bike bike pannier and outfit woman

What Cycling Clothing Do I Need? Tips for Beginners

 

It can sometimes feel like there's a level of gate keeping when you first buy a bike.

There's so much advice floating around the internet about what you can and can't wear. And, surprise, surprise, what you can wear is usually expensive. 

But, contrary to popular thinking - you don't have to kit yourself out in Lycra when you first take up cycling.

Nor would you want to (we imagine!) Especially if you're only riding to the shops and back. 

There are things you should and shouldn't wear for your safety - and comfort - as a cyclist.

But, that doesn't mean you need a whole new wardrobe. In fact, you likely own most of these items already.

So, we're here to simplify all of the conflicting and costly advice.

Here's a list of things to avoid wearing when cycling and alternatives to consider.

Avoid: Jeans and Tight Dresses

You need to be able to move freely to pedal, and certain clothes can make this really hard. 

This is why we don't recommend wearing jean materials that have minimal stretch.

The thick seams can dig into your skin while cycling, especially where it meets the saddle.

Another reason to avoid jeans is the rain.

Denim becomes even more inflexible when it gets wet, which is exactly what you want to avoid!

Considering that you can't predict the British weather, it's always safer to leave your jeans at home when going on a bike ride. 

Fitted dresses similarly make it hard to cycle by restricting your movement. It makes life a lot harder for yourself - as lovely as you would look - so maybe save it for a non-cycling day.

Instead: Cycling Shorts and Leggings

Okay, we know we said you didn't have to buy all the fancy cycling clothes, but it'd be remiss to ignore the benefits of bike shorts.

Padded shorts are particularly sensible for long journeys as they are designed to give you comfort and flexibility.

They give you support when sitting on a saddle for hours (which is no small feat) by giving you extra padding. They can therefore reduce the chance of getting saddle sores.

Cycling Tip: Go commando! Padded Cycling shorts use chamois (the padding) to reduce friction and manage sweat. This is undermined if you wear underwear - so leave it at home. 

If you don't want to invest in a pair of padded shorts, leggings are a great alternative.

They don't have the benefits of the padding, but they do give you flexibility which is key to cycling. You can use regular sports leggings or even casual leggings as an alternative to jeans.

girl on bike summer dress matching helmet and basket

Avoid: Slip-On Shoes 

You shouldn't use sliders, flip flops, ballet flats or any other type of slip-on shoe when riding your bike.

Firstly, because they don't support your feet in any way. But, more importantly, because they're designed to slip off!

If they do slide off, you could become distracted and take your eyes off the road. It has the potential to result in injuries for you or passers-by.

Plus, even if your shoe doesn't fall off, you'll be hyper-aware that it could, which is another unnecessary distraction. 

These risks are avoidable by choosing a different style of shoe.

Wearing boots is another cycling no-no.

You might think it's a good idea as they are sturdy shoes. While it's true that they are sturdy, they rise beyond your ankles. They restrict your movement in the ankle, which is essential when cycling.

Instead: Closed Toe Trainers 

Rather than worrying about losing your shoe, we recommend choosing a good pair of closed-toe trainers to be your cycling go-to's.

So long as they tie up in some way, it should be hard for them to wriggle off your feet.

It is also crucial that these trainers have good traction. Having a strong grip helps your foot to remain on the pedal as you push forward. 

It's worth mentioning that you can get road bike shoes that are specifically made for cycling. While they do have benefits for committed cyclists, they aren't necessary for beginners.

A quality pair of trainers are more than enough!

Avoid: Low-Quality Helmets 

If you only take away one bit of information from this blog - let this be it.

We understand that you don't want to invest lots of money when you first start cycling. And you may consider one way to do this as buying a cheap bike helmet or even not wearing one at all.

This is a hazardous decision.

A cycling helmet is designed to protect your head should you fall. There is a much greater risk if you're not wearing one or it hasn't been well made. 

Study's have found that wearing a bike helmet reduces your chance of serious head injuries by 70%.

These injuries could be life-altering and, in some cases, fatal. So, they should be your top priority when beginning to cycle. 

Instead: Use a Sturdy & Well Fitted Helmet

You should consider investing in a helmet that will last you years when you first begin cycling. This is because of the risks of wearing a low-quality helmet (or none at all). 

Even if you're not sure if cycling will be a long term pastime for you, many helmets are approved for roller skating, skateboarding, scootering, and similar activities.

So, you could use them for another purpose. Just remember to check for board certifications on product pages.

The initial expense outweighs the risks of using a sub-par bicycle helmet.

At Bobbin, we offer a range of different helmet styles. All of which are designed to be breathable, comfortable, and safe when cycling.

Have a look at our elegant designs, each with its own charm:

Avoid: Bare Hands 

So, we know technically this isn't a garment to avoid, but we still consider it worth mentioning. 

If your hands are bare when you're riding your bike, you're at the mercy of the elements.

By this, we mean, if it's hot and your hands start sweating, holding the handlebars can make them blistered and sore.

And, if it's cold, your hands quickly feel this and can become numb.

 

kid cycling in the rain rain hat and coat

Instead: Wear Gloves 

Cycling gloves work to counteract these problems. They can warm up your hands, soak up the sweat, and provide padding.

If your hands are dry and warm enough, they can maintain a better grip on your handlebars. This is crucial for your safety.

The padding can also mean that you aren't so hesitant to keep a tight grip, as it stops you from injuring your hands.

To find out more about wearing gloves to cycle and other great accessories for your bike - read this blog!

Avoid: Big and Floaty Coats

Big, floaty coats may seem like a good idea to keep you warm when cycling, but they are actually a hazard.

This is mainly a problem if you cycle with them open, as they can catch the wind.

They function as a sort of parachute and can pull you in the wrong direction, which can be very dangerous.

Instead: Wind or Rain Jackets

Wearing a zipped up waterproof jacket is a sensible choice when cycling.

It is best to choose one that is relatively tight to your body. This is so the wind can't enter through the bottom and make you cold and steer you off the path.

Ideally, it should be lightweight and brightly coloured (but we will return to this soon).

Avoid: Camo and Dark Colours 

Wearing dark colours or camouflage patterns when cycling can put you in danger.

If other people can't see you, they won't know to provide you with space which could cause accidents.

This is particularly true at night. Dressing in dark colours could make you blend into trees and the road, putting you in a vulnerable position.

Instead: Bright Colours

An easy way to stay safe while cycling is by increasing your visibility. If motorists can clearly see you, they are more likely to keep their distance from you.

A simple way to increase your visibility is by wearing bright colours.

Against the greys and greens, your colourful clothes will stand out, warning other road users of your presence.

That is why you often find that cycling jackets are sold in neon colours. And why it's a good idea to invest in something brighter for your cycle wear.

 

girl on yellow bike with basket matching helmet

Avoid: Squinting 

We know, we know, we're cheating again. But for a good reason. 

If you don't wear sunglasses when cycling, your eyes are at risk. This is from a multitude of things, namely the sun, wind, and bugs.

Not being able to see, even momentarily, on a busy road could be disastrous.

The sun can temporarily blind you when you're already in a vulnerable position. The wind has a similar effect, whipping against your eyes and making them sore. This can make it more challenging to see.

Not to mention the danger of a bug flying in your eye.

Travelling at high speeds can mean that you cycle straight into bugs. This is understandably not great for your concentration and vision.

Nobody can blame you for panicking if theirs a fly stuck to your eye, but if you can prevent it, you should!

Instead: Sunglasses 

These sunglasses don't have to be the fancy cycling glasses they wear in the tour de France.

Any pair of glasses will do, as long as they keep you focused as you cycle.

So long as they keep the sun, wind, and bugs from your eyes, we won't have any complaints.

Avoid: Minimal Clothes

It may feel tempting that to wear fewer clothes when cycling. Because you're exercising, you may assume you'll get hot and want to remove excess layers anyway.

However, cycling doesn't always have this effect as you are moving at high speeds through wind. This can quickly make you cold when temperatures drop.

So, despite the temptation to dress in little, it could make you numb with cold.

Instead: Base Layers

Base layers are the answer to all your weather-related prayers!

Too hot? Wear a base layer.

Too cold? Wear a base layer.

The closest thing to witchcraft we've ever known, there's a reason why so many cyclists swear by base layers.

They act as a 'second skin,' helping regulate your temperature and absorb sweat to keep you comfortable.

If you're only concerned about keeping warm, you may want to try a thermal rather than base layer (which does both). 

Your Beginners Cycling Wardrobe Guide

You should now know what you should and shouldn't wear for cycling. There's not much that you need to buy as a beginner - despite what the standard advice says. 

Other than a quality helmet, most other cycling gear can be substituted for items you already own. Just remember:

  • Wear cycling shorts or leggings RATHER THAN jeans or fitted dresses.

  • Wear closed-toe trainers RATHER THAN slip-on shoes. 

  • Wear a high-quality helmet RATHER THAN a cheap one or none at all. 

  • Wear gloves RATHER THAN having bare hands.

  • Wear a wind or rain jacket RATHER THAN a big floaty coat.

  • Wear bright colours RATHER THAN camo or dark colours.

  • Wear sunglasses RATHER THAN no glasses. 

  • Wear base layers RATHER THAN minimal clothes.

With these tips in mind, you'll be safer and more comfortable when cycling.

Are you feeling inspired? Buy a Bobbin bike today to put these tips into action.