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A Guide to
Bicycle Clothing

Jerseys

 
Road Jerseys

We wouldn't suggest that you need to suit up like a Tour de France rider every time you get on your bike, but for longer rides where you’re getting a decent workout, a quality jersey will be a great help.

Most modern jerseys use a zip closure which comes in different lengths. A short zip is fine for mild weather and a three-quarter length zip gives you the option of opening a jersey without it coming undone and flapping as you ride. Full-length zips are brilliant for very hot days because you can open up your jersey when climbing, allowing the breeze to cool you down.

Look for jerseys with multiple rear pockets. Pockets will allow you to carry your essentials like keys, phone, wallet, a snack, multi-tool, puncture kit and mini-pump. Pockets are usually open topped but some quality jerseys do have a secure zipped pocket for more expensive items.
 
Keeping Cool

On modern jerseys cooling methods include the use of mesh and perforated fabrics to promote airflow. Many jerseys also feature materials that have a sun protection factor (SPF) to reduce burning. Many summer jerseys will also be made of fabrics that draw body heat and moisture away, while drying quickly.

As you can imagine, clothing that’s designed to be used while exercising can get a little whiffy, so manufacturers have looked to fabrics enhanced with carbon, which has a natural anti-bacterial property, to help reduce smells. Louis Garneau's Elite Carbon jersey uses just such a fabric and also benefits from a special surface treatment called 'Coldblack' to reflect the sun’s rays.
   
Fitting Shape

Jerseys are available in a multitude of fits, from a super-close fitting pro-style jersey to a more relaxed fit for more leisurely pursuits. Brands like Assos, Castelli, Louis Garneau and Endura all offer ranges with fits tailored for different riders. Louis Garneau's Course Superleggera is designed to be both lightweight and very close fitting, whereas their Transit jersey has what they call a semi-pro fit, which has a more relaxed shape for us more average shaped riders. Legendary Swiss brand Assos have recently introduced their Cento S7 jersey range, designed for endurance and long distance rides (so a great choice for sportive riders). It’s cut a little more relaxed than their usual super-close pro fit, but still uses the very best fabrics around.
   
Long Sleeves

On cooler spring days, you may want to opt for a long sleeve jersey for a little extra warmth. Most brands offer long sleeve versions of their top selling jerseys. Though the choice isn't as wide as with short sleeves, you can find some clever and versatile long sleeve options. Castelli's Gabba Windstopper. is a top quality, warm choice for chilly spring rides, which features a windstopper membrane under the fabric. Many winter and spring long sleeved jerseys feature wind blocking material on the front to prevents chilling wind getting through.
 
MTB Jerseys

A mountain bike jersey is a versatile piece of kit. Depending on the weather, a jersey can be worn on its own, within a layered system of clothing (like over a base layer), or under a jacket.

Mountain bike jerseys tend to follow one of two styles – tighter lycra jerseys (which get their inspiration from road bike jerseys) and baggy jerseys, more favoured by downhill and enduro riders.

Lycra jerseys should have a close fit to help them wick sweat away and stop them flapping around. They’ll often have a quarter or full-length zip, along with pockets on the back to carry tools, pumps or nutrition.

Baggy mountain bike jerseys will have a loose, stylish fit, and will tend not to have pockets or zips. Their extra room often allows space for body armour underneath.

Both lycra and baggy jerseys will come in short and long sleeve options, depending on the season.
 
 
 

Baselayers

 
A base layer may not seem like the most important piece of equipment for cycling, but don't underestimate the need for this essential piece of clothing. The best base layers are made of highly breathable lightweight fabrics. A base layer works two-fold: in warm conditions a short sleeve base layer will draw moisture away from your skin, keeping you dry and comfortable. In colder conditions, a long sleeve base layer is a great way to keep warm because the open weave of the fabric traps warm air, helping to insulate you from the cold.

Quality base layers use intelligent fabrics with high stretch and a very close fit - the closer the better. Some even use natural fabrics like merino wool, which as well as breathing well in the heat and keeping you warm in the cold, also prevent the build up of smells that some manmade fabrics are prone to.

Base layers are either made from man-made fibres, such as polypropylene, or natural fibres like bamboo and merino wool - such as Endura’s Baa Baa base layers.
 
 
 

Jackets

 
Road Jackets

If you spend any time time outdoors, it’s inevitable that you are going to get caught in the rain. A good water resistant coat doesn't have to be a baggy, flappy cagoule, not when plenty of modern cycling jackets offer a close fit and exceptional water repelling fabrics.

A cycling jacket can be a lightweight shell (easy to stuff into a pocket when not needed), a heavier garment (to keep you warm), or even a combination of warmth, water resistance and comfort from a soft shell jacket.
 
Packable Jackets

There’s nothing worse than being caught out in the wrong kit when the weather turns nasty; it pays to be prepared when riding. With the proliferation of super technical materials for all purposes, it’s never been easier to find a jacket that can keep you warm, dry and comfortable no matter the climate throws up.

A great example of a packable jacket for unforseen and changeable conditions is Sportful's Hot Pack 5. The tall collar, dropped tail and close fit makes it great on the bike, while the ultra lightweight fabric packs down small enough to fit in a pocket. Like many packable jackets, it will still keep the wind at bay and is resistant to rain.
   
Rain Jackets

It’s a good idea to have a quality rain jacket in your arsenal. Rain jackets vary in cut, style, materials and design. Some are light enough to fit in a jersey pocket, while some are warmer and more substantial. All will combine layers of fabric that add waterproofing, with breathability aided by vents or zipped openings to help regulate body temperature.

Nobody claims to have created the perfect rain jacket, because anything that allows your body to breathe isn't going to be 100% waterproof. Just as anything 100% waterproof isn't going to be breathable. That’s not to stay some jackets don't come close to perfection. Top quality jackets use a combination of highly rated fabrics with protected seams and zips to maximize their water resistance.
   
What to look for

Taped seams - Taping is used to seal the inside seams of a waterproof jacket. They add bulk though, and reduce breathability. When buying a jacket, inspect the taped seams for bobbling and imperfections, which may causes leaks.

Breathability - It’s no good keeping rain out if you get soaked by sweat from within. Different fabrics have different water vapour transfer rates but cut, lining and vents all make a significant difference to how dry you stay from the inside.

Care - The worst enemy of your wet weather gear is your washing machine. Detergents strip off waterproof coatings and conditioners will clog the pores and fibres that help fabric wick and breathe. Always read washing instructions.

Features - Think about what jacket you need. Do you need pockets? More pockets means more seams – and potential leaks – and more bulk. If you’re doing lots of night riding, check for reflective detailing as well.
   
Softshell Jackets

Softshell jackets differ from traditional rain jackets because rather than using a stiff outer fabric, they’re made of a softer, more flexible material. A softshell tends to be warmer than a standard shell jacket. The water resistance is gained by sandwiching a membrane between the outer and inner layers that prevents water from soaking through to your body.

Softshells tend to use zipped venting to help you regulate your temperature and prevent overheating. Top quality softshells like Endura's Equipe Exo bolster their water resistance by using ultrasonically welded seams, a water resistant-treated outer layer, flexible elastic waterproof membrane and a fleece inner. Fully waterproof zips also keep the rain at bay.
 
Mountain Bike Jackets

Waterproof jackets have a tough job because they need to keep you dry from the outside and dry from the inside. That means they need to keep the rain out, and be able to breathe so your sweat can escape.
 
Many manufacturers, such as Endura will use their own in-house waterproof fabrics, especially on cheaper jackets, while big-name fabrics such as Gore-Tex and eVent can often be found on pricier models. Generally speaking, pricier jackets will have improved waterproofing and better breathability.

As the wetter months generally coincide with the darker ones, many waterproof cycling jackets will also feature reflective detailing, such as Altura’s Night Vision and Night Vision Evo jackets.

In addition to the fabric, look out for taped seams, which improve waterproofing. A close fit is preferable to stop the jacket flapping around or snagging on bushes and trees, and many jackets designed for riding in will be cut lower at the rear to keep your bottom and back dry. A lot of waterproof jackets feature ventilation options such as underarm zips and vents across the back - a useful aid for keeping you cool on the bike. Waterproof zips or storm flaps add an extra defence against the rain.
 
Commuting Jackets

For commuters, we’d recommend a jacket with plenty of elements to make it visible. Perhaps the ultimate in visibility is Altura's legendary Night Vision Evo jacket, which combines high water resistance with a dazzling fluorescent finish and loads of reflective details. The Night Vision range also extends to jerseys with long and short sleeves.

If you’re looking for something that can be worn in the office, then Endura's urban range includes a soft shell hooded top, long sleeve jersey and even a collared shirt smart enough for any office meeting
 
 
 

Gilets

 
Sometimes it’s not cold enough to need a jacket, but is still a little cool for just a jersey. In conditions like this, a gilet or vest is ideal. Simple and easy to pack into a pocket, a good gilet is a godsend for cool morning starts or when the weather changes.

Historically, when riders in the Tour de France reached the top of a mountain climb, they would grab a newspaper from a roadside fan and stuff it under their jersey to keep out the wind chill on long, fast descents. Today, you’re more likely to see them reach into their back pocket and grab a gilet to put on prior to heading downhill. A simple gilet is a true essential for the serious rider.

A gilet or vest makes sense for commuters too, because they’ll keep you warm during cold morning starts, and a fluorescent gilet is perfect when returning home when the light is starting to fade. A quality gilet like Louis Garneau's Nova is available in super bright hi-viz yellow so not only will it keep you warm, it'll help you stay safe too.
 
 
 

Shorts & 3/4 Lengths

 
Road Bike Shorts

A good pair of shorts is the single best investment you'll make in your cycling wardrobe. Good shorts can range from as little as £40 up to hundreds for the very best pro-level examples. Whatever your budget, the things to look for remain the same.

Shorts are available in two main designs: bib shorts, (which use braces to hold them up) and a simpler waist design, just like a regular pair of shorts.

The advantages of a waist short are the ease with which you can take a comfort break and they can even be worn under a regular pair of shorts. Bib shorts are used by pro and serious cyclists, and these have no elasticated waist, so they are much more comfortable when bent over in a riding position.

Bib shorts may look a little odd, but with a padded gusset, no tight waistband and no chance of them falling down, they offer supreme levels of comfort. When choosing a pair, you don’t want to see loads of seams because they can cause discomfort from chafing. Comfortable leg grippers, whether elastic or silicone, should keep them in place, and well vented braces and back panels should stop you overheating.
 
What to look for

Body hugging, Bib shorts are made from a range of materials, usually based around Spandex/Lycra. A body-hugging fit means there isn’t excess material in the shorts, which will reduce the chance of chafing and help the materials wick sweat from the skin properly.

Compression

The basic principal of compression is that it increases blood-flow in the muscles; transporting oxygen rich blood more efficiently and also removing lactic acid quickly. Wearing compressive clothing after exercise is said to aid recovery. Compressive clothing can also better control muscle oscillation from external forces like bumps, reducing fatigue.
   
Padding

The most important part of a bib short is the quality of the pad inside. The pad is often referred to as the chamois because the first bicycle shorts used a chamois leather insert for padding. The best lycra shorts use pads constructed from a combination of foams or gels to provide cushioning and shock absorption.

It’s common to find that the top shorts have a high-tech pad that combines an outer layer of soft foam sitting on top of a firmer absorbing gel or high-density foam, all wrapped up in a highly wicking and breathable fabric to manage moisture levels. Pads can also be designed for different uses - from minimal lightweight pads for lighter riders to thicker dense pads designed for long distance, sportive style riding.
   
Leg Grippers

To prevent the legs of shorts from riding up and causing uncomfortable bunching around the crotch, companies have long used silicone grippers integrated into the legs and hems. Increasingly, tighter stretch laser cut elastic materials (sometimes infused with silicone) are being used because they reduce bulk, increase comfort and also result in less overall weight. The Louis Garneau Course Superleggera short uses such technology in its laser cut leg cuffs.

Stitching

One of the biggest sources of chafing in shorts comes from the stitching, so always look for shorts that avoid placing stitched seams in high friction areas such as the inner thigh. Flat stitching is also worth looking for, as this also reduces the chances of discomfort. It’s worth looking for pads that are bonded to the fabric or externally fixed. Mavic's HC shorts are designed using body mapping technology, so the seams sweep and curve away and around any areas of potential high-friction risk.
 
Mountain Bike Shorts

Mountain bike shorts are paramount to your comfort on the bike, given that they’re the main barrier between you and your saddle. Shorts are one of the hardest working pieces of mountain bike clothing because they’re constantly moving, rubbing on saddles and likely to take the brunt of crashes.
 
Most trail riders will wear baggy shorts over the top of bib or liner shorts. Tight fitting lycra or liner shorts will act almost like a second skin and should prevent skin rubbing and chafing. Often they’ll have a padded chamois to further aid comfort and they should be tight, without being constrictive. Wearing bib shorts under mountain bike kit can also be a good choice, as the braces will keep them firmly held in position.

Baggy shorts will allow unrestricted movement and act as a layer of protection in a crash. Baggy shorts will often be made of material that’s tougher than lycra so in the event of a crash, they should offer some resistance to tearing and ripping, which should protect your skin.

The best baggy shorts should be able to stand up to life on the trail – that means they'll be resilient to brushes and scrapes. Many baggy shorts will feature pockets and vents. Some, like the Gore Alp-X 3.0 shorts , will also be made of waterproof material or will include a waterproof panel to keep your bum dry on wet rides.
 
 
3/4 Lengths

Sometimes the weather isn't great for shorts, and for cooler conditions you may want to opt for a three-quarter length garment. These extend the length of the leg beyond the knee and halfway down the calf, making them perfect for keeping your muscles and knees warm on cooler days. Some, like the Castelli Velocissimo, combine a three-quarter design with an insulating fabric, in this case Thermoflex, to keep chills at bay.
 
 

Tights & Trousers

 
Cycling Tights

Both road and mountain bike riders wear tights, though often MTBers will wear baggy shorts over the top.

Tights are basically full-length lycra shorts or bib shorts. They will be thicker than summer lycra shorts and offer a surprising amount of warmth to your legs, making them your best option if you want to continue riding in the colder months.

Tights can feature the same technology as shorts, so expect quality pads and compressive fabrics. You can also find tights with windproof membranes and water resistant treatments for wet conditions.

If you've already invested in a top quality pair of shorts, you could look for a simpler set of tights without a pad, which will be available at a lower price - something like Altura’s Stream tights are designed to be worn over your normal summer shorts. For extreme weather, Endura's Thermolite Pro bib tights use the highly insulating Thermolite fabric, coated with a Teflon HT treatment so they'll keep you warm and dry.
 
Tights are basically full-length lycra shorts/bib shorts. They will be thicker than summer lycra shorts and offer a surprising amount of warmth to your legs. Full-length tights may also come with wind blocking material across the shin and thigh area at the front. Some will also offer a degree of waterproofing.
 
 
Mountain Bike Trousers

Mountain bike trousers are baggier, but also add warmth. They should have good Velcro ankle cuffs to prevent them getting caught in the chainrings of your bike. Some mountain bike trousers will be made from waterproof materials, such as the Vaude Spray Rain pants , which also make them ideal for commuting.

Commuting Over-Trousers

For less than ideal conditions we'd recommend an over-trouser. Over trousers are great because you can wear your riding shorts underneath, and they can be stored in your riding bag when not needed. They will offer you protection from the rain, and plenty are designed specifically for commuters. Altura's highly regarded Night Vision Overtrouser is a good example – it’s made of waterproof material and features highly reflective print all over, so you can’t fail to be seen when riding at night.

Some over trousers have extra features that are especially useful for commuters. Endura's mountain biking-derived Humvee zip off trouser has the added advantage of being convertible. The lower legs (just below the knee) zip off, so they’re usable come rain or shine.
 
Casual Commuting Trousers

Endura also offer a range of commuter clothing that’s designed not only to be ridden in, but also worn around the office. The Endura Urban trousers look like a stylish pair of slim-fitting trousers, and even come with a belt. Hiding behind the style is a fabric with a water resistant finish and four-way stretch. Subtle touches like a low cut front and raised back make them comfortable on a bike too. They even feature a loop to hold your D-lock and benefit from subtle reflective details.
 
 
 

Clothing Accessories

 
Gloves & Mitts for Road Cycling

It’s obvious why you need a good pair of gloves in the winter – to keep your hands warm and dry. For warmer days, you might want to use mitts. The best riding mitts will have a well padded palm, covered in super soft leather or man made fabric which will help with grip on the bars – useful if you have sweaty palms.

A quality mitt will also have some means of shock reduction either from a gel or high-density foam pad. Having a barrier between you skin and the handlebar will also reduce the chance of blisters or abrasions from holding the bars. In the unlikely event of a fall, padded mitts will also protect your palms from cuts, which is always a good thing. When choosing a pair, look for a close fit with good quality palms with some padding. Neat details like a terry cloth panel on the back is also ideal for wiping your brow as you ride.

Some riders prefer a lightweight full-finger glove, like the Louis Garneau Creek. When you need maximum feel for control but conditions are adverse, like in a cyclocross event, a lighter full finger glove can be the best choice.
   
Gloves & Mitts for Mountain Biking

Mountain bike gloves are important because not only will they keep your hands warm, they’ll also save your skin in a crash. Most mountain bikers will wear gloves, but fingerless mitts can be an option when the weather heats up.

Gloves either come with or without padding on the palms. Un-padded gloves will have improved feel at the bar and padded gloves will be more comfortable. For use in winter, insulated or waterproof gloves, such as SealSkinz All Weather gloves will keep your hands warm and dry, meaning you won't have any loss of control because of cold, numb fingers.

For use in the summer, you want to look for ventilation either through the palm or upper to prevent your hands from getting too hot. It’s important to get a pair that fit properly because if they’re the wrong size, the material can bunch up and/or restrict movement.
 
 
Arm, Knee & Leg Warmers

Arm, knee and leg warmers can be used to adapt your summer kit for use in cooler conditions.

Arm warmers are close fitting sock-like garments for your arms. They can be simple lycra affairs or fleece-lined for extra warmth. For high summer, you can even get arm coolers that prevent sunburn and cool your skin thanks to the nature of the weave of the fabric.
Knee warmers fit underneath the hem of your shorts and cover your knees down to mid-calf level. They’re ideal for when your ride starts early in the morning, before the sun has had chance to warm things up.
Leg warmers are full-length and designed to be worn underneath your shorts to offer protection from the elements.

The big advantage of using these accessories is that they all pack down small enough to be stuffed into a pocket, so on days with changeable weather, they are a better option than a full-on tight that you'd otherwise be stuck wearing in the warmth of midday.
 
 
Body Armour for Mountain Biking

If your riding is generally gravity-fuelled, wearing body armour could be a great idea. In the event of a crash, mountain bike body armour will spread the force of an impact and absorb it, reducing the potential for injury. Body armour is available for different areas of the body including the chest/torso, arms, legs/shins and neck (in the form of neck braces).

Mountain bike body armour isn’t just for downhill riders though; it’s common to see many trail riders use kneepads such as the popular Fox Launch Enduro Knee Guards. With kneepads, padding is as important as comfort, as many riders will choose to wear them for the full length of their ride. As with all mountain bike kit, you want to make sure your armour stays in position while you ride; getting the right size is important to prevent armour rubbing and moving around.
 
 
High-Viz Accessories

You might want to commute in your everyday clothes, in which case it can be a good idea to add some hi-viz accessories, and there’s a large choice available from Evans Cycles including Hump hi-viz bag covers, to Altura Night Vision gloves, hi-viz ankle and arm bands, to even hi-viz socks!
 
 
 

 
 
This story was last updated on 25/08/2014

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