Most sports and activities require some kind of specialist equipment—cycling is no different. However, since this pursuit encompasses anything from riding to the grocery store to racing the Tour de France, there’s a broad range of cycling clothes.
So, where does one start?
You can begin by browsing my post below. I’ve included a rundown of bike-specific clothing to help you get to the pages you need to read.
Why You Should Consider Cycling Clothing
Bike-specific clothing is what protects the rider from nasty weather, cold temperatures and other elements Mother Nature decides to throw at them.
If you ever consider going long-distance, such apparel is worth considering—it should make your ride more comfortable.
Keep in mind, though—cycling gear doesn’t necessarily mean you’d have to look like Chloé Dygert or Greg LeMond—you can find plenty of suitable clothing that doesn’t sit skin tight.
To help you decide, here are a few ways cycling clothes may benefit you:
Manufacturers design bike-specific clothing to fit the rider properly as they engage in a forward-leaning position. They’re cut in such a way that jackets and shirts feature a longer back to prevent them from exposing any skin.
Legwear options are mostly high-waisted, particularly toward the back, again, to allow for riding position. Around the knee and waist, they include bends, permitting flexibility as the rider pedals.
If you’ve ever paired a cotton t-shirt with a waterproof jacket while cycling, it soon becomes apparent why bike-specific clothing isn’t made from such material.
Pedaling, whether on the road or tough trails, is a sweaty activity. With materials like cotton, your perspiration will soak into the shirt. As a result, you end up wet and eventually cold.
Cycling gear consists of materials such as Lycra (spandex) and Gore-Tex that removes sweat from your skin and allows it to evaporate.
Waterproof outer layers utilize special fabrics made to shift sweat. They’re breathable materials that prevent rain from entering while allowing perspiration to exit and disperse.
Lastly, we have cycling gloves. These generally include toweling patches at the back for you to wipe your face with when you’re sweating.
Cycling gear is specifically designed to flex with you, especially the legwear. Your lower body is the area that moves the most, so wearing restrictive clothing can tire you faster or prevent smooth movements.
This is why bike-specific clothing is mainly made from Lycra fabric. It offers ample stretch to move with you while preventing chafing or gathering of material. It’ll hug your skin until you remove it.
To be brutally honest, your butt and inner thighs are going to feel sore from cycling. But, this is where having a lump of foam in your pants helps you.
Bike shorts include at least one layer of foam padding inside—some combine several layers—others vary in thickness and density.
The idea is that the foam absorbs the road shock that would, otherwise, reach your butt.
If you’re looking to improve your speed or reduce energy waste, then cycling clothes are worth considering.
Bike-specific clothing makes you more aerodynamic than your regular attire. This is because it sits close to your body, eliminating spare fabric that causes resistance or drag from airflow.
Types of Cycling Clothing
Bike-specific clothing is available as:
- Base layers.
- Arm and leg warmers.
- Cycling rain gear.
Below, I’ve included a brief explanation about each and how to choose.
When it’s cold, tights are a sensible choice to keep you warm and protected.
Cycling tights are longer than your regular pair, extending below your ankles. They’re generally made with thicker fabric and options for padding.
Tights also come with bibs. Now, if you’re as confused as I was when I first heard of it, don’t fret—after all, we usually associate them with babies.
However, on cycling tights, they’re suspenders—extra shoulder straps that prevent the material from sliding down. If you’re still unsure, bibs are akin to a wrestling singlet—or a more modest version of Borat’s mankini.
Three-quarter-leggings are another option. These are longer than shorts, but shorter than tights. I find them handy when temperatures feel too chilly to uncover my knees, but it's too warm for tights.
If you don’t want anything skin-tight, consider cycling trousers or jeans. They’re quite stretchy and usually include pockets and reflective patches. However, you need to cuff up the material so that it doesn’t get stuck in the chain.
You can read everything in my guide on cycling tights.
For many, this clothing item conjures up an image of tight-fitting Lycra that doesn't leave much to the imagination.
And you’re not far off!
Most cycling shorts are cut from a stretchy blend of nylon and Lycra, fitted with padding to protect your butt (and other sensitive areas). Similar to tights, you can choose with or without bibs. They’re designed to hug your thighs and buttocks, fully optimizing your aerodynamics.
Still, it isn’t your only option.
There are less revealing alternatives, which are usually aimed toward mountain bikers, round-town riders and touring cyclists. Such options include relaxed or loose fitting shorts with a bike-friendly cut.
Aussies have famously dubbed them as “shy shorts,” which is a pretty accurate description.
Cycling shorts are my go-to—this is why I’ve made a list of my front-runners.
Generally in the shape of a t-shirt, this item of bike-specific clothing consists of moisture-wicking materials. It’s usually a blend of synthetic fabric and Merino wool.
Cycling jerseys typically have high collars, fitted with a zipper to protect your neck, and pockets on the back for your essentials.
Long or short-sleeved jerseys are common, but you can also find them as sleeveless. The density of the fabric varies—anything from ultra-light mesh to the thicker wind and waterproof materials.
They often come in bright colors or a base hue with vibrant patterns—to keep you visible on the road.
For me personally, a short-sleeved jersey is an essential—my closet is full of them—which is why I’ve picked out my favorites for you to check out.
Heavier outer layers begin where jerseys leave off. With cycling jackets, we usually see three general types:
- Thermal jackets, which are thicker and provide better insulation. These are best for winter or autumn rides.
- Hardshells that offer fully waterproof protection. Although water-repellent, the fabrics are quite breathable, keeping you comfy inside.
- Softshells provide insulation and are highly water-resistant. They’re sort of a mix between the other two—although they’re softer now, they used to be quite stiff.
Jackets are useful, whether it’s windy or cold—feel free to check out my top choices.
As you may have guessed, base layers are items that you wear underneath your jersey. It holds a few important roles. For starters, it moves sweat from your skin to the jersey, keeping you comfier even in hot weather.
A base layer also provides insulation when it’s cold. Merino wool undershirts are fantastic options when the temperature drops. Others offer a layer of windproof material, which is always appreciated when it’s chilly.
For me, a base layer can be a lifesaver on long-distance rides—you can check out my picks.
Arm and Leg Warmers
For those early mornings where you just want a little more coverage, arm and leg warmers are excellent. They’ll fend off any cold winds, and later when the weather heats up, you simply remove them and tuck them in your pocket.
Gloves are steeped in cycling tradition—the classic track mitt included a lightly padded leather palm with a crocheted back and hook-and-loop closure.
Nowadays, however, you have loads of options. Anything from gel padding and stretchy backs, eliminating the need for hook-and-loop, making them easier to put on and off.
You can choose between short and long finger options, depending on the season. Not only will they fend off the cold, but they can also protect your hands if you’re unfortunate enough to fall off.
You can read more in my guide on biking gloves.
With 250,000 sweat glands in our feet, socks are useful for absorbing moisture, protecting our shoes and comfort.
Bike-specific socks consist of thin, moisture-wicking fabrics. They’re usually thicker around the sole, offering slight padding. Merino wool is a top choice in the winter, providing insulation, even while wet. Please check out my guide on cycling socks.
Cycling shoes keep your feet comfy, allowing cool air to enter and improves your power transfer. They often consist of hard soles to minimize flexing, wasting unnecessary energy.
Some shoes include the option to attach cleats (also known as clips) to the soles. They’re used in conjunction with special pedals—your feet are clipped to them.
They do require getting used to, but once you do, you’ll be able to generate more efficient pedaling-power.
Cycling Rain Gear
I know, riding in the rain isn’t for everybody, but sometimes your body is just craving the pedals, and you must give in. However, getting drenched while cycling isn’t that fun.
Cycling rain gear are items that you wear over your clothes. The equipment keeps you dry and protects what’s underneath. If you bike to and from work, this could be a necessity.
You have several options—but the main components include:
- Waterproof jacket.
- Waterproof cycling pants.
- Cycling overshoes.
- Waterproof panniers.
Check out my guide on cycling rain gear.
Bike-specific clothing is an excellent way to increase your comfort during a ride. It’s designed in a way to maximize aerodynamic efficiency while protecting your skin from chafing.
Cycling clothing is generally tight-fitted Lycra and nylon, but less revealing options are available. I hope you found your way to the right pages. If you have questions or something you’d like to see, please leave me a comment below.