Why is the correct cycling clothing important?
If you have been regular followers of our blogs, you will know how much we value quality and performance in our sportswear design. In this blog we will focus on cycling apparel, but the principles we apply also affect how we design our Triathlon, run and casualwear as well.
Why do you / we need specific cycle clothing?
If we are going to be honest, you don’t “need” specific cycling clothing to jump on your bike and enjoy the fresh air. For most of us, this is usually where the love of cycling started, and often a pair of trainers, shorts and a t-shirt was all we needed (and a helmet of course); but we then find ourselves starting to want more; by more we mean a number of triggers could start us looking at specific cycle clothing, more time on the bike, more distance, more speed, more comfort, more options for differing weather conditions…The list goes on.
Let’s explore the benefits of cycling specific clothing and the differing types
First and foremost, like many items made for a specific circumstance, there is a uniqueness to the design
Fit or “cut”: Specific cycling clothing is cut to fit properly when you’re riding your bike, that means leaning forward over the handlebars rather than standing upright. That means jerseys and jackets will have a longer back to keep your lower back covered (protecting you from the elements and road spray) and often a shorter front to stop material bunching up and causing discomfort around your waist area when leaning forward. Shorts and legwear also has a higher waist at the back too, again to stop your wrists being exposed and protect your from the elements. On long sleeve jerseys and jackets, sleeves are a bit longer than a traditional long sleeve t-shirt, this is to protect your wrists and take into account your arms are often bent when riding. Shorts and legwear is shaped with a bends, differing materials or additional panels at the waist and in the knee so doesn’t impede pedalling. We have taken extra steps in our design and test process to ensure we have a fit and cut that works for all scenarios and adds both comfort and performance benefits to the rider. You can read more about Material choices (clothing technology explained) and Fitting styles (choosing the right cycle jersey) on our blogs.
Movement. Whether you cycling on a leisure ride or at high intensity, you’re going to create a lot of movement, so cycling clothing is designed to move with you as you ride. That’s especially important for shorts and legwear, because your legs are the part of you that moves most. That is the fundamental reason why cycling shorts are made from Lycra fabric, because it has enough built-in stretch that it doesn’t bunch up and chafe. You will find two main type of legwear, a traditional Padded short and a BIB short; we explain the main advantages of both in our Blog on choosing the right shorts (Choosing the right cycle shorts)
Sweat-handling. Work at any high intensity, whether that be riding up a steep hill in a cotton t-shirt or racing in a pair of gym shorts and you will discover why cycling clothing isn’t made from cotton; You are going to sweat. Even if it’s just a leisure ride in the height of summer or a HIIT effort in deep winter, you sweat, the sweat soaks the shirt and you get wet, and then you get cold. Cycling clothing is made from fabrics which aid the movement of water away from your skin and help it evaporate, a term often referred to as ‘wicking’. Whilst all cycling clothing aims to aid this movement of moisture, the selection and design of fabrics can prove to have a huge degree of impact on the efficiency of this process and its effectiveness, and more importantly its impact on performance and comfort. This is one important feature that often means and investment in superior materials, that have specific design elements and qualities; at KOA Sportswear, we place this feature and the heart of all of design process when selecting fabrics for our collections.
Outer layers for wet weather also use fabrics designed to shift sweat. Fabric choices are usually selected to be ‘breathable’ rather than ‘wicking’. Breathable fabrics keep rain out, but allow water vapour (sweat) out. There is a common truth though, no breathable fabric is capable of transmitting the amount of sweat a cyclist produces when working hard, so cycling waterproofs often have vents or other design elements that to let out warm, moist air. These are positioned so that they don’t let in water, in places such as the underarms or under flaps at the back.
Padding or Chamois Pads: To those who don’t cycle and even to some of those that do, it’s odd to have a lump of foam in your shorts, buts it’s there for a two very good reasons as we explain below. Its also in our view one THE most important elements in any piece of cycling clothing you will buy.
Let’s look at the first reason, the padding or chamois provides an extra layer of shock absorption. Today, most shorts pads have at least one layer of foam inside them, often more with a combination of different thickness and density. The idea is to help reduce the road shock that gets through to your bum, working in tandem with the padding in your saddle; this reduced shock has the benefit of increasing comfort and reducing fatigue on your longer rides.
Perhaps more importantly the second reason, the pad puts an even layer of soft fabric against your skin. (yes that means, you don’t wear underwear under your cycle shorts) That helps prevent chafing, this means you can enjoy your longer rides in comfort.
Chamois Pads come in a large variety of designs, shapes and fabric combinations and we take care to select PADs on our collections that add to the performance and comfort characteristics of the garment. We explain a little more in our BLOG about selecting the right BIB shorts. (Choosing the right cycle shorts)
The other area where padding is useful is your hands. Cycling gloves have a thin layer of padding sewn into the palm to deal with vibration from the handlebars. The palm is usually made from leather or a tough synthetic to protect your hands if you fall.
Efficiency: Performance cycling clothing can actually make you go faster by ensuring you don’t waste energy as you ride. One of the most important differences is that cycling clothing is more aerodynamic than regular activewear (when you get the correct fit) because it fits closely with no spare fabric flapping in the breeze. It also helps by providing compression in areas where you need it, and extra flexibility in other areas. The combination of breathable and quick dry fabrics can also help regulate your body temperature which aids in your energy efficiency when riding
Read our Blogs on Choosing the correct Cycle Clothing
Jump to “Choosing the right cycle shorts”
Jump to “Choosing the right cycle Jersey”
Jump to “Clothing Technology explained”