What riding gear do I wear?
June 11 — 2021 | Santa Cruz, California
Quality cycling apparel should last more than a season. If your gear is wearing out or dying a slow death by month two, it’s time to rethink your purchasing decisions. Making the investment on higher-value ride kits can make your time in the saddle super comfortable and hygienic, rather than enduring the chafe, sweat build-up, and constant tugging to keep things in place. It’s vital to get materials that breathe and wick away moisture, along with designs that fit your body and allow you to move freely while on the bike. And let’s be honest, we also want our look to be dialed! Look good, feel good, as they say.
Let’s get into the main factors to consider when choosing your next riding outfit, whether you’re a roadie, a downhill trail junkie, gravel grinder, or mix it up with multiple disciplines.
Great gear stands above the cheap stuff in more than one way. Despite the price tag, you’ll be saving money in the long run. Here’s why: good quality means stretch that won’t sag, lightweight and breathable materials to keep you cool, grip that keeps gripping, seams that won’t unravel, colors that won’t fade, and shape and structure that last countless laundry cycles. All this plus it can take your toughest beatings on the bike. If you value garments that feel cozy, look cool, and last the test of time, aim above the median in price range. Reputable brands make sure to research and test their apparel on avid riders, and craft their designs to specifically suit your riding position. They also come with a features list that brings you all the functionality you could ever dream of, including pockets, vents, zippers, and more.
LET’S TALK CHAMOIS
In any case, a well-fitting chamois is the most central component to your riding shorts, since that is what will be against your skin and have the most significance on how you feel when riding. Women’s-specific chamois have padding construction and arrangements that suit us ladies best. Believe us, it’s not just about the saddle. A quality chamois design can make the difference between a sufferfest and a focused, enjoyable training session. Plus, fabrics matter. Higher end chamois have advanced-technology fabrics that pull moisture and odors away from the skin, while reducing hot spots and pressure. If there’s one bit of advice we’d emphasize: do not skimp on your chamois! You’ll need a great chamois no matter if you’re riding in full lycra or opting for baggies.
LYCRA VERSUS BAGGIES
Lycra is the OG of cycling apparel. You might scratch your head watching some of the hardcore MTB downhill racers kitted out in their lycra skinsuits, but lycra kits are still a thing! And lycra was the only thing back in the day. So, don’t be afraid to sport the old throwback lycra look if that’s in your integrity. More power to you! That said, lycra these days tends to be more popular in road, gravel riding, and cross-country racing. In these applications, wind-resistance is a greater aspect and shaving seconds off by being streamlined pays off. Lycra shorts come in bib style or a regular shorts pattern. Bibs can be awesome for supreme comfort and decreasing the pressure at the midsection, but a little more of a fuss for bathroom breaks.
Baggies, on the other hand, are more the standard in general mountain biking. The extra coverage and protection are bonuses when it comes to riding close to foliage, kicking up rocks, or surviving the next inescapable crash. Baggy shorts are available in longer lengths, too, for avoiding the dreaded gaper gap! Go for inseams that are long enough for your legs that they cover the space above your knee pads. And make sure to double check the length when seated; your shorts may be long enough while standing and then gap when you’re on the saddle. It’s the finer details that matter! Look for baggies with plenty of pockets for stashing your phone, snacks, or other personal items to keep them handy when you’re on the move. Zipped pockets are more secure. And remember, chamois are definitely still recommended for this setup. Many baggy shorts come with cheap chamois inserts, and it’s totally ok to cut them out and wear your own high-quality chamois underneath.
Still not sure what to wear? Get out on some group rides and ask other women what they love—the best secrets are in personal testimonials and hearing about what works.