Over the years, cycling shorts have been the butt of many jokes (pun intended). Compared to other mainstream sportswear like football shorts and rugby tops, cycling clothing is much tighter-fitting. Even The Office has a comical deleted cycling clothing skit. Sadly, most jokes are the result of ill-fitting outfits, which are called “kits” in the cycling world. Like any other type of clothing, cycling kits are intended to fit in a certain way, based on the wearer and the clothing’s intended use. Even if your cycling buddies don’t plan to snap Instagram pics during your weekend ride, a well-fit kit contributes to confidence in and out of the saddle. In fact, you’ll look and ride better in an appropriate cycling kit. With the right clothing, you’ll be able to ride longer, faster, and stronger. The following is a guide to help you find the perfect kit for your cycle kit, from the bottom, up.
While cycling socks are of utmost importance, they’re not the most fashionable aspect of the kit. The best cycling socks for indoor and outdoor use are ones that reach at least 2-inches above the ankle onto the calf. A higher-ankle sock protects you from scrapes, keeps ankles warm, and provides extra padding to feet over the course of your ride. While it’s not necessary for cycling socks to contain extra padding, it’s a good idea to buy high-quality cotton and cotton blend socks that cushion skin from blistering and abrasions.
A cycling kit with interesting choice of socks…
Cycling bottoms are perhaps the most difficult part of a cycling kit to fit. They come in two forms: shorts and leggings. Then, each of these forms might also be bought as a “bib,” i.e. cycling overalls. Both forms have chamois, a padded layer that whisks away sweat, provides comfort, and staves off saddle sores. Most cycling bottoms are made of lycra or a lycra blend (blends include spandex, cotton, and even silk). It is of utmost importance that cycling shorts fit flexibly; they need to go the distance, literally and figuratively. Generally speaking, bottoms with more panels provide greater wiggle room. Flatlock stitching is a bonus; this kind of seam lies close to the body, protecting against chafing. Many cycling shorts have leg grips, most often in the form of silicone inserts that keep the shorts for riding up. Many outdoor and distance riders prefer bib bottoms because they’re less likely to slide: over-the-shoulder straps keep the bottoms in place. Without a waistline, bibs won’t dig into your waistline during long rides and sprints. Outdoor riders also prefer bibs as they prevent draft.
Cycling in the 1980’s—cycling clothing hasn’t changed much!
Cycling tops, often called “jerseys,” are usually made of more complex material blends than shorts. Jerseys are made of breathable technical material that keeps the rider dry in the summer and warm in the winter. Like shorts, a good cycling jersey will be made of multiple panels that offer the ride greater flexibility in movement. Cyclists can choose between different sleeve lengths: vest, short sleeves, upper-arm coverage, or even ¾- length. While some cycling tops come in pull-over versions, most jerseys have zippers. Zippers are either full-length, ¾-, or ¼- length. The different lengths in zippers help the rider control ventilation and aerodynamics. For cyclists who ride over different distances and seasons, it’s recommended to layer a jersey with a vest or wind-jacket. Most cycling tops, especially jerseys and top-layers, have a set of two or three pockets. These pockets can be used for sunglasses, “nutrition” (easy-to-consume snacks to help riders sustain long rides), and other layers, like arm warmers. Choosing a brightly-colored cycling jersey is also a smart way to keep yourself safe in the saddle. More and more riders sport reflective and/or neon cycling gear to warn drivers of their presence.
The number one way to ensure your cycling kit fits is by trying out the exact kit you plan to buy or the same size in a similar brand. Here’s a guide to trying on your kit:
- Sit on a chair or on a stool and lean forward. Extend your arms in front of your chest as if you were resting on the sprint bars of your bike. If there’s a gap at your back between your shorts and top you’ll need a shirt with a longer torso. If the zipper bunches on the front, you might need a smaller or bigger size. Are the arms very baggy, hanging more than ½- inch away from your body? Then get a tighter top!
- Sit up straight. Flex your pectoral muscles and biceps. Take one arm behind your head, stretching the triceps by pointing your fingers down your back. Does the shirt stay in place, bending and moving with you? If not, you’ll need a new size!
- Walk around the room, paying attention to the way your shorts move. The bottoms should give, rather than pull at your skin.
- As if you’re warming up for a race, do a few “high-knees” (raise your leg with a bent knee, so that the knee is in-line with the hip). The bottoms should move very little. If the end of the shorts’ leg slides toward your groin, you’ll need to go up or down a size.
Suit up properly and you’ll ride well no matter the weather!
You wouldn’t show up for tea with the Queen in a pair of jeans. So why show up to your saddle in uncomfortable, unflattering clothing? Fit your kit, and you’ll be ready for the royal ride your mind and body deserve!
(This Article was written by Emily Stewart for Baleaf Sports)