This is the bare minimum of cycle clothing you should have in your wardrobe.
Getting started with cycling is as easy as riding a bike, literally. But before you jump on your bike and start pedalling away, it’s important to ensure that you’re correctly attired.
If you’re serious about cycling, jeans and a T-shirt often won’t cut it. It’s not actually even about ‘serious’. Even fairly brief rides on a bike can end up being uncomfortable without a couple of bits of specific clobber.
To give you a good idea of what you should be wearing when riding, we’ve put together this handy list of essential cycling apparel.
Close-fitting to reduce chafe as well as supporting muscle mass to reduce fatigue and aid recovery. The inner pad liner (sometimes called a chamois) is vital to this garment. It’s this pad that makes cycling hugely more comfortable. A chamois is much more important than your saddle.
Baggy shorts are popular with mountain bikers and leisure. This is mainly because the pure skin-tight lycra look is not a look that these riders feel comfortable with. Baggy over-shorts are also tailored to have a cycling-specific cut with a higher rise at the back and pre-shaped hems and so on.
The bare minimum you should have is a pair of liner under-shorts that you can wear under any of your other normal clothes.
Do not wear underwear under your cycling shorts. They are designed to fit against the skin and all your delicate areas.
This is not just to keep your hands warm – although that is definitely one of the benefits.
The idea of cycling gloves is bit like that of the chamois in a pair of cycling shorts; having a bit of specific fabric between your skin and the contact point on the bike makes things massively more comfortable. No chafing. No raw bits. No pressure points.
Gloves are about comfort and gloves are about control. Gloves offer a consistent grip on the bars and the other controls. Better bike handling,. Safe bike handling. Gloves deal with skin moisture and sweat, preventing it from interfering with your grip and control.
Even for riders using flat pedals, there are specific cycling shoes available. Essentially flat pedal shoes offer more stiffness than regular trainers and they have soles specifically designed to mate well with flat pedals. The difference between riding in trainers or running shoes compared to a pair of cycling-specific flat-pedal shoes is immense. You will feel much more connected to the bike and have greater pedalling efficiency.
Then they are cycling shoes designed to work with specific clip-in pedals. Think: ski bindings. Clip-in, twist-out. These shoes are stiff soled and have holes underneath for attaching a pedal cleat to. Being clipped into your pedals does wonders for your pedalling efficiency. There’s a reason why road cyclists all use clip-in pedals. It makes it easier.
Being clipped in an also help mountain bikers stay on their bikes when riding over the really rough stuff.
A cycling jersey has three main roles: to fit properly whilst cycling, to deal with sweat and for storing a few things.
On the road, a close-fitting jersey that doesn’t flap about is a good thing. It’ll stay warmer when it’s cold. It will work to keep you cooler when it’s hot. Cycling jerseys are tailored to fit well when you’re on the bike and pedalling; raised front hem to prevent bunching up and dropped lower hem to keep your lower back covered when hunched over.
Three pockets on the back are super useful for carrying immediate supplies, a spare clothing layer and snacks etc.
Some mountain bikers aren’t overly bothered about close-fitting, nor indeed having pockets on the back. But they are concerned with sweat management and on-bike tailoring.
The above qualities of a cycling jersey can be echoed here but with the added feature of extra weather protection.
Cycling jackets are tailored specifically for cycling in and offer a barrier against the wind and often the rain too.
Some are more breathable than others – a quality that is typically reflected in the price tag.
Roadies want protection from road spray. They also want protection from the buffeting drafts that accompany riding at speed.
Mountain bikers mainly want to stop filth getting thrown up from the trail and into their eyes.
Cycling specific eyewear factors in a numberof things: lens tint, riding position, venting, large coverage and having to have arms that don’t clash with helmet straps and retention bands too.
Speaking of helmets. Get a helmet.
We’ll not bore you with the safety aspect. Cycling is overwhelmingly a safe and healthy thing to do. But you might crash sometimes. Or someone may knock you off. So wear a helmet.
Wearing a helmet is the norm. It looks odd when you see a cyclist not wearing one.
Modern helmets are amazing things. They’re so light and vented that you quickly forget you’re wearing one. A helmet is a nice finishing touch to a cycling outfit.
What is the bare minimum you should buy?
Leisure riders: cycling shorts and a helmet.
Regular riders: all of the items listed above.
Racers: all of the items listed above x 2