Whether you’re brand new to cycling or rediscovering the joys of two-wheel adventuring after a few years, you might be wondering what to wear on a bike ride. For starters, you don’t have to run out and buy a bunch of cycle clothing to enjoy riding, nor do you have to buy stuff to look cool.
Bike-specific clothing can certainly help improve your riding comfort and performance. Also important: Bike clothing can improve your visibility to motorists. But not all bike clothing is designed to call attention to you. Because the “spandex look” isn’t for everyone, a lot of brands are designing bike clothes that can double as streetwear.
Most bike shorts feature stretch fabrics for ease of movement while pedaling. Bike shorts tend to be cut longer than casual shorts, and some bike shorts might have gripper elastic at the leg openings to keep them in place as you pedal.
Speed, distance, smooth tarmac (hopefully) and the open road – these are the things that make road cycling enjoyable, but road cyclists are also exposed to the elements.
And while lightweight Lycra clothing is comfortable and practical to ride in, it doesn’t always provide much insulation or protection from wind and rain.
A waterproof and/or lightweight windproof jacket are essential for rides where the weather is looking even slightly wet. That said, for speed and comfort, close-fitting Lycra kit is hard to beat. It moves with the rider, which minimises chafing from all the repeated pedalling movements.
Comfortable shorts with a good-quality chamois are also worth investing in – nobody wants to be uncomfortable in the undercarriage area.
Padded shorts or tights (worn without underwear), are key pieces of kit when it comes to rider comfort. The stretchy material moves with the rider and is often made from a supportive Lycra fabric.
Cycling legwear comes in different lengths: shorts for warm weather; three-quarter lengths (sometimes referred to as knickers), which are good for transitional seasons; and full-length or tights for cold weather.
All of the above are usually available either as shorts/tights (with a waistband) or as bibs, which means they come with shoulder straps. Bibs stay in position better and have no compression on the waist, so there’s no chance of the waistband rolling down.