How to Choose Series [3]: Bike Clothing

Bike riding is a sport with plenty of avid participants. The moment you feel that “joy” when cycling in the outdoors, you’ll want more. It’s just fun to do! Given the fact that it’s extremely easy and healthy to ride a bike, this sport has been growing for many years. But let’s go back to our “How to Choose Series”. Today we’re covering the topic of bike clothing. Cycling appareal can certainly help feel stronger and ride longer, and that’s exactly why you need to know how to pick the best products foryou.

Cycling Jerseys

The semi-serious cyclist who’d love to keep up with the local cycling group, a fit jersey that is specifically designed for biking can be that little thing that might make a difference. Let’s see some tips on choosing a top for biking.

  • Fit

Bike jerseys should fit quite snugly. Material flapping in the wind will just slow you down. Know that you don’t have to go down a size, just try the size you normally choose.

  • Pockets

What’s the difference between bike jerseys and other tops? Those pockets found on the back, toward the waist, are really useful when you are cycling and want to reach gels, energy bars, or other small items. Always opt for jerseys with back pockets! If it doesn’t have them, pass on it – it’s not what you are looking for.

Cycling jerseys: Specific Features

  • Front zipper for ventilation when the temperature rises.
  • Stand–up collar to shade your neck in summer.
  • Reflective trim or highlights for night riding.
  • Shoulders are cut wider for arms–forward comfort.
  • Back pockets for on–the–go access.
  • Sleeves specially shaped for forward lean.
  • Longer cut in back for coverage.

PRO TIP: Opt for higher end jerseys that offer excellent insulation and breathability. And know that durability will be a much greater concern for mountain bikers than road riders.

Bike jersey - ideal for many situations

Cycling Shorts

Bike shorts help make rides of more than a few miles way more comfortable by reducing chafing and offering some shock-absorbing padding. Let’s see what you need to know if you're going shopping.

Cycling shorts are different from street shorts by 1) a padded crotch liner that reduces friction and wicks moisture, and 2) added stretch for freedom of movement. Know that the padding inside a cycling short is called the chamois pad.

Normally the denser and thicker chamois pads are used for long distance cycling or novice riders who seek to harden their butt. Seasoned and avid riders usually go for a thinner padding – mostly because they feel comfortable on the saddle and don’t need the extra thickness.

PRO TIP: Don’t ever choose cotton. You don’t want the sweat generated during cycling to be absorbed and to keep the skin wet, leading to discomfort and chafe especially around the neck area.

Cycling Shorts. Pro tip: always make sure you choose what best suits your needs

Types of Bike Shorts

Well, there are several categories of bike riders who need their own – slightly different – type of cycling apparel. Commuters will need casual looking bike shorts, while serious road riders will seek highly functional items.

  1. Casual Short Distance Bike Shorts – the perfect clothing for short rides. They should provide freedom of movement and loost fitting. The chamois pad is not a must in this category.
  2. Commuter Shorts – this cycling apparel category is casual looking yet features that high performance. Rugged, stretchy, and washable.
  3. Moving ups - ideal for moving up bike riders and are loaded with high tech features. Perfect for those who are getting faster and riding more miles. Breathability is a must.
  4. Long Distance Riders - elite bike clothing that boasts latest technologies built into the garment. This type of shorts often features highly engineered chamois pads and air gel pads.  
  5. MTB Shorts are casual looking and loose fitting. They are also called Baggy Bike Shorts. Normally, a baggy bike short is two shorts in one. There’s an outer shell layer made out of a four-ply woven nylon with an internal padded cycling short.
  6. Triathlon – these bike shorts need to work for all the sports involved in a ‘tri’: swimming, cycling and ruuning. Since the main idea behind a triathlon suit is to save much time in the transitions between each sub-race, these shorts are optimized for this.
  7. Recumbent – mostly needed for freedom of movement. Oh, and back pockets are relocated to the front. 

Bike Knickers and Tights

Since the cold season is coming, you may want to know how to choose bike clothing for cooler temperatures – which cover the knee and above. You should know that just like bike shorts, most knickers and tights come with a built-in chamois pad and should be chosen using the very same guidelines for comfort, breathability and fit. In addition to this, tights may include reflective detailing and weather-resistant front panels for dark, winter rides.

Some knickers and tights have a chamois liner to fit over a pair of bike shorts – for layering purposes.

Bike thights are perfect for cooler temperatures

Cycling Jackets

Will it keep you warm? Will it keep you dry? Always ask yourself the right questions when thinking how to choose the best bike jacket.

  • Cut

Form-fitting, ergonomic sleeves, tapered collars, and cape backs are all part of specialized cuts—the idea being that the jacket is meant to be worn while you are bending over on the handle­bars. This is the industry standard.

As you begin your journey towards the perfect jacket for your needs, consider just how streamlined you need to be, whether you need it for your weekend group ride, racing a crit, or cruising to your job.

  • Pockets

Probably the most important thing. They range from Velcro flaps, to a zipper or a little bit of stretch at the top. Opt for pockets that best suit your needs. Maybe you need pockets for food, tools, keys, or electronic devices.

  • Windproof

I prefer those extremely lightweight, packable wind jackets, especially when I’m sure it isn’t going to rain. They provide just the right amount of warmth.

  • Waterproof/Breathable

You have to choose one of them. It will be either one or the other. Just remember, the more breathable, the less waterproof, and vice versa. Test a few inexpensive, lower-performing fabrics and models first and then go for high-tech, breathable, stretch waterproof fabrics that cost more. 

Bike jackets

Layering the Bike Clothing

One of the most important secrets of successful bike riding is maintaining a consistent core body temperature as you cycle. Being too cold can be just as bad as being too warm. That’s because your body will waste energy at both extremes in a desperate action to regulate itself.

The 3 classic factors to keep in mind when it comes to layering:

  • A skin layer (e.g., long underwear) that helps wick away moisture.
  • A highly insulating middle layer.
  • A waterproof or windproof outer shell.

Bike Shoes

Bike shoes are way different than typical atheltic shoes, having stiffer soles that offer superior energy transfer when you pedal. In addition to this, bike shoes sometimes come with a specific type of pedal for a more secure connection. This shoe - pedal combination provides highly superior control with just a minimum amount of the pedaling energy lost.

Continue reading on bike shoes here – in Part 2 of ‘How to Choose Series’.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for Part 4: How to Choose Bike Commuter Bike Gear.

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