Spring Summer 2021
Cycle Clothing Guide
With a teaser of the warmer weather to come, it might be just the time to give your cycling clothing drawer an overhaul. In the current situation, long summer days on the bike with friends or club mates, evening crit races and weekend track meets may all seem like a dream that’s a world away, but the time will come and these things will return. Freshen up your cycling clothing to look sharp and feel comfortable on those swelteringly hot rides.
For a summer wardrobe, the focus often leans towards cooling and moisture management; choose your kit wisely to increase comfort and you’ll be able to ride harder and perform better. The type of ride will influence clothing choices too, if you’re racing in the heat of the day or in the mountains, you’re going to have different priorities to if you’re off on a long, chilled spin in the lanes with friends.
Quality summer cycling clothing may feel like quite an investment, but paired with arm or leg warmers, a gilet or even a jacket, it can become extremely versatile and wearable through a far wider range of temperatures.
Cycling Jersey Fabrics
If you wear a t-shirt, casual shorts or other day-to-day clothes on the bike for more than a trip to the local shop, you’re undoubtedly going to suffer in the heat. Technical fabrics are key to comfort, and most summer cycling kit will boast elements of breathability, moisture-wicking and minimal weight. Some clothing enhances cooling in other ways, an example of this is coldblack treatment that is designed to reduce heat absorption. Another way brands achieve this is by the strategic placement of different materials.
On the flip-side, you won't be basking in the sun on every summer ride, it may be cooler, but your efforts are still intense. These are the days you'll require a little extra protection. The Castelli Gabba ROS Short Sleeve Jersey gives you just that, with water-resistant, Gore-Tex Windstopper Infinium fabric protecting you. With this material there is no compromise on breathability, making it a versatile garment.
Fabrics can offer excellent sun protection so you only need to use sun cream on exposed areas of skin, however, many performance jerseys use a combination of mesh fabrics to keep weight to a minimum. It’s therefore important to remember that protection in these areas can be minimal.
Many high-end materials are supportive and stretchy, so you can wear your clothing tight for aerodynamic gains without any restriction. More tailored shorts and jerseys tend to be made from multiple panels, allowing the manufacturer to strategically place different materials according to their properties and benefits.
Cycling Jersey Fit
You’ll want your jersey to fit fairly tight, but how far you take this will depend on its purpose and what is most comfortable for you. If you’re racing, the last thing you want is flapping material but this may be slightly less of an issue for a casual club run. Jerseys are often cut shorter in the front and slightly longer at the back, and may feel tight and slightly restrictive when you’re off the bike. For those new to the sport this can feel strange, wrong even when trying on potential new kit, but rest assured that it’s designed for optimisation in the riding position and will feel far more comfortable once on the bike.
Cycling Jersey Features
The basics - a zip and storage pockets - will be found on all jerseys, but pay a little, or a lot, more and there are a huge amount of additional features on offer.
Rear pockets are handy for ride essentials; tools, nutrition, spare layers, your phone, and two to three pockets will sometimes sit alongside a pump-specific sleeve or a zipped pouch for valuables. Some pockets feature a stabilisation system to prevent them sagging or bouncing around when packed full.
Most jerseys have a full-length zip, allowing complete control over ventilation, but others have a ½ or ¾ zip instead. On some, a zip garage at the top prevents neck irritation.
Cycling Jersey Grippers, Seams and Sleeves
Sleeve length will come down to personal preference, with racers tending to prefer longer sleeves, almost to the elbows, that hug the arms for improved aerodynamics. They may be laser-cut for a smoother finish and sometimes have inner silicone to hold them in place.
Silicone can be found on the waist hem too, often together with an elastic gripper, securing the jersey against your shorts. Flat-lock engineered seams are commonly used in most garments, reducing the risk of chafing if the stitching rubs against your skin, especially if you’re sweating heavily.
Cycling Bib Shorts
Short length is an often discussed, and controversial, subject, but there’s far more to a good short or bib short than how it looks, although if you’re wishing to develop some sharp tan lines you’ll need to make sure length is consistent.
A good, well-padded short allows you to put in the miles and enjoy a summer of riding to its fullest. It can be very personal as to what’s comfortable and what’s not, but in general, the more you pay the more technology a short will incorporate, for support, comfort and a flattering aesthetic.
Cycling Short Seat Pad
At the heart of a short is the seat pad, otherwise known as the chamois, which will reduce chafing, soak up shocks from the road or trail and prevent the build-up of pressure in contact points with the saddle. Designed to be worn without underwear, the padding should move with your body as you pedal and it may be made up from multiple layers that include foam and a skincare layer. The seat pad ideally needs to be nice and breathable, and quick-drying to keep you fresh.
Cycling Bib Short Fabric and Bib Straps
Many fabrics offer compression to support the muscles, reducing fatigue, and silicone grippers or equivalent at the hem prevent ride-up. Dimpling effects that smooth the flow of air will provide a further aerodynamic advantage.
Up top, bib straps come in many styles, most running straight up on either side of the chest. In some women’s-specific designs, the strap may meet in the centre, with the fastener releasable for easier toilet breaks, or even provide fuller coverage for additional support, such as in much of Black Sheep Cycling's women's range. What you want is light, breathable fabric that once on is hardly noticeable.
There’s far more to getting your summer kit right than just the choice of shorts and jersey. Fit, comfort and performance should be considered first and foremost, meaning lightweight and breathable where possible. Once all these are covered, you can make sure you’re looking as sharp as possible by taking a look at our Cycling Style Guide for the fashion dos and don'ts.
Some riders will choose to wear gloves year-round, others just in the deepest of winter. A quality pair of short-fingered gloves or mitts will ensure a good grip on the handlebar even when your hands are sweaty, and they damp vibrations from rough roads, preventing numbness. If you do happen to crash, they could potentially prevent you from losing a lot of skin, or worse. MAAP's Pro Base Race Mitts will offer the protection and control you need, but use a mesh for the back of hand to keep coverage minimal and ventilation high.
Length and colour may be a personal choice, but make sure that whatever socks you decide on, they’re made from the lightest possible materials and, preferably, paired with a well-ventilated pair of cycling shoes. Polyester is the main material used, thanks to its wicking and quick-drying properties. Not only will a good pair of socks keep your feet cool and comfortable, but some also contain antibacterial fibres to keep nasty odours from developing. Castelli's Rosso Corsa Pro 15 Socks are ultralight and contain 200-needle construction to wick away odours and allow for extra stretch.
Not just for the winter months, there are plenty of lightweight base layers available. It may seem counterintuitive to add extra clothing when the mercury rises, but a summer base layer can be as effective at cooling as thermal layers are at keeping you warm.
Technical wicking ability is key, along with breathability and fast-drying. Sweat is drawn away from the body for improved temperature regulation and, consequently, comfort.