Whether you’re into road biking, mountain biking or casual riding, cycling is a fantastic way to spend time outside and get a great workout. Even though late spring, summer and early fall are the ideal times to ride, it’s possible to enjoy year-round riding with the proper gear. In the following guide, we’ll cover everything from bike clothing for various weather conditions to protective gear, as well as a few cycling gear tips.
Although you could just ride in a regular T-shirt, cycling jerseys from brands like Pearl Izumi and Giordana offer several key benefits for bikers. One of the biggest advantages is that bike jerseys are crafted of stretch-woven, moisture-wicking fabric, which helps pull sweat away from the skin to the surface for fast evaporation, keeping riders drier and much more comfortable. Many cycling jerseys also include a long front zipper to provide adjustable ventilation, as well as handy rear pouches to store energy gels, snacks and other items. Cycling jerseys are available in lightweight, short sleeve styles for warm weather and thicker, long sleeve styles for cold conditions.
Quick Tip: Jerseys with bright colors or special reflective accents will help make you more visible to motorists.
Owning at least one good pair of cycling shorts is essential to maximizing your comfort level in the saddle, especially for longer rides. The form-fitting, stretch fabric of cycling shorts helps prevent chafing, and most bike shorts from brands like Canari and DaKine feature a special contoured pad called a chamois, which is designed to provide increased cushioning on long rides. For even more comfort, some riders prefer a pair of bib shorts, which eliminate the constricting waistband in favor of fabric suspenders. For rides in chilly weather, a pair of cycling tights or knickers is another must-have piece of clothing.
Quick Tip: Not quite ready to face the world wearing tight spandex shorts? Consider grabbing a pair of mountain biking shorts, which conceal a spandex liner underneath a baggier pair of shorts.
When it comes to off-season rides and inclement weather, a good cycling jacket is invaluable. Designed to layer over your jersey, cycling jackets are lightweight, wind-resistant and cut with a longer rear hem for full coverage in the saddle. Some bike jackets are designed to fold up and easily stuff into a seatpost bag, pannier or daypack.
Quick Tip: When fitting a cycling jacket, make sure to choose a size that will layer well over a jersey, but won’t be too baggy. Also be sure the sleeves are long enough to accommodate your riding position.
Cycling gloves can do more than keep your hands protected in the event of a fall. Some styles also have strategically placed padding on the palm to dampen road vibrations and reduce hand fatigue. Other styles offer added warmth for cold weather rides. If you’re a mountain biker, you may want to consider full-finger gloves for increased protection.
Quick Tip: Consider looking for gloves with a soft, sweat-wiping surface on the thumb. It can really come in handy during intense workouts!
Since biking is a low-impact sport, cycling socks typically feature very little padding and mainly serve to wick moisture and prevent chafing. Bike socks are crafted of breathable, synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon, as well as natural fibers like merino wool for superior moisture management. Icebreaker and Point 6 are two good brands to consider for cycling socks.
Arm and leg warmers can be good, lightweight alternatives to a jacket and tights in moderate to chilly weather. Plus, they’re easy to shed and store once your muscles get warmed up or the temp rises.
A bike helmet is the one piece of protective gear every cyclist should own. Modern bike helmets from brands like Giro and Orbea have a lightweight, aerodynamic design with ample ventilation for comfort during rigorous rides. Be sure to select a helmet that fits well, and always buckle the chin strap. Your helmet won’t do any good if it doesn’t stay on!
Although some bike helmets are geared specifically toward road biking, mountain biking or recreational riding, all good-quality helmets provide about the same level of protection. The exception is a full-face helmet, which offers additional face protection for downhill mountain biking, dirt jumping, urban freestyle and BMX.
Sunglasses are another must-have piece of gear for riding. Not only do they protect from glare and harmful UV rays, they also shield your eyes from flying insects, dust and debris. Just about any pair of sunglasses will suffice, but models with a sporty, wrap-around fit -- such as those from Smith Optics and Oakley -- provide the best protection.
Quick Tip: Sunglasses with interchangeable lenses allow you to adjust to changing light conditions -- just pop in clear or amber lenses should your evening ride go long.
Cycling shoes and clipless pedals are a progressive step for dedicated riders who want to get the most efficiency from their pedal stroke. Cycling shoes fit more snugly than athletic shoes and have stiff midsoles to transfer more power to the pedals, which can improve smoothness and speed. Mountain bike shoes have lugged outsoles and recessed cleats to make walking alongside your bike easier. Road biking shoes usually have smooth outsoles. For more detailed info on bike shoes and pedals, check out our The Cycling Shoe Guide.
Quick Tip: If you’re new to clipless pedals, be sure to practice clicking in and out of your pedals before going for a ride.
We all know the importance of hydration. Many cyclists prefer water bottles with frame-mounted bottle cages for easy access on the go. Some bikers prefer a hydration backpack from brands like CamelBak, DaKine or Platypus, which are great on longer rides when you’re carrying more gear.
Quick Tip: As a rule of thumb, you should drink about one liter of water for every hour of activity, more if conditions are very hot and humid.
There are some items many cyclists bring on every ride, such as a spare inner tube, compact bike pump and bike tool. A seat bag is an easy way to carry a spare tube and other smaller items. If you plan on commuting or taking long trips with your bike, a set of panniers is a great way to hold extra gear. Plus, bike panniers and a rear cargo rack will allow you to take your bike to the store, which can save money on fuel. Finally, if you want to capture your biking adventures on video and share them with friends and family, a compact, high-definition camera from brands like iON or GoPro can be a lot of fun.
Ride safe out there!