If you're new to cycling, it can be overwhelmingly difficult to figure out what you actually need from your cycling clothing. We're here with a one-stop guide to cycle gear so that you can make sure you're stocked up with everything you need without going over the top.
Step 1: What Are Your Needs?
Before you spend your life savings on expensive aerodynamic cycling kit, you need to figure out your personal goals and needs. Where are you going to be cycling and why? If you are using your bike to commute to and from work, you might not need dedicated cycle clothing at all. While activewear will definitely serve you better than normal casual clothing, you don't need the extensive technical capabilities that Lycra cycling gear offers if you are cycling gently to and from work each day.
If you are training for your first sportive, then you will definitely want to invest in a good jersey and padded shorts. There are two types of cycling shorts: bib shorts and non-bib shorts. Bib shorts are ones that feature suspenders that go over your shoulders. This is designed to improve comfort and to stop the waistband of your shorts from rolling down while you cycle and keep the cycling shorts locked in place. These are the shorts of choice when cycling more seriously or over longer distances.
Step 2: When Will You Be Cycling?
A lot of athletes, even professionals, will admit to being 'fair weather cyclists'. This means giving cycling on a windy rainy day a pass and only donning the Lycra for a sunny day in the saddle. If this is you, and there is absolutely no shame in it, then you won't need to invest in winter cycling gear such as arm and leg warms or even a thermal jersey. If you prefer just to go cycling in the summer on pleasant days, you will be fine with just a simple training jersey and bib shorts.
However, if you do enjoy cycling in sub-zero temperatures or needs must because you commute by bike year-round, then you will want to invest in some heavier gear. Arm and leg warmers are typically worn during changeable spring and autumn weather but can also offer an extra layer of insulation under a long sleeve jersey or jacket or under bib tights. A thermal jacket will also be invaluable when the temperature drops below zero and a good one will protect against both rain and wind too.
Step 3: Figure Out The Essentials
Below is a list of essential cycle kit that most if not all cyclists will need as the basics.
- Short sleeve cycling jersey
- Padded bib shorts
- Sports bra (for women)
- Cycling socks
- Cycle gloves
The below list outlines cycling gear extras which you may or may not need depending on the criteria above.
- Cycling arm warmers
- Cycling leg warmers
- Cycling skull cap
- Long sleeve jersey
- Thermal cycling jacket
- Cycling gilet
- Bib tights
The more serious you get about cycling, the more kit you'll need. If you are a complete beginner, keep it simple and just stock up on the essentials. A good cycling jersey will feature sizeable pockets to the back which will allow you to store valuables such as keys and phone as well as fuel provisions for long rides. Some jerseys feature a zip pocket for added security as well as reflective detailing for cycling in low light.
What To Look For In Cycle Clothing
If you're new to cycling, you won't necessarily know what you need from your cycle clothing. Read on for a comprehensive guide on what to look for in your cycle clothing and detailed information on the best features different pieces of cycle kit should include.
A good cycling jersey will feature pockets to the back, usually three, which are large enough to store an array of food and fuel for long rides as well as your smart phone and valuables such as keys. Good jerseys will feature a zip pocket for added security and peace of mind as well as reflective detailing for safety when riding in low light.
You should expect your cycling jersey to feature some grip to the arms so that they don't roll up as you move as well as grip to the hem for the same reason. The main point of wearing Lycra cycling gear is for aerodynamic purposes and so you want all edges and trim to be neat and tidy, not rolling up and distracting you while you cycle.
Bib shorts are padded cycle shorts that feature suspenders that go over your shoulders to stop the top of the shorts from rolling over and causing discomfort. Good suspenders on your bib shorts will be long enough not to be restrictive to your shoulders or overall movement. They should be soft and made of high quality breathable material.
Bib shorts should always feature silicone grippers to the bottom of the legs to stop them riding up for comfort and aerodynamic purposes.
Arm and leg warmers
Arm and leg warmers are worn in changeable weather when you might head out on a cold morning but after a couple of hours in the saddle you're sweating buckets and need to remove a few layers. A good pair of arm or leg warms will feature silicone grippers to the top so that they stay in place. You should also look out for leg warmers that feature zips to the bottom so that the fit can be personalised to you for added comfort. Make sure they are made from sweat wicking material so that they don't make your arms and legs end up drenched in sweat.
Thermal cycling jacket
A good cycling jacket will protect you against both the wind and the rain. Look out for water resistant materials that will protect you from the elements and keep you comfortable. Any good thermal jacket will also keep you warm in sub-zero temperatures, otherwise you might as well just wear a long sleeve jersey. If you're going to fork out for a heavy-duty jacket for deep winter, make sure it's going to do its job properly and stop you from feeling the cold in as low as -10 degrees Celsius.