Buyer's Guide to Cycle Clothing
In order to maximise the enjoyment and health benefits of bike riding, it is important to ensure that you are both comfortable and safe whilst cycling.
Cycle wear has benefited from many developments in the world of fabrics and manufacturing processes. As a result we offer an extensive choice of practical clothing that is both stylish and affordable. When you think of cycle clothing you probably imagine riders in the Tour de France wearing tight Lycra and fingerless gloves. However, with modern materials and advanced production methods, you can be comfortably stylish without having to look like a real pro.
Choosing the correct garments for the conditions you are riding in is a very important factor. Being either too hot or too cold can spoil what may have been an enjoyable ride. Luckily, the vast choices available can make cycling enjoyable whatever the weather.
All Weather Cycle Clothing
Clothing manufacturers produce two ranges of clothing through the year. One is designed to cope with summer riding and the other the harsh conditions of winter. The nature of cycling over different terrain also means that the choice of clothing for a ride can be difficult. When the body is working harder when riding up hill it is generating more heat and more sweat which can be very uncomfortable. However, when at the top of the hill and descending down the other side heat is rapidly being lost and the body is susceptible to chills and muscle strains.
To try and cope with these varied demands, manufacturers have developed layering systems with special wicking materials on a base layer to remove moisture from the skin through to mid layers. This allows air to move both ways (and can be worn as an outer layer when warm) through to the outer garments that allow moisture to leave the body, but preventing the air from passing back through and lowering the bodies core temperature. These outer layers can be windproof and waterproof and are often lightweight so that when warm they can be removed and placed into a rear pocket. This feature is standard design on cycling clothing. These layers can then be easily put back on if the weather turns for the worse or when descending a hill. This layering system is used for MTB riding or road cycling. Even when styles vary, the same technology can be utilised.
Fitted To Suit Your Discipline
With cycling covering a huge range of disciplines and uses, clothing design varies greatly. High comfort is all important for long riding on the road and trail. Lycra serves as the main material for riding on the road and padded shorts ease pressure on the saddle. For XC and trail MTB riding, loose tops and baggy shorts (still with padding) are the preferred choice with plain and simple designs for the tops. Some riders, especially XC racers will use lycra shorts that are similar, if not the same as those worn on the road. For BMX, jump and down hill mountain bikes however, fashion is paramount and loose fitting casual tops and long shorts (often with body armour) are the must have clothing.
Extensive Range of Bike Apparel
Everything in this huge range of cycle clothing can be found on the AW site, along with other hugely important accessories such as gloves and mitts of all types. We have specialist shoes, socks and overshoes to keep your feet dry and full rain trousers and capes to keep the rest of you dry. You can find specially designed hats that fit under your helmet to keep your head warm and many types of eyewear, either specifically designed for cycling or simply as a fashion accessory. For further information and explanations on the technology and its range of uses, take a look through our buyer’s guides.
The main area of contact with the bike is the seat area. Most shorts come with a padded insert which provides a padded contact area for the delicate parts of the body, as well as helping to wick sweat and moisture away, thus preventing any bacterial infection. Shorts are available with either a brace type bib fitting or standard elasticated waist fitting. Bib style fittings are probably the most popular amongst keen cyclists, but it is largely down to your personal preference.
Undervest / Base Layer
In the summer an undervest will wick moisture away from the skin and help keep you cool. In the winter it provides an extra layer to keep you warm, as well as removing moisture away from the skin. Available in both long and short sleeve designs, we recommend that a quality base layer is worn at all times.
Available in both long and short sleeved versions and with team designs or simply plain in colour, a dedicated cycling jersey goes a long way to helping you enjoy the time you spend on the bicycle. With storage pockets on the back of the top it is possible to store all of your spares, a cape, wallet and keys conveniently and unobtrusively.
Tights / Winter Legwear
As with cycling shorts, long tights are available as standard waist or bib fittings. We recommend bib style fittings as they provide you with a certain amount of extra warmth around the waist and back. With the unpredictable weather conditions experienced in the UK, it is important to ensure you wear garments that are appropriate for the elements. If you are going to be commuting all winter, thermal tights would be more suitable that a lighter rainproof tight. A massive range of options are available from tights suitable for the damp British winter, to thermal tights; ideal for bitter alpine blizzards.
Thanks to the development in modern materials, there is now a substantial range of winter specific jackets on the market. These will keep you warm, let your body breathe when it gets hot and offer a degree of wind protection. A quality cold weather coat combined with sensible jersey or undervest choices will keep you warm in any of the unpredictable conditions experienced in the UK.
Capes / Gilets
A must have for all but the most fair weather cyclist. A waterproof cape will shelter you from rain, snow, hail and sleet and as a bonus will reduce wind-chill. For more clement weather during late spring and the summer, a sleeveless cape, known as a Gillet is more suitable. This will stop you from getting saturated and offers a certain amount of protection.
Leg warmers are ideal for those occasions when the weather is likely to change or you simply require an extra layer. Warmers are ideal for spring cycling and early morning/evening summer riding. A variety of thicknesses and materials are available, to suit your intended use. These garments are a great addition to your wardrobe and an easy piece of kit to remove and stow in your back pocket when the weather improves.
3/4 Leg Warmers
As the name suggests, these warmers cover ¾ of the leg, leaving just the shin exposed. These leg warmers are a great choice for when the outside temperature has a cold edge, but it isn't cold enough to justify wearing full length leg warmers.
Similar to leg warmers, a pair of arm warmers will take the edge off cold weather conditions. Although not really intended to protect from the real depths of winter, warmers are a must have for early spring and late summer cycling.
Hats / Caps
Even if you choose to wear a crash helmet, they can be so efficient at cooling that it is necessary to wear a cap in the summer and something a little more substantial in the winter, such as a skull cap. A fleece lined skull cap or even a hooded jacket under a helmet can make the difference between getting a cold head and being warm enough. A large variety of headwear is available to suit all types of riding in every condition; from woolly winter hats, to light summer caps that will keep the sun from burning your head.
Another important contact point between a rider and their bicycle is the feet. Wearing appropriate socks will keep your feet comfortable and not too warm or cold depending on the type chosen. From woolly winter socks to thin cotton summer socks, there is a suitable option for every type of riding.
Oversocks / Overshoes
Useful to keep your feet warm and protect shoes, socks and overshoes are an essential piece of kit for extreme weather riding. Oversocks add a little bit of warmth and enable you to stay looking stylish, while overshoes are the perfect winter addition to keep feet warm and dry. Light coloured designs help your feet to remain cool in the height of summer by reflecting the heat of the sun.
In the unfortunate event of a crash it is human instinct to extend the arms. As a result, damage to the palms of cyclist's hands is common. A decent pair of riding gloves will protect the hands from abrasions and road rash, as well as providing extra padding to reduce uncomfortable vibrations and bumps. Winter gloves are thermal long fingered versions of regular fingerless gloves. As with most winter-based equipment, all sorts of different materials are available to minimise the effects of more extreme weather conditions.
As you would expect in a sport where practically every condition can be encountered (sometimes on just one ride!) there are countless cycling accessories available. These range from fleece lined headbands and drawstring ended hats to sunglass lanyards and mobile phone cases. At AW Cycles we have many years of biking experience, both at home and around the world. With this experience we can listen to your requirements and determine the best clothing solution for you.