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Cycling Clothing

Cycling clothing does not differ radically from other outdoor clothing. The concept of layering cycling clothing to wick sweat, insulate, and protect you from the elements still applies. Wearing layers also makes it easy to take off an put on items to regulate your warmth while cycling. Technical synthetic fibres – lightweight polyesters, nylons, and stretch fabrics – move with you and dry quickly.

Photo: François Bergeron

Design Features

  • Breathability – Cycling can be a sweaty activity, especially if you’ve got a hill or two to crank up on the way to work. Open weave fabrics and pit-zips provide the best ventilation.
  • Longer Sleeves – You will be spending a lot of time with your arms extended on the handlebars, and sleeves that hike up your forearms or shoulders are bothersome.
  • Cycling-specific Cut – A cyclist’s crouched riding position can expose vulnerable areas like the small of the back. Cycling tops are cut longer in the back and feature pockets for storing spare tubes, a snack, or wallet.
  • Reflective and Visible – The more visible you are to cars and trucks, the better. Many cycling clothes are designed with reflective stripes and piping. To increase visibility, you can add adhesive reflective stripes to your bike and pack.

Cycling-specific Clothing

Jackets

They come in two main categories: lightweight windshells and waterproof-breathable jackets. For short distances or light rainfall, a lightweight, windproof, and highly breathable jacket is a good choice. These are usually made of a polyester microfibre that has a DWR (durable water repellency) treatment, providing excellent water resistance. Light and compressible, they stow easily in a jersey pocket, or even their own pocket.

For longer distances or heavier rainfall, a waterproof-breathable garment is best. While these jackets are more expensive, less breathable, and a little bulkier, they offer complete protection from the elements. Extra ventilation zippers help garments breathe. Note: Since cycling garb is exposed to a lot of grit and grime, it should be washed and tumble-dried regularly to maintain its performance.

See Maintaining and Restoring Durable Water Repellency.

Shorts and Tights

These protect from chafing that can occur from the continuous leg motion of cycling. Specially designed shorts and tights have a sewn-in padding called chamois (pronounced “shammy”) that covers inside seams and protects vulnerable body parts.

Gloves

Bike gloves padded palms to absorb road vibrations when riding and to prevent road rash in the event of a crash.

Glasses

Wearing glasses when you ride protects you from wind, dust, bugs, low branches, and UV radiation. They should have good ventilation to prevent fogging, and be made from impact- and shatter-resistant plastic. Mountain bikers who ride in the woods should choose clear or yellow-tinted lenses.