Whether you’re brand new to cycling or rediscovering the joys of two-wheel adventuring after a few years, you might be wondering what to wear on a bike ride. For starters, you don’t have to run out and buy a bunch of cycle clothing to enjoy riding, nor do you have to buy stuff to look cool. (Feeling cool is OK, though, especially in summer.)
Bike-specific clothing can certainly help make riding more comfortable. Also important: Bike clothing can improve your visibility to motorists. But not all bike clothing is designed to call attention to you. Because the “spandex look” isn’t for everyone, a lot of brands are designing bike clothes that can double as streetwear.
You can save on bike clothing by wearing almost any comfortable outdoor or athletic clothing when you ride, though you’ll want to add some reflective wear or reflective elements if you do. This is less of an issue where vehicles aren’t around, like on a mountain-bike-only trail.
Cycling jerseys were originally made from wool which could be itchy and harbour smells.
Most modern cycling jerseys are made from a synthetic blend. Synthetic fabrics can be engineered to wick away sweat which will keep you dry and comfortable. Blends are tailored to suit specific weather conditions. Look for water-resistance, wind-blocking and breathability depending on when and where you’ll be riding.
If you prefer natural fibres, look out for cycling jerseys made from merino wool. Merino sheep have adapted to cold winters and hot summers, so their wool is naturally wicking and stays warm when wet.
Unlike some natural fibres, it is naturally odour-resistant which is why it’s perfect for base layers, particularly if you’re travelling and might want to wear the same one for several days at a time. Merino wool is soft and breathable so it’s also great for sensitive skin.
Merino cycling jerseys generally use a blend of merino and synthetic yarns to provide additional strength and durability.
The cut is optimised for the position you’ll be riding in. Most cycling jerseys will be longer at the back than the front so that your back stays covered.
The front might even feel a little too short but this is so that you avoid excess fabric causing discomfort when you are bent over the handlebars
You might find that, when you stand upright, the fabric is tight across the shoulders. If in doubt, assume the riding position when you try on your jersey.
When you are choosing your jersey, think about the kind of riding you’ll be doing. On sociable rides where you’ll be stopping for coffee, you may feel less self-conscious in a looser fit. If you’re planning on racing, a tight aero-fit might give you an advantage.
Choose long or short sleeves depending on the weather conditions you’ll be riding in. Short-sleeved jerseys can be more versatile – with the addition of arm-warmers or clever layering they can see you through most of the year.
Mountain bike jerseys are cut for the riding position so it's important to choose one that suits your riding style. An aero-dynamic fit isn't as important, with the exception of the tighter-fitting XC race jerseys. A more casual cut also looks great for those cafe or pub stops.
When you try on your mountain bike jersey, think about how you'll be sitting on the bike. You shouldn't feel like your movement is restricted as you'll probably be shifting your body more than you would on a road bike.
If you'll be wearing body armour, look for a looser fit to allow for the extra bulk.
Think about where you'll be riding and for how long. For overgrown trails and downhill riding, sleeves will protect your arms from thorny branches. If you need to carry a backpack or you'll be riding in warmer weather, ventilation panels will keep you comfortable.
Are you more sure about how to choose? Then come and try.