Answering the question “what should I wear for cycling” varies significantly based on the reason you’re choosing to cycle and how seriously you’re planning on taking your cycling.
The needs of someone choosing to improve their fitness by cycling their commute to work will be completely different from those joining a road cycling club.
Regardless of your level, this short guide will give you an overview of some of the clothing and accessories you might consider when taking up cycling!
Regardless of your reason for taking up cycling and how seriously you intend to take it, one piece of equipment is crucial to invest in; an appropriate cycle helmet.
The cost of MIPS (multi-directional impact protection system) helmets has reduced significantly in recent years to make them accessible for cyclists at all levels.
MIPS helmets offer greater protection against brain injury in the event of a collision – the shell absorbs linear impact, while the inner layer can slide to reduce rotational impact.
Do I Have To Wear Lycra?
Lycra/Spandex is a popular choice for those who take cycling more seriously.
One of the main reasons is comfort. Lycra and spandex are form-fitting, which means that they can help avoid chafing, especially for longer rides. It’s also possible to opt for moisture-wicking Lycra clothing, which can help keep you feeling dryer when you sweat.
There are also aero-dynamic benefits of form-fitting Lycra/Spandex clothing, which can significantly benefit those who approach cycling more competitively.
But if you’re just starting out on your cycling journey, you may be reassured to know that donning Lycra is not a prerequisite for enjoying cycling.
It’s possible to cycle in any other clothes you would typically feel comfortable exercising in.
Denim and other heavy fabrics are likely to be uncomfortable and discouraged for longer rides, but for shorter rides/commutes, wearing your regular clothes for cycling is absolutely fine.
One common frustration to be aware of when wearing looser clothes for cycling is loose trouser legs getting caught in the chain. Luckily there are easy solutions for this problem, using either specially designed trouser clips, a home-made Velcro solution, or by tucking your trousers into your socks.
Given the British weather, waterproof jackets are also an essential item of clothing for all cyclists, regardless of level.
If you’re using your bike for commuting or casual riding, you will probably be better with a loose-fitting waterproof jacket that you can wear comfortably over your everyday clothes. For more serious riders that are focused on performance, a more tailored jacket with a tighter cut is advisable to reduce loose material.
Waterproof trousers to wear over your everyday clothes are also advisable for commuters – although there are now waterproof cycling trousers from brands like Vulpine that look just as good at work as they do on your bike!
Other Cycling Accessories
If you’re cycling casually over short distances, you’re likely to be okay wearing your usual trainers for your rides. Bike shoes are recommended for cyclists who travel longer distances, even if you’re not approaching cycling competitively.
This is because bike shoes clip into the bike pedal to enable you to push and pull the pedal with equal force. Without bike shoes, you rely on the ‘push’ motion alone, which can put quite a lot of strain on the quads.
It’s also advisable to look at purchasing some quality cycling gloves. You probably won’t need them in Spring and Summer, but in the colder months, they can be a huge help in avoiding frozen fingers!