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Cycling to work is a positive lifestyle change which can yield of litany of benefits – not only for your physical and mental health, but for the environment, too.
It’s also fun – who would rather be caught in a stationary pile-up on the roads than sweep through the streets with the wind in your hair and endoprhins surging through your body?
Do you go for sports clothes for the ride, and then get changed once you arrive at work? Do you wear ‘normal’ clothes not tailored to cyclists and risk chafing and sweating?
The answer to each of these should be a resounding no. If you choose to cycle, commuting clothing should be essential. That’s where we can help.
Cycling Clothing Guide
Here, we’re bringing together all of the commuting buying guides that we currently have on Discerning Cyclist, so that you can gear up for your own ride with the freshest and most cycling-friendly clobber.
It’ll cover each type of clothing by discussing what makes them important, linking you to their respective buying guide page, as well as highlighting one of favourite products for each.
After all, when it comes to cycling to work, clothes’ importance should not be underestimated.
Why Do Cyclists Wear Lycra?
What to wear for cycling to work, you ask? Well, for a start, while we’re looking at non-lycra cycling clothes here, it’s important to touch on just what makes the material such a popular choice with riders.
Lycra may look a little unflattering and revealing, and feel like you’re wearing nothing at all, but it is superb at staying in place when exercising, no matter how much how move your arms and legs.
This will keep rubs and chafes to a minimum which, in turn, will make your cycle enjoyable and stress-free.
Even cyclists who want to look the business in their bike ride outfits may wear a lycra layer underneath their more stylish attire, purely for how effective it is in keeping you comfortable.
So, even if you find many of the clothes below far more appealing, don’t disparage the functionality of a handy layer of lycra.
Non-Lycra Cycling Clothes
Now, though, let’s dive in to non-lycra commuter cycling clothes which look as great as they work while you ride. We’ve got pretty much every main base covered: jackets, shirts, jeans, shorts, shoes, waterproof bike clothes, and much more.
But before we get going, a few tips to make sure you don’t compromise your comfort just to look trendy. First off, don’t bother with tight clothing that can’t stretch much – it will feel stiff at a time when you really need that flexibility.
And of course, light-coloured clothes will make any stains and puddle splashes that bit harder to disguise.
Lighter garments are also recommended, and particularly suit hotter climates, purely to reduce the amount you sweat.
Now, without further ado, onto the best clothing for cycling to work:
Jackets for Cycling to Work
Depending on what part of the world you live in, a cycling jacket may be an absolute necessity for the best part of the entire year – indeed, it may even prove a valuable addition to your collection of summer cycling clothes.
So, for those who could do with an extra layer of protection against the elements, there’s thankfully a wealth of choice for you.
Plenty of cycling jackets have been tailored specifically to commuters, handily. But there’s still much to consider before choosing your favourite. How breathable and stretchable is it? Is it lightweight enough? How warm will it keep you? Would it even still be effective on more mild days? And how much does it offer in the way of storage?
As commuter jackets go, our favourite remains this stunning waterproof design from Rapha: made of a durable, lightweight fabric, it’s fitted with welted zip pockets to keep the rain out, and is available in a wide array of beautiful colours.
That Rapha coat also makes for an excellent reflective cycling jacket, where the most important thing is, obviously, how visible you will remain even during darker rides.
But for the jacket with the best visibility, the Proviz Men’s Reflect360 just edges it for us, as the world’s first to be designed using a 100 per cent reflective outer shell.
It’s not a one-trick pony, though: its waterproof materials can shrug off up to 5,000mm of water, and it has in-built air vents, adjustable cuffs, and pockets on the chest and back, too.
Speaking of waterproof, there are plenty of great waterproof jackets which will excel in forcing water to simply run off it and keep you from arriving at work soaked to the skin.
The Chrome Storm Cobra 3.0 is a particular stand-out, not only because it’s a three-layer waterproof with breathable twill nylon, but it’s also brimming with reflective features, as well as four pockets and a two-way zipper. Plus, it looks superb, which is always a bonus.
Some of may also be after a Gore-Tex Cycling Jacket which, for those not aware, are a range of excellent all-weather jackets which provide three key perks: waterproof (no matter how treacherous the conditions), windproof, and breathability.
In terms of a Gore-Tex jacket with the most going for it in terms of style, it’s hard to look past another Rapha design – the Men’s Explore Hooded Gore-Tex Pullover – as the king. Whether in dark yellow, brown or dark navy, it looks sharp, boasts a relaxed, comfortable fit, and comes with an elastic hood to wear underneath your helmet.
And what about packable cycling jackets? Well, if you’re looking for something you can easily stash away in your bag and offers plenty of water resistance, check out our top picks here.
A key decision you’ll have to make is whether you prefer a packable jacket with or without a hood – unless it fits tightly around your head, it can tend to get in the way as you ride.
If you’re a hoodless fan, the DHB Men’s Aeron Packable Jacket is a great piece of bicycle rain gear, commuter or not. It’s DWR-coated for extra rain protection, possesses reflective detailing on the front and back, and handily packs into its own pocket.
READ: Best Reflective Jackets for Cycling to Work
Shirts for Cycling to Work
There’s plenty to consider when buying t-shirts and shirts for cycling, too. Again, though, this depends on what your top priorities are here.
Do you want to wear one which is particularly moisture-wicking, odour-resistant or visible? Is its stretch the most important thing to you? Or would you ideally want the most breathable shirts going? Check out our favourites here.
If style is your main concern, you can’t look past this ultra-soft Velocio Men’s Modal Tee. Its slim-fit design is as breathable as they come, it comes in three striking colours, and is made from modal, a textile which uses less land wand water than cotton.
What about cycling shirts which will fit seamlessly into your place of work? Fear not – there are plenty which double up perfectly as office wear – you can mull over our picks here.
If you want some with the much-coveted merino wool, these Album Leo shirts are a fantastic choice – they’re extremely stylish, mobile and flexible, with reflective detailing around the cuffs, too.
READ: Best Performance Shirts for Cycling to Work
Trousers for Cycling to Work
When it comes to trousers for cycling commuters, you again have a great variety to choose from. Do you want the most practical, the most fashionable, or the most snug fit?
And especially in the case of urban cycling trousers, do they do a bang up job of covering your backside? Our favourite here is the Chrome Madrona 5-Pocket Pant, which fit properly, have an impressive four-way stretch and, inevitably given their name, have plenty of deep pockets for storage.
Looking for something even more chic than that, though? Check out our favourite cycling chinos, which combine style with versatility and functionality to make a great all-round pair of pants.
The outstanding candidate for us here is the swrve Midweight Downtown Trouser – aesthetically pleasing, high in functionality, and a supreme level of comfort provided by its seamless diamond gusset.
If you’re a jeans fan, where you might be more keen on slimmer, water-resistant pants with a gusseted or reinforced crotch area to prevent wear in this region, we’ve got you covered here.
READ: Best Commuter Cycling Jeans
The cycling jeans range from Resolute Bay are a particular stand-out. They are packed with cycling functionality, including reflective strips across the rear and side of the jeans, plenty of stretch in the material and good deep pockets so your valuables don’t fall out.
And finally, we can’t forget cycling shorts where, if the weather allows for them, a gusseted crotch is again a priority, as is moisture-wicking, stretch, waterproof and style.
An ideal choice for those not always living in the hottest of climates is these Vulpine Rain Shorts, which offer high level of resistance to wind and rain, come with a zipped pocket and a key carabiner in one of them, and boast a stylish look in either blue or charcoal.
READ: Best Trousers for Cycling to Work
Waterproofs for Cycling to Work
We’ve already touched on waterproof cycling jackets, but what about other waterproof clothing for cycling?
Waterproof overtrousers are worn over your normal pants to keep your legs and layer underneath as dry as possible when the heavens open. Fashion isn’t as much of a concern here; it’s more about functionality in this department.
For the best pair for both men and women, these Berghaus Deluge overtrousers are not to be missed – not least for their elasticated waist, three-quarter side zips, and the fact they’re made entirely from waterproof, breathable nylon.
READ: Best Waterproof Overtrousers for Cycling to Work
Lastly, let’s not forget waterproof shoes, because no commuter wants their feet to end up drenched and freezing from navigating countless puddles or an ungodly downpour on their way to work.
The Chrome Storm 415 Workboot would make a super choice here, primarily because of their stiff sole, which means you’ll transfer more energy from your legs and feet to your pedals.
But they’re also highly breathable and waterproof, making them a great piece of winter cycling clothes. Plus, they’re made of sturdy full-grain leather, making them one of the most durable waterproof cycling shoes going.