Figuring out what to wear cycling can be a little confusing when you’re starting out. If you’re new to the sport, putting on a pair of funny looking shorts and a jersey may seem unnecessary. However, all it takes is a couple rides in a baggy t-shirt and you’ll be more than willing to give it a try.
A lot of it comes down to wind resistance, a snug fit to avoid chafing, and moisture wicking material. So, that loose fitting t-shirt won’t do you any favours as you get faster and stronger. Plus, having a cool looking jersey can make you feel like a pro and have you ripping up those climbs in no time.
What to Wear Cycling: The Cycling Kit
You may hear the term “cycling kit” thrown around when you’re just starting out. A cycling kit refers to the core cycling clothing: the combination of cycling shorts (with a chamois) and a jersey.
Step 1: Bike Shorts
Bike shorts may just be one of the most important pieces of gear you’ll get for cycling. Cycling shorts will include a chamois, which is the padded part. When you wear these shorts correctly (without underwear), the chamois not only adds a little extra padding for your sit bones, but it also but also prevents chafing. The three main reasons to wear bike shorts are:
- Extra Cushion – The padded area provides a smooth surface for your bottom, with no uncomfortable seams or uneven bits.
- Reduce Friction – The snug fitting fabric moves with you as you pedal, minimizing the chance of chafing.
- Moisture Management – Normal pants or shorts can act as a trap to moisture, keeping sweat on your skin while making the material damp. Cycling shorts are made from materials that work to move and evaporate moisture away from your skin.
Not only will a good pair of bike shorts allow you to ride longer, a bad pair will make for a painful experience! Ensure shorts should be snug enough so they will conform to your body and not shift with your movements.
Shorts vs Bibs – Bike shorts come in two styles: regular shorts or bibs. Bibs are bike shorts with built in suspenders. Most beginners will shy away from the look of them, but once you try them, few go back. Since they have no need for an elastic waistband, bibs can be more comfortable as they conform to your body. When bibs are worn under a jersey, they look just like regular bike shorts.
Step 2: Jersey
Similar to bike shorts, cycling jerseys are made from materials that should work to get moisture away from your body. The general design will be a zipper down the front, with back pockets specifically designed to carry food, tools, and whatever else you’ll need out on the road. They have a shorter front panel (as you will be bent over on your bike), with a longer back panel. The bottom hem will have silicon grip tape to keep the jersey in place as you ride. A jersey should be fairly form fitting to keep you as aerodynamic as possible.
Step 3: Layers
Although bike shorts and a jersey are the basics, knowing how to layer to stay comfortable in any weather is an important skill. The most important thing is to keep your core temperature consistent as you ride. Being too warm or too cold both waste energy, so you want to avoid it whenever possible.
It’s always a good idea to take a waterproof outer shell with you just incase you get caught in a rainstorm. There are also bike tights or pants you can get to wear over your bike shorts to stay warm on those cooler rides.
Step 4: Accessories
Cycling caps are great to both keep your head warm in the winter, and keep the sun and sweat out of your eyes in the summer. Plus, they look pretty cool when you stop at a coffee ship on your ride.
It’s nice for beginners to have a bit of padding on the palm of their hand, which cycling gloves can offer. You can get fingerless gloves for the summer, and then full moisture-wicking gloves for the winter months.
Cycling can be an intimidating sport to get into, especially when you walk into a bike shop with no idea where to start. You may see a ton of kitted out riders with all the bells and whistles, but you really don’t need much to get started. Start off with the basics, and you can build from there!