How to Choose Your Most Important Cycling Clothes
Like any other sport, cycling has its own style of clothing. Standards have evolved over the years, and riders are always on the hunt for something more useful, comfortable or safe.
Nowadays, cyclists have plenty of choices when it comes to the clothes they wear on a ride. Some gear offers more choice than others, but each main component has some key factors to consider.
Coach Darryl has been through many a jersey and chamois over the years. Here’s what he’s found about the main reasons cyclists choose their cycling clothes.
Serious riders choose their jerseys for many reasons, and there are quite a few factors to consider when it comes to your top. Style may be a concern for you, but the following are much more important:
- Moisture-wicking capabilities: Without good ventilation and quick-dry capabilities, sweat will quickly collect on your torso. Even on cold rides, it can build up and become quite uncomfortable. But, with the right jersey, you can even tackle rides in 100-degree temperatures without getting drenched in sweat.
- Visibility on the road: Being seen should always be a top priority for any road rider, and some colors simply do a better job. Yellows, whites, greens and similar bright colors are much more effective.
- Pockets: Cycling is one of the very few scenarios in which you carry your supplies in pockets above your waist (unless you’re still touting that pocket protector). Because they sit along your lower back, cyclists should choose their pockets carefully and make sure they can fit the right items in the right pockets.
- Jersey length: This is more a matter of preference, but many cyclists favor jerseys that are longer in the back than the front so they don’t ride up in the back. Some even have elastic at the bottom to keep them from flopping around.
- Marketing opportunities: Cycling clubs may offer sponsorship opportunities with paid advertisements, helping defray some of the club’s costs.
Like jerseys, bike shorts come with several factors for consideration:
- Moisture-wicking capabilities: Avoiding sweat buildup down below is just as important as avoiding it up top. Many lightweight, breathable shorts will wick sweat away.
- Aerodynamics and fit: For road cyclists, a tight, aerodynamic fit helps facilitate faster rides — and some riders may simply prefer the snug fit that accentuates their muscles. Off-road, however, a baggier fit may provide more comfort.
- Comfort: As the key contact point between your butt and saddle, shorts can be critical for comfort. The right shape and padding differ for men and women, but finding a good fit is especially important for long rides. Note, however, that this is less of an issue if you choose a comfortable Selle Anatomica tensioned-leather saddle.
- Pockets: Bike shorts don’t generally come with pockets, and you should avoid them anyway. Storing items on your legs would only create potential friction points when pedaling.
- Bib vs. standard shorts: Originally, bike shorts were like traditional walking shorts, designed to secure around the waist. Bib shorts stay on much better by securing over cyclists’ shoulders. Most riders who try them never go back.
- Color: Although there are some other options, Darryl recommends sticking with classic black here. It’s perfect for concealing the chain grease or tire dirt you need to wipe off your hands, and black always prevents any see-through slip-ups.
Cycling shoes are in their own class, as a wrong choice in this department can seriously diminish your comfort on rides. As Darryl says, “bad shoes create bad rides.” Long-distance riders, in particular, need to give careful consideration to their shoes.
When you pedal, you’re putting downward pressure on each foot around 80 times per minute. If your soles have much give to them, you’re going to feel that pressure build where your foot touches the pedal, creating a “hot spot” for pain and discomfort.
That’s why Darryl always recommends doing the sole stiffness test before you buy a pair of cycling shoes. Hold the shoe with one hand on the heel and the other on the toe, and try to bend it by pressing your hands together. If it flexes more than a quarter of an inch (half an inch for mountain riding), you should opt for something stiffer.
“The shoe should make you feel like you’re pushing on a stiff piece of lumber,” says Darryl.
In his decades of doing bike fits for other cyclists, Darryl has heard more complaints about sore or numb hands than any other issue. Getting well-padded gloves can help reduce the frequency and intensity of this problem.
Even if you don’t suffer from hand discomfort, however, gloves shouldn’t be an afterthought. If nothing else, they are invaluable for preventing skinned hands when you take a fall. Let your gloves bear the impact rather than your palms! Choose gloves with good padding and make sure you have them for every ride.
Once you’ve chosen your cycling gear, you also have to make sure it lasts for many rides. Our guide to taking care of your cycling equipment will help you get your washing routine right and prolong the life of your favorite equipment.
You can find more of Coach Darryl’s thoughts over at his website.
Photo by Fat Lads on Unsplash