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Cycling Style Guide

Our Dos and Don'ts

Cycling is steeped in history, and style both on and off the bike has long been a key consideration, whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned pro. Fashions come and go, preferred sock length causes heated discussions and approaches to jersey designs change at a rate of knots. There are though a number of key considerations worth taking into account when it comes to getting kitted up, ready to hit the road. We’ve taken a look, from head to toe, at just some of them.

Stay Ahead of the Game - Cycling Helmet

Use your head when it comes to helmet choice. Fit, protection and ventilation are your three key elements. Once these are dialled you can move onto style. As a general rule of thumb, playing it safe with a colour such as black or white ensures that pretty much whatever kit you wear you’ll be coordinated.

Leave the mushroom look to the likes of Super Mario and his friends and opt for the most compact design for your head shape. Practical considerations such as where you’ll place your sunglasses when not in use should be considered, as well as how the helmet looks when you wear a cycling cap underneath.

Wear your helmet level on your head. This is foremost for safety and to ensure the lid’s protective features do their job but secondly stops you looking like you’ve been pulled through a hedge backwards.

Express Yourself - Cycling Jerseys

Sails are for boats, let’s keep it that way. There’s no way the majority of us will slip seamlessly into a small race cut jersey without some serious contortionist skills. We do, however, recommend wearing the tightest fitting jersey that is still practical when it comes to comfort and storage needs. That brings us neatly onto pockets. Pockets should be just that - storage areas for a select number of items - and not resemble a secondary saddlebag. Keep the bulky items in the saddlebag and ensure your pockets are sag-free.

Keeping the bulk down, an ultra foldable packable jacket is a handy addition to your kit arsenal. Once fit and storage have been addressed now it’s time to express yourself. Really, go for it. Your jersey is one of the few pieces of kit on which you can put your individual stamp. Whether that’s bold colours and designs or understated hues, let your jersey tell the story.

The Long and Short of Cycling Shorts

Approach with caution when it comes to shorts. Some would say that pro team AG2R La Mondiale should have taken this advice with their brown bib shorts. Keep things simple and stick to black, or at a push navy should you want to complement your upper half with your lower. The legs should blend into the rest of your ensemble, although how much leg you show is up for debate.

For those committed to their tan line game, a short leg length is favourable. No, we are not talking hot pants, just a slightly higher leg gripper above the knee. This traditionally has been the default when it comes to short length. More recently though many pros have demanded a longer cut. Go with whatever you feel comfortable with, just don’t forget those tan lines. Want to avoid your legs resembling two portions of Neopolitan ice cream? Simply match your cycling short length with your casual shorts and enjoy pristine tan lines.

Sock it To The Competition - Cycling Socks

Your socks say a lot about you. Some would say white is boring, for others it is the only way to go. Consider the rest of your kit, at the end of the day you don’t want to look like you’ve just staggered out of a dayglo disco. Another consideration is shoe colour. Clashing shoes and socks are never a good look. Harking back to the days of a certain Texan dominating the Tour, black shoes and white socks definitely made a statement. Got the confidence to pull it off? Then go for it.

As for length? This is a debate that splits even the most conservative of cyclists. Knee high compression socks should be firmly in the domain of triathletes and keep in mind, you’re not complementing your favourite pair of trainers so leave those ankle socks in the drawer. To a point, anything in between is acceptable, although the just below calf length option is currently a popular one as it can give the impression (illusion) of bigger calf muscles and as such acts as a valuable tool to strike fear into your ride companions. 

Put Your Best Foot Forward - Cycling Shoes

Other than keeping them pristinely clean, just like jerseys, feel free to express yourself. White never fails to look sharp, although that does come with the caveat of regular cleaning.

Another good guide to follow is to base your shoe colour choice on that of your helmet. Keep the top and bottom in check and you are onto a winner.

Those Make or Break Finishing Touches

However many pairs of leather trousers you own or how cool you feel sitting in a 67 Mustang you’re not Clint Eastwood, so keep the casual shades firmly in the glove compartment and opt for sports specific sunglasses.

When choosing a frame, you can go as wild as you like but just take into account how they will look offset against the rest of your kit, at the end of the day you don’t want to look like a welder.

We’re not going to teach you how to suck eggs so will leave you with one key tip as to how to wear those slick shades and that is to have the straps under the frames of the sunglasses.

Back to those controversial, highly debatable sock rules and the leg warmers over or under socks conundrum continues to split the cycling community. Whether you are a Belgian junior or Tom Boonen fan, wear your socks with pride over the warmers. At the end of the day, you’ve spent countless hours choosing those dope socks, so why not show them off?

For the traditionalists among you, you’ve probably spat your porridge out over your Campagnolo Record levers reading this bold leg warmer suggestion. It’s ok though, the leg warmers over socks look has its place too. Keep those socks in pristine condition prior to the great pin reveal for summer and ensure a smoother exit from kit post ride.

Sticking with warmers (sorry, we couldn’t resist), there is one warmer configuration that should never be attempted. The leg warmer arms out look. Why arm warmers on and legs out is acceptable and this option isn’t pretty much sums up dressing for the sport of cycling; It isn’t half confusing!

What are your dos and don'ts when it comes to cycling clothing? Let us know in the comments section below.

About the Author

  • About Dan: After racing in Britain and France, Dan can now be found tackling gran fondos and riding around Dorset, Surrey and Essex.
  • Article Published On: 21 May 2019

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