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Dress the Part: Why Cycling-Specific Clothing Is So Important

If you casually ride to work a couple of days a week or occasionally find yourself pedaling to errands once in a while, you may not need bike-specific clothing. But if you actually spend more than a few minutes or miles on your bike regularly, a few key pieces of clothing can make a major difference. Picking the right tools for the job can make your ride significantly more comfortable, and more enjoyable. Here are the key pieces of clothing for biking—also known as a ‘cycling kit’—that, when paired together, can create a wardrobe that will work in almost any riding weather.

Two things to keep in mind when buying cycling attire:

  • Sizing can be tricky across different cycling brands, so don’t be surprised if you normally wear a small in street clothes but are relegated to a medium or large in a cycling kit. Find what works for you and don’t be afraid to size up or down when trying on your kit.
  • Don’t skimp on your cycling kit. There are plenty of inexpensive brands out there that seem like a good deal but fall apart, shrink, or discolor quickly. You’re better off spending money on better fabrics and technology at the outset, since the higher the quality, the longer it will last.

Brands using fabrics with 37.5 Technology ensure that you’re getting quality clothing that can actually help improve performance by helping your body stay at its ideal core temperature. Active particles permanently embedded in 37.5 fabrics help cool you down or warm you up, depending on which your body needs.

Now, onto the list.

Shorts with a Chamois

If you’re new to cycling, the shorts that you’ll find in a bike shop might seem funny at first: The spandex with a diaper-like pad (the chamois) feels goofy when you first try it on, but it will make your ride so much more comfortable. Not only do they give you a bit of cushioning, but they also help fight friction in those more sensitive areas that are in constant contact with your saddle.

While there are plenty of great shorts options, many serious riders look for bib-style shorts that have ‘suspenders’ to keep them up rather than a wide, tight elastic waistband. The comfort gained from bibs versus regular shorts is worth the higher price. Katusha’s AERO Bib Shorts are the best of both worlds: Bib support, but with enough extra stretch to be pulled down for those ‘nature breaks.’

Jersey

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Make sure you buy a comfortable jersey like the Katusha Aero to ensure a good fit and quality fabric with 37.5 Technology. Katusha

The most obvious piece of cycling gear is the jersey, but not all jerseys are created equal. Cheap fabric, poor fit, and imperfect pocket design can make even the coolest-looking jersey get relegated to the back of your closet. When trying a jersey on, think about the position that you ride in: Bend at the hips, move your arms onto pretend handlebars and mimic the motions of cycling to see if it will work for you. Most cyclists find that a full zip versus a half-zip is preferable for both comfort and ease of quicker bathroom breaks. Katusha’s simple color schemes make their Aero jersey a great investment that you’ll be able to wear for years without worries of the pattern or color seeming dated.

Arm and Leg Warmers

You may eventually want to get a long-sleeved jersey or jacket, or if you ride in winter weather often, a pair of bib tights. But for a new cyclist, a pair of arm warmers and leg warmers will help shift your summer kit to spring or fall riding without adding too much expense. Bontrager’s thermal arm warmers and leg warmers are inexpensive and elegant solutions to making a kit ‘all-season.’

Vest

When added to a jersey and arm warmers, a vest turns your warmer weather ensemble into a more all-season option by keeping your core cozy. Look for a cycling-specific vest versus a down vest—a good cycling vest like this one from Pactimo will be windproof in the front but more vented in the back, and will often have jersey pockets so you have extra storage for snacks.

Baselayer

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A baselayer like Bontrager’s above will help limit unnecessary chafing and aid in regulating your body temp. Sam Needham / Bontrager | Trek Bikes

Whether you ride in cold or hot weather, a baselayer with thermal regulation technology like this one from Bontrager can help prevent chafing from jersey zippers or bib short straps while removing moisture from your microclimate. In the summer, that means not feeling like you’re dripping wet at the end of a ride, while in the winter, it can make you feel cozier and help avoid the ‘sauna’ effect of a thermal jacket making you overheat.

Raincoat

Before getting a cycling winter jacket or windbreaker, consider a cycling-specific raincoat. This will be a more fitted raincoat that’s designed for the bent-over position you would normally ride in, and will often have pockets and ventilation zips for slightly warmer rides. It’s one of the most versatile pieces in your kit because it can go from keeping you dry on a rainy day to serving as a lightweight winter coat when layered over a jersey, arm warmers, and a vest. The Mavic Sequence H2O rain jacket is extremely lightweight and fitted for cycling. It also helps keep your temperature regulated while you pedal.

A High-Vis Detail

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Make sure you are visible to drivers by using a blinking light and high-visibility clothing. Pactimo

Make sure that at least one piece of your cycling kit has a strip of high-visibility material on it to make you more noticeable to drivers. This doesn’t replace using a blinking light, but it can make a difference, especially when riding in bad weather. Bontrager’s neon vests are both practical for cycling and extremely noticeable on the road, while Pactimo’s Summit Aero Jersey has reflective accents on more standard colors.

Pulling together the right clothing for a day in the saddle can make all the difference in the world. You’ll be more comfortable and safer which leads to a better ride overall. So what are you waiting for? Get yourself a complete cycling kit and hit the open road!

Written by Molly Hurford for Matcha in partnership with 37.5.

Featured image provided by Sam Needham / Bontrager | Trek Bikes