The Complete Guide to Clothes for Road Cycling
All weather. All seasons. All rOADIEs. This is the complete guide you need, no matter whICH ROADS YOU ride.
Cyclists can seem like a bit of a mystery from the outside. The roadies, in their skin-tight, super bright lycra. The BMXers in their jeans and often with no helmet (though, we don't condone this!). And the mountain bikers with their full-face, and elbow, and knee/shin protection. But there is method to the madness! And, for anyone getting into any type of biking - or looking to take it to the next level - getting the right gear can be the difference between sticking with cycling and giving it up.
This guide will go through the gear used by road cyclists so you know what you need, what you can splurge on later, and what will make the biggest difference to you. It's geared towards more beginner cyclists, but we've packed tons of what we know into it!
For guidance about winter road cycling apparel, skip to the bottom of the page.
Clothing for road Cycling
Summer Road Cycling Apparel
The road cycling apparel you need to wear varies widely depending on the weather. In the summer, you'll likely be kitted out with:
We've made this list in order of importance for the majority of riders. If you're staggering your apparel purchases over time - you might want to work your way down the list!
(That said, every rider is different so if you have particular concerns or areas of discomfort, prioritize that!).
HELMETS FOR ROAD CYCLING
A helmet should be a non-negotiable for cyclists, no matter what you're riding. It is never worth the risk of riding without one.
We really recommend that you come in-store when choosing a helmet, especially if it's your first. The fit makes all the difference and different helmets fit differently.You will want to find out what works for you.
That said, here are the considerations when choosing a helmet for road cycling:
MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. It's a technology that is included in some helmets that offers additional protection by reducing rotational forces to the head in some circumstances.
You can read more about MIPS in helmets here.
The amount of ventilation in your helmet may not make an enormous difference at very social paced rides. But if you plan on working hard, ventilation can make or break your ride.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: DO YOU NEED CHAMOIS SHORTS?
If you prefer shorter bursts of cycling (an hour or less), you can likely get away with not wearing chamois shorts. But, you're almost always likely to be more comfortable wearing them than if you're not.
Chamois shorts are designed to stave off or lessen the severity of most of the 'saddle sore' category of ailments. Saddle sores are a range of skin conditions and inflammation in the genital/pelvic region caused by moisture, friction, and pressure to that area from the bike saddle.
Long story short: Chamois shorts let you ride comfortably for longer.
Choosing Chamois Shorts
Chamois shorts are available at a range of pricing points that vary based on quality of materials, bulkiness of the chamois, and brand. If it's your first pair, it is probably worthwhile heading into a store to try on a few pairs. You might be surprised by how different the brands can feel! Sizing does vary brand-by-brand too.
Are bib shorts Better for cycling?
The major benefit of bib shorts is that they hold everything in place. This minimizes the risk of saddle sores and chafing - and it can help stave off the dreaded plumber's crack. They also aren't as tight as chamois shorts around your stomach. Since the shoulder straps are responsible for keeping the chamois in place, there's no need for the tight strip around your stomach. This makes them more comfortable for most riders, especially if you tend to bloat on long rides or if you like to enjoy a meal on longer rides.
But, they aren't the perfect solution for every rider. The straps aren't adjustable, so bib shorts don't always suit very tall riders or riders with shorter torsos. They do also make bathroom breaks a little more complicated. Men can usually wrestle their way around the material. But ladies - you will need to remove the shoulder straps to relieve yourselves.
Quick Tip: Don't wear underwear under your chamois shorts.
The chamois is designed to reduce the amount of friction, particularly around the sensitive skin 'down there'. By adding underwear into the mix, you're undoing all the benefits of reduced friction. In fact, you might even make things worse!
Should you clip in when riding your road bike?
To Clip into your Pedals or Pedal on flatS, that is the question.
Many experienced cyclists swear by clipless pedals - those are the pedals you clip into. They give you the power to go faster, for longer, and feel stronger.They breathe well, keep your feet connected so you don't end up with a pedal in your shin. They also mean you will occasionally fall (very publicly) when you can't get your feet unclipped in time.
So, is it worth it?
Yes... if speed and distance are important to you.
Whether or not you clip in is entirely your personal preference. Feel free to use flat pedals until you're 'ready'. When you are ready, feel free to take advantage of pedals that let you unclip faster and easier.
To prepare for the switch, it's a good idea to practice riding in a way that limits your need to unclip. Get used to slowing down and cruising up to red traffic lights so you don't actually stop and put your foot down. The same goes for intersections. The less you need to set your feet on the ground, the easier it will be to adjust to clipping into your pedals. You can use them on a trainer first to get used to clipping in and out without the risk - if you want.
A less conventional route to conquering clipless pedals is to use mountain bike clipless pedals first. Mountain biking clipless pedals are easier to clip into and out of. If you're nervous but keen, it is an option.
Finally, if you never want to clip in, don't feel any pressure to do so. At least you're never going to drop like a tree at a traffic light!
Cycling jerseys perform a range of functions, but none more important than this: snack storage. Road cycling jerseys tend to have zippered or elastically-cinched pockets on the back. They are designed to safely store all the goods you'd like to carry while road biking, including your phone, ID and card, snacks, and a mini-pump (if you don't have it attached to your frame). They're also excellent at helping you regulate temperature. Many of them have strategic mesh panels and you can open the front zipper to help you dump heat and catch a bit more of a breeze across your chest.
Cycling Jersey Fit
They come in a range of fits:
Race/Performance Fit: These jerseys are tight to the point of offering compression. The back pockets will have less space.
Club Fit: These jerseys are made from lycra and designed to be fitted. but they are more forgiving than the race and performance fit jerseys.
Relaxed/Comfort Fit: These jerseys often appear to be more casual and offer a more relaxed fit than other jerseys. Pockets will often be zippered to secure your stuff - or the jerseys may not have pockets at all.
SUNglasses for Road cycling
Sunglasses(or other eyewear) protect your eyes from flying hazards while you're out road cycling. They are a literal shield that protect you from small gravel chunks that can easily be flicked up by other road cyclists and bugs. Wearing sunglasses while road cycling also shields you from the wind and, if they have UV-Protection (which they should), they'll also guard your eyes from UV rays. We are big advocates for all cyclists wearing protective eyewear in all conditions.
You can get away with riding in your casual sunglasses for road cycling. But road cycling sunglasses are designed specifically for road cycling and offer additional advantages over your average pair of casual glasses.
Road cycling sunglasses offer wider coverage than casual sunglasses. They offer increased protection from peripheral hazards, including UV.
Finally, you wouldn't wear your average pair of sunglasses at dusk or for night riding because the tinted lens would make it more difficult to see. But bugs and other debris don't go anywhere when the sun sets. Some road cycling sunglasses also come with interchangeable lenses for different lighting conditions, including a pair of clear lenses. These lenses are perfect for cycling in low-light.
Gloves for Road Cycling
Road cycling gloves reduce vibrations from the handlebars, keep your hands in place when you get sweaty, and offer protection from the sun.
Cycling socks offer performance benefits over your average pair of cotton crew socks. They are (usually) moisture wicking. Depending on the sock, you'll find cycling socks with slight compression, mesh uppers for heat regulation in summer, and/or precise fit technologies to ensure they don't slide around.
Plus, they often come in really funky designs!
APPAREL FOR WINTER ROAD CYCLING
Cycling gear for winter & Cold Weather ROAD RIDING
Road riding in cooler temperatures requires specific gear if you want to stay comfortable and dry.
Here's what you'll need for cold weather road riding:
- Wind-proof low-temperature gloves or lobster mitts.
- Wind-proof and water-resistant jacket.
- Protective eyewear (googles or low-light glasses).
- Fleece jersey or fleece arm warmers.
- Fleece hat.
- Fleece-lined knickers or tights (with a chamois).
- Buff or neck tube.
- Shoe covers.
- Waterproof socks.
Again, this list is provided in our order of priority to help you stagger your purchasing. You may need to adjust this based on your individual needs (and your current wardrobe).