Every sport has a specific gear that caters to the athlete’s needs and enhances their experience. Cycling is no different, and cycling clothing is a great example of specialized clothing.
Without the proper attire, players of any game cannot perform well enough because clothing hugely impacts the body’s movement.
Be it swimmers, fencers, soccer players, or cyclists; every athlete has to have a particular attire on while playing to give their best performance without compromising their form.
Most non-athletes struggle to realize the importance of sports attire and find them super uncomfortable from afar.
But if people take part in a sport and put on the proper outfit, they’ll know that it is actually unbelievably comfortable and greatly improves performance during play, especially in the case of cyclists.
When people look at cyclists caged in those tight spandex shorts and slim fit jersey, they fail to understand how such a seemingly uneasy attire allows bikers to ride at all. But the fact is that it’s that skinny clothing that enables bikers to ride their bikes effortlessly and give their best shot.
To help people understand why and how the biking attire makes a difference for cyclists and why it is essential to wear such figure-hugging clothes during rides, we decided to put together the ultimate cycling gear guide.
This exhaustive article will not only help you understand the need for the befitting cycling attire but also give you all the necessary information about it so that you can buy and try it out yourself to experience true biking happiness.
- 1 Why are cycling clothes so different and exotic?
- 2 Why are cycling clothes so tight?
- 3 Types of cycling clothes
- 4 Do you need to take any extra care when wearing cycling clothes?
- 5 Is there a difference between Summer and Winter Cycling Clothes?
- 6 Is there any Special Attire for Rain?
- 7 Commuting to work should I wear cycling clothes?
Why are cycling clothes so different and exotic?
As we already know that every sport has its own outfit, which means there is a wide range of sportswear on the market, each unique in its own way. Some sport-specific attires are incredibly close-fitting, while some are loose and airy.
While every sportswear caters to the need of the relevant game, not all look appealing to the eye.
Generally, attires that snugly hug the body are considered a bit lewd, but in the case of biking, that’s not the case even though cycling clothes are one of the tightest clothing articles you’ll find on the sportswear market.
Why is that? Well, for starters, the fabric used to make the cycling attire has a unique appeal to it, it contours according to the body beautifully, enhancing the figure.
Plus, biking attires usually have eye-catching designs and patterns which make the clothing so much more attractive.
Although not all biking outfits have exotic patterns on them, some are also plain with or without contrasting strips. But regardless of the motifs on the spandex slim tights and jersey cyclists generally boast off their biking outfits due to the exclusivity.
With that said, non-cyclists are not a fan of the biking attire due to its fitting. Considering the uneasiness regular people feel upon looking at a cyclist sporting their jersey and shorts, we are going to go over the why behind the fitting of cycling clothes.
Why are cycling clothes so tight?
A biker’s outfit typically consists of two articles that are super tight
- The jersey
- The lycra or spandex bib shorts
While both articles are figure-hugging, they have different reasons for it.
The Cycling Jersey
The cycling jersey snugly hugs a cyclist’s upper body because, during a ride, the body’s temperature rises, leading to excessive sweat secreting from the body, which is released through the tight jersey.
If a cyclist wears a regular t-shirt, the sweat will get absorbed into the fabric, making the person uncomfortable and tainting the overall biking experience. For the body heat to escape, a biker must wear a tight jersey that provides the released sweat space to get away from the body.
Secondly, most biking jerseys come with a zipper that goes down to the navel, which allows bikers to expose their upper body to let the heat out whenever needed.
Cycling shorts are specifically designed with extra padding known as chamois (pronounced shammy) to provide comfort to bikers during rides.
The bike saddle is not the comfiest sitting place in the world. No matter how well-suited a saddle’s design is for the biker’s pelvic region, they cannot sit on it without feeling some level of discomfort in their perineal area.
Therefore, biker bib shorts or the regular shorts are made with extra cushioning using special fabric that keeps a biker’s pelvic and perineal region well-protected.
Moreover, bike tights or shorts are made with a flexible material that fits over the legs snugly to reduce air resistance and allow full range of motion.
Cyclists have to stand the wind while riding a bike, which creates a lot of resistance, making peddling quite challenging. Since bikers have to deal with the oncoming air, they need all the help they can get to tear through it, and snugly fitted clothes give them that support by reducing air friction.
People who bike for recreational purposes in the city where there isn’t a lot of air or resistance, they can ride just fine even without the proper biking gear.
However, if someone is competing in a race, whether in the countryside or city, they must put on the right cycling attire to make the odds in their favor because speeding on a bike requires cutting through the wind, and the proper clothing facilitates that.
Aside from these two main articles of the biking attire, cyclists also wear warmers and base layers to adjust their body temperature according to the weather. Therefore, those are also body fitted.
Cycling clothes are not just tight-fitting; they are also breathable that enable them to regulate the body’s temperature and allow sweat to escape. Simply put, the biking attire uses fitting and breathable fabric to facilitate bikers during rides.
Now that we have gone over the science behind the cycling attire’s tight-fitting let’s dissect it and look at all the components that make up that oh-so-uncomfortable outfit.
Types of cycling clothes
The biking helmet is the most readily accepted aspect of the biking outfit for obvious reasons.
Everyone knows that a helmet is crucial for a biker’s safety. Without one, a cyclist can face dire consequences in the case of an accident, especially when riding a mountain bike.
A bike helmet should be on top of every cyclist’s gear list. Even if they don’t want to spend dollars on the sartorial aspect of biking gear, they must invest in a helmet to reduce the severity of head injuries should they get into an accident.
The good thing about biking helmets is that they are available for every budget. Whether you are short on cash or have enough to splurge on the most high-end kit, you can get a decent helmet for any budget range.
Biker shorts are one of the two principal articles of biking apparel. They are made with breathable material and do not feature seams, especially near the crotch area. Plus, they come with adequate padding to provide bikers with maximum comfort during long rides.
As mentioned earlier, the biking saddle is not like the comfy couch one sits on when watching the TV.
It is possibly one of the most inconvenient seating planes a person’s rear ever comes in contact with; therefore, wearing appropriate lower body clothing is essential to somewhat ease the discomfort.
Bike shorts, whether bib or regular, are designed in such a way that minimizes pressure on a biker’s perineal area, allowing them to ride comfortably for a long while.
People who commute to work on a bike don’t typically wear spandex shorts for the ride because the duration is not much. If a person sits on the bike saddle for extended periods without a befitting legwear, they can face sexual complications and reduced sexual function.
Hence, if you are a beginner biker, try to don the right cycling attire to keep your crotch protected.
Although both varieties of biker shorts have padding to keep the crotch area well-protected, some people prefer bib shorts over the standard ones because the waistband in the latter category can be a little suffocating.
With bib shorts, a person can skirt around that problem, thanks to the suspenders.
The biking jersey makes the other half of the essential cycling apparel. It is typically made of lycra but sometimes also contain traces of merino wool.
Biking jerseys have a high neckline, a zipper on the front, and pockets on the back to store essentials. They also have a dropped hem at the rear to keep bikers protected when leaning forward to streamline through the wind.
Most bike-wear manufacturers market matching pairs of jerseys and shorts to give bikers the option to up their dressing game when pedaling.
Like, bike shorts, jerseys are also made from breathable fabric to let sweat pass through and not get absorbed. They are also, at times, windproof and waterproof to keep a biker safe from the environmental elements.
Gloves are essential for a biker for two reasons. Firstly, a pair of gloves allows cyclists to have a secure grip over the cycle bars. Secondly, it keeps riders safe from the offerings of the weather.
That is, during the winter season, wearing gloves keeps a biker protected from the harsh gales while in the summer season, it stops sweat from coming between the hands and bars and reducing friction; thereby, ensuring a firm grip.
Having gloves on while riding a bike can considerably enhance a biker’s performance.
Biker tights are similar to biker shorts in their construction and fabric choice, but they are longer and completely cover the legs. Tights are ideal for the winter season, and if someone doesn’t want their legs to be exposed, tights offer them the perfect solution.
Bike tights have ample stretchable capacity allowing bikers to ride their bike in a full range of motion while keeping their crotch safe from pressure.
Arm and Leg Warmers
Warmers, as the name suggests, are used to keep the body warm during the chilly weather. Although the temperature doesn’t have to be super low for bikers to wear warmers, any point below 15c/60F warrants the use of arm or leg warmers.
Once you start biking, you’ll realize that even if the environment doesn’t seem too cold when you hop on the bike, it will get hard on the skin if you aren’t wearing warmers. All warmers have a layer of fleece that provides insulation, keeping the respective body parts warm.
There are three types of biking warmers; arm, leg, and knee.
Arm warmers cover a biker’s arms from their wrist all the way to their armpits. The right way of wearing a set of arm warmers is to put it on under your jersey.
Knee warmers are used to protect the thighs and calves while leg warmers run down to the ankles.
They should be worn under the shorts, whereas socks should go underneath them. However, how a cyclist wears warmers is completely up to them; the ways mentioned here are not set in stone. You can wear your biking warmers however you want.
Base layers underneath
A base layer is a piece of clothing bikers wear underneath their jersey to stay dry. Although biking jerseys do not absorb sweat so they don’t typically stick to the body, but they can feel a little uncomfortable on the skin after a while.
Therefore, many cyclists prefer to wear a layer underneath to keep their jerseys from irritating the skin. But that’s only the case when the weather is hot. When the weather turns cold, bikers wear a different type of under-layer that keeps them warm and comfortable.
Summer base layers are usually made of mesh fabrics to keep the body dry while winter base layers are made of a thicker material to trap the heat and keep the body toasted.
Base layers are the most overlooked biking apparel article, especially among newbie bikers. However, once a cyclist starts using base layers, they wear those religiously because otherwise, their body gets uncomfortable.
Cycling jackets are essential when riding in harsh weather conditions. They keep cyclists protected from any oncoming elements such as rain or strong wind.
Although every biking jacket provides protection to bikers, some are specifically designed for particular weather conditions.
The gilet is a sleeveless jacket that is excellent when riding out strong winds.
It is also known as a wind vest and can be folded and stored in a biker’s jersey pocket. The gilet’s ease of storage enables cyclists to use it whenever needed. You can keep it wrapped in your pocket and take it out when the air gets too relentless.
Rain jackets are made from a material known as durable water repellent or DWR, which makes them waterproof.
Thanks to DWR, a rain jacket keeps rainwater and moisture away from the body while allowing sweat to pass. In regions that receive heavy rainfall, having a rain jacket is a must for a biker.
Also known as soft shell jackets, winter jackets have all the qualities of a rain jacket, but they also have an inner layer of fleece to keep the body warm during the chilly season.
Also, some winter jackets come with a dropped hem at the back, otherwise known as long tail, to keep a biker’s lower back safe from the rainwater.
Cycling socks could be the most controversial topic in the world of biking fashion. While every dressing guru believes that socks are an integral part of the biking attire, many have conflicting views about the length of these particular articles.
Biking socks come in varying lengths. You can get ankle socks, but some think they aren’t well-suited for cycling and are better for triathlons.
Then there are the knee-length socks that are deemed unfit for cycling because of their close connection with soccer. And lastly, there are socks that go up to the part of a biker’s legs where the calves start to bulge. According to popular belief, the third kind of socks is the best choice for a cyclist.
If you are just starting out your journey as a cyclist, choose socks from the third lot to maintain an amicable rapport with the cycling fashion experts.
Last but definitely not least, shoes are also hugely important when it comes to riding a bike. If your shoes aren’t right, your pedaling capacity can be severely tapered.
Wearing regular trainers when biking is not the wisest decision one can make because those do not feature a solid sole made of plastic or carbon to facilitate the power transfer from a biker’s feet to the pedals.
Therefore, wearing shoes exclusively designed for biking is crucial while riding in order to have superior control over your leg movement and pedal maneuvering.
There are two types of cycling shoes available in the market; road bike shoes and mountain bike shoes. As the names suggest, both varieties are to be worn when driving the specific cycle.
Aside from all the commonly used biking apparel pieces mentioned in this guide, a biker can also wear a few other articles. Those include
- Shoe covers: Shoe covers are worn over the shoes to keep them dry and dirt-free during the rainy season.
- Sunglasses: Sunglasses are essential when the sun is blazing down fiercely and when there is a lot of dust in the wind.
All components of the biking attire are easy to use and wear. However, there are a few things to consider when putting on cycling apparel.
Do you need to take any extra care when wearing cycling clothes?
Although it’s not a hard and fast rule, a common practice among bikers is to wear biking shorts without underwear. Since cycling shorts are particularly designed to protect the crotch area and keep it seam-free, wearing underwear beneath them isn’t necessary.
Besides giving up the underwear beneath biker shorts, you don’t have to follow any particular directions when wearing cycling clothes. However, you should take care of your cycling clothes after riding your bike by hand, washing them, and allowing them to dry naturally to avoid unfurling the fabric.
Lastly, keep your helmet under the sun or in an open space to let it dry (your sweat can accumulate over the underside) to ensure it doesn’t stink the next time you use it.
Is there a difference between Summer and Winter Cycling Clothes?
Just like regular clothes, cycling clothes are also different from different seasons. You cannot go wearing a half-sleeve jersey and biker shorts during the winter season.
Similarly, you cannot go for a ride with warmers during the summer season. Although design-wise summer and winter cycling outfits are not so different, they are made with different fabrics.
For the winter season, bikers need to wear padded clothes with fleece linings to stay warm and comfortable. For the summer season, bikers have to put on cycling clothes made with light, breathable materials to stay dry and cold.
Aside from winters and summers, people are generally considered about cycling outfits for the rainy season. Let’s see if you need any special attire to bike in the rain.
Is there any Special Attire for Rain?
Like summer and winter cycling clothes, biking clothes for the rainy season are not designed differently.
But they are made with a water repellent fabric for obvious reasons. To ride out the rain, bikers have the option to wear a rain jacket made of a durable water repellent material (DWR). Additionally, they should wear shoe covers to keep their shoes clean and mud-free.
Also, most bike-wear companies release waterproof trousers and jackets every other year. So if you live in an area that receives heavy rainfall, you should get your hands on those pieces to stay dry.
Commuting to work should I wear cycling clothes?
Unless you are competing in a race or riding for long durations, you don’t need to wear cycling clothes.
You can even ride a bike without any clothes at all. That’s right! Some nudist bikers prefer to ride their bikes naked, which is why many countries have naked bike races where people hop on their bikes sans clothes and pedal away.
However, naked biking might not be the best decision when riding a bike to work.
You can wear any outfit you want, but just make sure you are comfortable, and none of your engaged body parts are strained while you pedal. If that happens, consider wearing befitting trousers and jackets over your work clothes to enhance your biking experience without having to show up at work as an athlete.
And there you have it, folks! We have imparted all of our cycling fashion wisdom; now, you can start your cycling journey the right way!
Last Updated on May 7, 2021 by Matthew Carpenter