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Cycling Clothing


Bike clothing for different bike styles

The bike clothing used by riders will depend largely on the type of riding they do. For example mountain bikers and BMXers tend to opt for baggier, free-flowing shorts and t-shirts, whilst road riders will be in form-hugging Lycra. Triathletes and track cyclists will differ again, usually wearing aerodynamic body suits. Different again might be the commuter, who wears on the bike exactly what they wear in the office, just perhaps minus a layer or two to protect from the elements. And let’s not forget the rider who’s just taking the bike down to the shops or market, and will cycle in the same outfit that looks just at home down the street, queuing in the bank or lushing in the park.

It depends on the season in which you’re riding, but if you want to dress for the part then you are likely to need any or all of the following:

Cycling base layer

The whole idea of a base layer is to help keep your body temperature regulated. As such it should be worn year-round because in winter it will help warm you up, and in summer it will help keep you as cool as possible. When it’s cold outside opt for a base layer that is made from a heavier weight fabric, and even consider full arm length. Conversely as the Mercury rises, look at a lighter weight fabric and opt for a singlet style or short sleeve.

Cycling bib shorts, knicks or shorts

Let’s pay homage to the chamois here, because it’s largely the difference between a sufferfest or smooth sailing down in the nether regions! The difference between bib shorts and knicks is basically the former comes complete with over-the-shoulder straps that ensure the shorts are kept in place no matter what the position of the rider. They’re also preferred by cyclists who don’t like to have the feeling of anything sitting around their waists, as is the case for standard knicks.

Mountain bikers and BMXers will tend to avoid Lycra and bib shorts and instead opt for traditional more free-flowing shorts.

Cycling jersey

This is basically the riding top. A quality cycling jersey will be form fitting and feature generously sized pockets at the back (in which the rider can place everything from a hand pump and spare tube to nutrition, phone, keys etc). The front zipper usually zips all the way down the jersey although some still finish about chest length. Often riders are very fastidious about ensuring their jersey and shorts match, and come as a complete and coordinated kit.

Cycling gilet

Year-round riders appreciate the importance of a gilet, or a vest, which is short sleeved and designed to remove that first chill in Autumn and Spring, as well as any bite delivered by a nasty wind. A good gilet should be water proof and wind proof.

Cycling jacket

You’re wearing a cycling jacket because the weather is not great, otherwise you’d just be in a jersey and bib shorts. As such you’re looking for a jacket that will keep you as warm and dry as possible. Fabric still needs to ideally be breathable (look for mesh inside, and or breathing panels) as riding is exercise, and exercise usually results in sweating. A jacket that can do this and remain waterproof is going to sit at the pointier end of the cost pyramid. Often cycling jackets will have a lower back so that more of the rider’s lower body is protected when it’s wet and the wheels are flicking back water from the road.


Cycling shoes are usually sold separately to cleats, so if you’re new to riding you’ll need to invest in both. When it comes to shoes on the market, your options are almost as varied as they are in the mainstream world of fashion. Some shoes might have a Velcro panel that folds over the top of the foot – this is a style preferred by triathletes, for example, as it makes their transition from the swim to the bike, and from the bike to the run as fast as possible. Another style is a classic ratchet system that enables the rider to dial the tension in or out. A more recent trend has seen the resurgence of the classic shoestring – literally bike shoes with laces that are tied into a classic bow.


There’s a war out there, and it’s all about socks! Purist road cyclists will argue that a cycling sock needs to sit high – somewhere around the top of the lower third of the leg, or near the middle of the calve. Whether you prescribe to fashion bibles or not, you’ll need to take the same approach here as you would when wearing socks in everyday occasions; thicker and warmer in winter, lighter and cooler in summer.


There are essentially two types of road cycling gloves – short fingered or full fingered. The reason is obvious; you’d wear the former in summer and the latter in winter. Look for other features such as material that’s great for mopping sweaty brows, and pull-systems that enable you to remove the gloves easily without looking like you’re having a wardrobe malfunction. If you’re looking for full fingered gloves then you obviously want to be riding in cold and/or wet weather. Some gloves may only be waterproof, not necessarily warm, and if that’s the case then you should get a slightly larger size so you can wear warm gloves underneath them.

Cap (for road riders only)

Used to soak up perspiration from the head and originally used to help make the cyclist stand out more (back in the day when helmets were not mandatory for pro cyclists), a cycling cap is also very much a fashion statement. It features a tiny lip that can be inverted to flip, or sit normally.

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