July 3rd, 2012
Obviously, you’ll want a decent helmet to protect your best assets.
- During the winter months, wear a skull cap under your helmet to retain warmth.
- Helmet covers are also a handy option to prevent rain entering helmet vents.
Neck and ears
- In a chilly wind, don’t underestimate how cold and achy your ears can get – covering them up from the start of your ride can make a big difference. Buffs and scarves are available in different weights and are perfect for keeping your neck and ears warm.
- Layers are the way to go – in all but extreme hot or cold weather, you’ll be good with the following three (for more detail, see our top tips on layering):
- Base layer:invaluable for keeping you warm and dry in all conditions. Sitting snugly close and in direct contact with
your skin, your base layer ‘wicks’ moisture away from your body. Choose a long-sleeved base layer for winter and a short-sleeved version for the summer. If it’s really hot, this layer may be all you need, but otherwise you’ll also want a…
- Mid layer: look for a lightweight, breathable, well-insulated jersey that feels good against your skin – your mid layer can be a really flexible garment, which in addition to being a mid layer, can also function as a base layer, worn alone when it’s hot, or an outer garment with a base layer underneath. Like a base layer, you can find mid-layer cycling jerseys with long sleeves or short sleeves.
Outer layer or shell: ideally, your top layer would be windproof, waterproof and breathable, right? These garments – they’re called a hardshell – exist, and they work GREAT – but they’re a pricey option, and they’re not as easy to stow away when the sun comes out again. For shorter rides, casual cyclists and those who like to pedal light, a more compact, breathable and very lightweight softshell outer may suit better. It’ll offer wind protection and water resistance – worst case, you can always sit out the torrential downpour under a tree!
- One further outer layer recommendation for roadies: the gilet, a thin, windproof, zip-up vest that can be rolled up and stashed in a back pocket. Perfect to don for the long descent after you’ve reached the top of a decent climb, when your chest can suddenly get very cold.
- Arm warmers are a great idea for the spring and autumn months. These tubular lengths of material can be put on for the early mornings and late evenings and are easily removed and stashed in a jersey pocket when the day warms up.
- When it’s hot, a pair of fingerless mitts will provide protection to the nerves in your palm and forearm, minimising discomfort
and numbness over longer trips.
- Heading into colder times, full-fingered gloves are a must. These can range from a single fleeced layer to insulated, waterproof gauntlets.
- One thing that is essential for cycling is a padded short.Look for a good-quality pad that forms a
cradle around your unmentionables. This will provide comfort and wick away sweat to leave the area problem free. (We also recommend chamois cream for extra protection down there.)
- For more fitted support, a bib short will provide a fitted Lycra section that runs over your shoulders like a pair of braces to keep the seat pad in place.
- For off-road or casual riding, a decent mountain bike short will usually be baggy but with a fitted padded insert, designed to be worn like a boxer short.
- Leg warmers are a great way to beat the early spring/autumn chill and like arm warmers, you can stash them when the weather warms up.
- For the winter, you’ll want a pair of thermal tights. These are available with or without a pad, so you can wear them alone or slip them over an existing pair of shorts. Just like shorts, you can also choose tights with a bib, providing additional warmth to your torso.
- Waterproof over-trousers are a godsend when the weather gets biblical, but they’re not as breathable, so make sure they’re compact enough to stash away when the rain stops.
- Summer cycling socks are thin and highly breathable, with thicker areas designed to protect the foot in areas prone to rubbing.
- Waterproof socks are pretty handy in winter. They keep the water out and your toes toasty.
- Cycling shoes: whether you go for a standard cycling shoe or one with an in-built clipless pedal system, a good pair of cycling
shoes, correctly fitted, are a very wise investment. They can make your ride a whole lot more enjoyable, and your feet, knees and hips will thank you for it.
- Overshoes are designed, not surprisingly given the name, to be worn over your shoes. They prevent the weather (cold and wet) from entering through the vents on your shoes. They range from full rubber waterproof to a neoprene cover.
High-visibility (hi-vis) clothing
- “Be safe, be seen” is a sensible mantra to adopt as a cyclist, and wearing hi-vis clothing (made with fluorescent fabrics and often featuring reflective banding, picked up by car headlights) is especially important if you’re riding on roads or busy, multi-use cycle paths.
Technical cycle clothing
Time trial clothing kit
- Road time trial riding has clothing that is specifically designed to maximise aerodynamics. These include skin suits, which are extremely fitted to reduce any clothing flapping in the wind, overshoes to smooth out the contours of cycle footwear, and extra-aerodynamic helmets. However, if you’re a beginner looking to get into time trialling, then standard road cycling clothing, a good pair of cycling shoes (ideally clipless) and a helmet should suffice – check with your local cycling club for details.
Protective clothing and body armour
- Protective equipment exists for the sort of riding that involves a lot of falling off. For the skate park and BMX riding there is a wide choice of elbow and knee pads to prevent bruising on the verts.
- For all Mountain and Downhill riding, a fall can present a more serious injury. Elbow and knee pads exist but they will incorporate a hard shell to offer greater protection. Hard shell armour protection is available for the torso, including reinforcement for the spine. Neck braces are also becoming increasingly popular among downhill riders. These allow full movement of the head but protect neck and spinal vertebrae from compacting under impact from a collision.
- Compression layers are a specific type of base layer, designed to inflict inward pressure on the area where they are worn.
Compression forces blood from the surface of the skin to deeper within the muscle, delivering more oxygen to the muscles and heart to increase performance. Compression layers are also proven to reduce muscle injury and speed up muscle recovery if worn after exercise.
Still want more cycling clothing tips?