Women's Cycling Clothing & Gear: What You Really Need

Why You Should Get Cycling-Specific Clothing

We’ll let you in on a little secret: You can wear anything you want you want while cycling! While elite athletes in Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) events will need to wear UCI-compliant kit, most events will only mandate that you need to wear a helmet.

But, like with any sport, wearing specific clothing or upgrading your gear to meet your unique needs will make you feel more comfortable and improve your performance.

Think of it like this: Wearing jeans and sandals for a leisurely afternoon stroll is fine, but if you ran a marathon in jeans and sandals you’d get some weird looks (you also probably wouldn’t make it to the finish line).

The same goes for cycling.

If you’re new to cycling, wearing your regular gym clothes is fine. Nothing should hold you back from enjoying your riding, especially not what you’re wearing. So if you feel overwhelmed with the amount of clothing and gear options or simply need to save up before buying cycling-specific clothing, feel free to wear and use whatever you have to continue getting out there and enjoying your bike

After all, if people can ride bikes naked, you can ride a bike in yoga pants.

When to Get Cycling-Specific Clothing

If you feel you want to push yourself to ride harder and longer or simply get a little bit more out of your riding, that’s where the inadequacies of regular activewear will start showing.

Underwear will get wedged in places you’d rather it didn’t, the seams on your clothing will feel like razor blades, and although there is nothing stopping you from wearing a  ‘breathable’ cotton t-shirt you will find that a cycling jersey is fit for purpose with multiple advantages from being longer at the back to having handy back pockets to stash your essentials whilst cycling.

Plus, you’ll be amazed at how many unexpected areas start to chafe when you’re hot, sweaty, and making repetitive movements.

That’s where cycling-specific clothing comes in. Along with  some pretty rad designs (some brands even let you customize stitching, colours, and more) that make you faster, here are some of the benefits:

  • The materials used are selected to be breathable, meaning your sweat will evaporate faster and you’ll smell as fresh as a daisy after completing a century (sort of).
  • Instead of carrying your phone, keys and wallet in a bag, cycling jerseys have handy rear pockets to allow you to store your essentials.
  • During winter months, layering is essential so base layers play a vital role in ride comfort. They are also useful in warmer climates, where the fabric wicks sweat away from your skin.
  • Cycling clothing also comes in bright colors or has reflective strips to ensure that you’re visible to motorists and other road-users to enhance safety.

Choosing Between Cycling Shorts, Underwear or Bibs

If you don’t already wear cycling shorts, you’re in for a new world of comfort when you buy your first pair! Not everyone will feel comfortable in skintight shorts, but luckily you have a few different options to choose from:

  • Waist shorts: Remember we mentioned that the seams in normal activewear would start to feel like razor blades on a long ride? Waist shorts have flat seams or are seamless to prevent chafing. They also have a built-in chamois (padding) to keep you comfortable on the saddle.
  • Cycling bibs: Despite the benefits of waist shorts, they can ride up (or down), the waistband can restrict your breathing, and the padding can shift. Cycling bibs hold everything in place, but on the downside they make nature breaks a little harder.
  • Trail baggies: Lycra isn’t your only option. If you want to wear shorts but don’t want them to be skintight, trail baggies have a loose outer shell with waist shorts underneath that can easily be removed for cleaning. They’re also made to be durable enough to withstand any snags or bumps while mountain biking or out on the trails. Women-specific ranges offer a better fit to suit slightly wider hips for improved comfort.
  • Padded underwear: If none of the above options seem quite right for you, you can choose padded underwear and wear them under any shorts or leggings you want.

Should we follow tradition that says roadies should wear cycling shorts or bibs and mountain bikers should wear trail baggies? No way! The only thing that really matters is what you feel most comfortable in.

Whatever you end up going with, buy the best pair you can afford - fabric quality makes a huge difference when it comes to their moisture-wicking properties and durability.

Should You Get a Women’s Bicycle Saddle?

Whether women-specific bicycles are a marketing ploy or a necessity is a debated topic, but one thing almost everyone agrees on is the need for women’s bicycle saddles.

While many bicycle components are unisex, women generally have wider sit bones than men. Men’s saddles tend to be narrower and longer, while women’s saddles are wider and shorter.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to saddles and what may work for someone else might not work for you.

Here are the best women’s saddles of 2022 as rated by Road.cc:

The Best Gear & Accessories for Your Safety

  • Helmet: All helmets are required to meet safety standards, so if you value your safety, buy from a reputable brand and ensure you speak to your local bike store if you are unsure what is most suitable for your needs. Whilst it’s not a legal requirement to wear a helmet in some jurisdictions, most race or event organizers require it. Mountain biking helmets usually have a sun visor while road cycling helmets don’t, but you can wear whichever feels most comfortable to you. Either way, look for a helmet that has MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) to disperse force in the event of impact - it adds to the price tag but is a valuable protection to have.
  • Bicycle and cyclist insurance: We’ll cover your bicycle for theft (from and away from home), accidental damage, malicious damage and more! Plus, our cyclist liability insurance covers you for third-party damage up to £2 million. Get a quick online quote today.
  • Lights: Studies show that having lights on your bike increases your visibility to motorists, so you should always use one even during the day.
  • Computer with GPS: Not only does this help you keep track of your stats and record your routes, but great navigation capabilities also prevent you from getting lost.

Bell or horn: It’s not legally mandated that UK cyclists need a working bell or horn on their bicycle, but it makes things a lot easier (and safer) particularly when riding on a shared trail whilst on your mountain or gravel bike.

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