Cycling clothing guide: 5 ways proper kit can boost your riding

Most activities have specialist kit and cycling is no exception. Get the lowdown with road.cc’sling clothing guide.

Because cycling encompasses everything from nipping to the shops to riding Land’s End to John O’Groats and from riding to work to racing the Tour de France there’s a huge range of specialist cycling clothing. Let us help you decide what you really need.

First off, something you won’t read often in the specialist bike media. You can ride a bike without any special cycling clothing at all. None. Not a stitch. Yes, it’s true: you can ride a bike without Lycra shorts, special shoes, tight-fitting jerseys or even gloves with holes in the back. (In fact the World Naked Bike Rides held in various cities show you can ride without clothes at all, but you’ll get a bit chilly if you try that every day in the UK.)

Full Lycra, full tilt (CC BY-SA Makia Minich https://www.flickr.com/photos/threar/)

If you’re not a hurry, or your journey is relatively short, you really don’t need special cycling clothing. So why do cyclists bother with all that Lycra and Gore-Tex?

In a word: comfort.

Your regular street clothes are fine when you’re not going far or fast and the weather’s good, but for longer rides or when the weather turns nasty, you’ll be a lot more comfortable in cycling clothing.

Woman on bike in normal clothes (CC BY-ND-NC Mister G.C. https://www.flickr.com/photos/mistergc/ )

That doesn’t mean you have to look like Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France, though. Lycra’s great for going fast, but you can get very comfortable cycling gear that doesn’t have that super-tight thing happening.

Why is cycling clothing better?

Castelli Speed suit 3 - on bike

Cycling gear fits when you’re leaning over the handlebar

Fit. Cycling gear is cut to fit properly when you’re leaning forward over the handlebars. That means shirts and jackets have a longer back to keep your lower back covered, and legwear has a higher waist at the back too. To stop your wrists being exposed, sleeves are a bit longer on long-sleeved shirts and jackets, and legwear is shaped with a bends at the waist and in the knee so doesn’t impede pedalling.

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