Let's be honest. The first time most of us went cycling, we probably didn't look very stylish. There may even by photographic evidence of you on your shiny new bike, in a running t-shirt and trainers, wearing a backpack. No? (just me then)
The world of cycling kit can be a bit incomprehensible until you've done a few rides. Why do I need a top with pockets in?! (to get rid of that backpack...) Do I really need a pad in my shorts?! (oh.) And even once you've come round to the idea of those few specialist items, most of us have also been guilty of wearing something that in retrospect, probably looked a bit like a baggy polyester sack.
And then... you start to discover and appriciate nice kit. Which is where we come in. And then there's no going back!
So here's the OMNIUM guide to buying some good-looking cycling kit and making sure you get what you want and need. Cause let's face it, this stuff ain't that cheap, so you want to get it right!
What to look for...
A breathable and lightweight fabric. Most jerseys are made from technical synthetic fabrics, which are almost always polyesters or polyester mixes, although some of them have fancy brand names. Some will have a more textured surface, which helps transfer moisture more quickly away from the body, but some will be smooth for a more aerodynamic fit. High quality jerseys might combine several different fabrics for different parts of the garment, eg more stretch on the arms, or more breathable fabric in panels down the sides. Some technical fabrics also have SPF protection which is desirable when riding in hot weather.
High quality jerseys will generally also have lots of nice finishing details such as grippers on the arms, a zip pocket for valuables, a covered zip etc.
There are two types of cycling jersey - the club fit or the race fit. The club fit (a more American style) is looser and more relaxed. A race fit (Euro style) is meant to be worn tight on the body. Personal preference is really what it's all about here - although you may find the more technical/high quality jerseys tend to come in race fit.
What to look for...
A high quality pad is essential, and brand names like Cytech or EiT are reassuring to look for as they have a good reputation. If you are heading out for long days in the saddle look for a pad that is rated for longer rides of 4+ hours.
Shorts and bib shorts should be a snug fit to prevent chaffing, there's nothing worse than baggy shorts! However they shouldn't be uncomfortably tight. Men's are almost always bib shorts and are fairly standard in length, with most finishing just above the knee. Women's tend to come in a wider variety of lengths. Above the knee looks classic and flattering (no sausage leg!) but a shorter length might help prevent a dodgy tan line showing up when you wear a skirt... Women also have a bit more choice between bibs or no bibs, with lots of brands opting for a classic short instead. In this case, look for a high waist and wide waistband, to prevent any gaping at the back. And finally, for the avoidance of any doubt, always always wear without underwear. ;)
Why do you need a gilet? Well, in all weathers, don't underestimate how much difference it makes keeping your core body warm. Keeping the wind off your front will stop you from feeling the chill if you are heading our early in the morning, whilst keeping your underarms breathing so you don't overheat! If you are cycling in the mountains, you might be surprised how cool it is at the top and on the descent, even if it's a scorching hot day at sea level. In this scenario, gilets offer unrestricted movement of your arms, whereas jackets can pull on the wrists or flap a bit on the arms. Gilets keep you aero and are also smaller to pack away for climbs or sunny spells, so having one in your pocket means you are prepared for most eventualities.
What to look for...
the front should be made of a wind resistant material and the back should be made of a lighter, breathable fabric like a mesh. If a gilet has pockets it's more difficult to fold it up small, but in colder weather pockets on the outside are a godsend.
not too baggy! You want to stay aero, so your gilet should fit snugly over your jersey.
Not a technical necessity, but socks and caps are where the style comes in! You only have to browse a few classic cycling images to see how important these items are to a cyclists "look." They are also a chance to inject a bit of individuality into your team or club kit. And they make brilliant gifts for cyclists, because you can literally never have too many. The sock and cap collections of some of our customers are really something to behold!
What to look for...
breathable, technical fabrics are important in socks as well. Good quality socks will really make a difference to how much your feet smell... trust us.
Caps come in two styles - 1) a four panel construction starting from a point at the top (a more classic look) or 2) a 3-panel style with a flat panel running over the head. They might be made of cotton, a poly-cotton mix that feels like cotton but has better technical properties, or a lightweight polyester fabric.
To the uninitiated, an odd piece of clothing. However, like a gilet, arm warmers are brilliant for heading out on a chilly morning, and then stashing in a jersey picket once it warms up. Thin arm warmers with SPF protection are also good for hot weather if you are worried about sweating off your sun screen.
Layering up can really help your body regulate temperature, whether in hot or cold weather. A lightweight base layer transfers sweat away from the skin quickly to prevent it cooling down and making you cold. The air trapped between your base layer and jersey remains a more consistent temperature, so you are less sensitive to the elements, and a base layer can stop the straps of your bib shorts rubbing as well.
What to look for... again, a lightweight breathable, mesh-type fabric.
Fit... should be tight to the skin in order to work properly. Base layers come in a vest/tank top style, short sleeve style, or long sleeve for winter. And you should wear your base layer tucked into your shorts!
We're always happy to answer any questions you might have about our kit or sizing. Email us on email@example.com and we will do your best to help.