Cycling Clothing Guide
With the wide, competitively priced range of clothing available on the market today, cyclists have never had it so good. Ensure whatever you wear fits snugly but not too tightly.
Summer Cycling Helmet
Helmets are compulsory for all UK road races but really should be worn at all times when out on the road. So many good makes are available; choose one that conforms to a recognized standard.
Key points are ventilation, weight, and aerodynamics (especially for time trials). As helmets go up in price, they generally offer greater ventilation and lighter weight, and invariably better adjustment and comfort. Time trial helmets are intended to be aerodynamic and therefore have no vents.
The popular teardrop helmets are designed so that when the rider’s head is correctly positioned, the tail is flush with the back. Moving out of this position negates the aerodynamic benefits. Interestingly, the winning rider in the 2011 British time trial championships wore a shorter helmet fitted with a visor.
Short-sleeved race jersey
Choose a jersey with rear pockets. Some now come with a full-length zip, making it easier to put on and adjust for varying weather conditions.
Although not essential, these are very handy for cooler weather.
Undervest Many vests now are made from material that wicks sweat away from your body. Whatever the conditions, an under-vest is desirable in the UK. In the summer, if you crash wearing only a lycra top with no undervest, road rash to your body is likely, as the lycra is easily punctured and the material ‘sticks’ to the road. Your flesh will slide over the garment thus causing skin-burn or road rash. If you wear an undervest, this rather than your skin will slide over the lycra, thus protecting you.
Arm and leg warmers
These are easy to put on and remove when conditions warm-up, and are also handy for warming up in.
Cycling bib Shorts
Good-quality bib shorts are a cyclist’s godsend. Buy the best you can afford: when riding long distances the comfort you experience is worth every penny. Look after them well, washing them after every ride for hygienic reasons. As with most modern synthetics, they can be machine washed and dry quickly. Aim to have two or three pairs.
These should be ridden with all the time. The padding in the gel inserts largely eliminates road vibration, and if you are involved in a crash they protect your hands from road rash. Don’t forget to wash them regularly for hygienic reasons; many cyclists wipe their face with them during races, which can spread bacteria.
A skinsuit is one of the most aerodynamic pieces of clothing you will ever purchase. These are normally worn in time trials or criterium races, which are shorter in duration than road races. Skinsuits are much better than separate shorts and vests, and many now come with pockets neatly sewn in to carry your valuables. Ensure that it is tight-fitting.
Don’t skimp on quality with socks. Most are now made from Coolmax, a wonderful material for temperature control. It used to be de rigueur for a road cyclist to wear white ones that were cut just above the ankle; black was frowned upon. Latest fashions dictate any color goes, however, and lengths go up to mid-calf with some well-known British professionals. Bear in mind that in the British climate long socks can quickly turn into a soggy mess.
Glasses provide protection from both UV rays and grit thrown up from the road. Better-quality glasses come with straight ear pieces so they can be placed into your helmet slots when not required whilst out riding.
All of the above except skinsuits are worn, but add the following to keep out the winter chills:
Cycling Winter jacket
A good jacket makes cycling so much more pleasurable on bitter cold days and becomes your best friend. Buy the best you can afford as this garment comes in for a lot of abuse. Choose one with lots of reflective material — you want to be seen.
Cycling Bib tights
Wear these over your racing shorts. Some now come with padded inserts but this is not essential, especially with racing shorts underneath.
This can be made out of similar material to the summer vest. Wear your racing vest over the top to provide pockets to store your valuables whilst out on a training ride.
It is much better to have several layers of thin clothing to keep warm rather than one thick one, as air is trapped between the layers. If you get too hot you can always remove a layer.
Racing cape or waterproof jacket
One of the best purchases I ever made was a rain jacket made out of Gore-Tex. Although very expensive, it’s a godsend on wet or raw, cold days as it is worn over the top of everything.
There is nothing so miserable as suffering with cold hands on a ride. Many makes now advertise what temperatures they can be ridden in. Top-quality gloves invariably come with velcro fixing and long cuffs so you can tuck your jacket sleeves inside, thus keeping all extremities well covered up. Cycling-specific gloves are padded in the important places, such as the index finger and thumb, which experiences maximum wear as this part grips the brake hood.
Materials such as merino wool offer great insulation and are hard-wearing. Fashion is not so important as with summer socks.
Road or Mtb Shoes
It is best to have a separate pair of shoes for the winter, a pair that is more robust, thicker and thus warmer.
These are essential for eliminating cold feet. They keep your feet dry and protect those valuable shoes from damp, mucky roads.
I always advocate wearing a helmet, and to keep your head and ears warm there are many thin hats that fit underneath. In less cold conditions wear a racing cap underneath the helmet. The peak is useful when riding into low-lying sun as it gives eye protection.
Eyewear for Winter
Exchange tinted for clear glasses in the winter.
Mudguards for winter
Not a piece of clothing, but this piece of equipment protects both your bike and you from road spray — witness the black skid mark up riders’ backs. Many race bikes don’t have eyelets to clamp standard mudguards to the frame, but there are now carbon mudguards on the market that come with their own fixings and provide excellent protection. They don’t rattle when riding if .fitted properly.