primarily personal preference, and can best be determined by trying on a variety of styles. Look for the following types of padding:
- Multi-density/open-cell: for your serious road biker, this style provides long distance comfort and high-end performance
- Gel/open-cell: suitable for recreational or mountain biking, these offer great cushioning but less breathability
- Foam/Closed-cell: economical choice that provides good performance for more recreational riders.
Short shorts (3-5 in) are primarily used for triathlons and cross training. Medium length (6-8 in) is what you will find most riders using. The longer shorts (9-11 in) were the traditional racing short, but due to improvements in leg grippers, this length is no longer necessary to prevent ride up.
When cycling, you want to toss your cotton socks aside. Synthetic materials (i.e. polyester or nylon blends) will wick away the moisture that can lead to blisters in summer and cold feet in winter. Some cyclists swear by compression socks that stabilize muscle tissue and reverse the effects of fluid build-up. While there is no proven benefit to performance, studies have shown that compression socks provide clear benefits during recovery.
The following are general rules to shoes, but come on in and let us help you find a shoe perfect for you and your riding style.
Road cyclists: look for shoes with a slick sole that are lightweight and aerodynamic
Mountain bikers: look for a thicker, durable sole with treads that will grip the trail.
Commuter/Casual rider: look for a “sport” style that will perform well as a cycling shoe, but also looks more like a street shoe. This will make the transition from bike to office/coffee shop much easier.
The best way to find the best clothing for you is to come try out various brands and styles. You want your cycling clothing to fit like a second layer of skin—too much movement and space can easily lead to sores and blisters. Don’t let your clothing choices get in the way of an enjoyable ride!