Cycling to work doesn't have to mean starting the day sweaty and dishevelled. Find out how easy it is to turn up looking fresh-faced instead!
If you’ve decided to start commuting to work by bicycle, you’re going to want to think about what to wear. One of the main deterrents when it comes to cycling to work is the thought of working up a sweat. People are apprehensive because they don’t want to arrive at the office feeling sweaty, when a work environment usually calls for a smart, polished and professional appearance.
That’s understandable, but if you dress right, it shouldn’t have to be an issue. Read on to discover more about the best cycling clothing to choose to make your commute by bike as enjoyable and simple to build in to your day as possible.
- Commuter Bike Clothing
- Cycle-Specific Clothing
- What to Wear When Cycling to Work in Winter
- What to Wear When Cycling to Work in Summer
- Fashionable Cycle Clothes
- Biking to Work in a Suit
Commuter Bike Clothing
So, what should you wear for your cycle commute? If you wear a suit or smart attire to work but would prefer not to cycle in it, you’ll need to consider what will help you feel comfortable. The clothes you’re wearing can make a big difference to how enjoyable cycling will be.
We’ll look at what clothes you should wear that you’re likely to already own, some apparel that has been designed specifically for cyclists, and a combination of the two – i.e. fashionable clothing that’s been manufactured with cyclists in mind.
If you’ve just made the decision to start cycling to work, there’s a good chance you won’t own clothes that are specific for cycling.
Before you invest, however, you may want to be sure that this new commute is something you’re going to stick to.
Here are a few tips for clothes you could wear that you’re likely to already own.
If you’re lucky enough to have a super-short commute, you don’t really need to worry about what to wear (weather permitting, at least).
Most of us are going to get at least a little sweaty when cycling to work, however. This is a great sign if you’re cycling for health benefits or weight loss, as it shows you’re putting the effort in! This also means you’re usually best-off wearing clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or wet, and aren’t too heavy. Simply use some common sense and you should be okay.
For example, in summer you can’t go wrong with shorts and a t-shirt. In the winter, choose tracksuit bottoms, a couple of long-sleeved tops, and some gloves and thick socks.
Needless to say, you should be wearing reflective clothing whenever you can, to keep you safe and visible.
For commuters, this is less essential in the summer as most of us will be cycling to and from work in daylight. In the winter, things change. Get lights for your bike and wear reflective clothing.
Traditional cycle clothing is synonymous with tight-fitting garments made of materials like lycra; which is designed to fit like a glove, free up your movement, and reduce sweat. However, if the thought of skin-tight cycling gear is making you break out in a sweat, don’t worry, as there are plenty of other options too. We’re going to run you through some cycling clothing essentials:
- Padded compression cycling shorts - These provide crucial protection from your saddle. Saddle sores are a nasty side-effect of cycling that can be avoided with the magic combination of the right saddle and clothing. Padded cycle shorts will increase your comfort and allow your legs to move freely without resistance or chafing.
- Cycling jersey - Cycle jerseys are another tight-fitting lycra number. They help reduce sweat and include features such as back pockets, which are designed with cyclists in mind. Not only can you carry your immediate supplies, but a good cycling jersey will keep you covered and manage your temperature in both warm or cool weather.
- Jacket – A cycle jacket has similar properties to the cycling jersey. The added benefits are wind and rain protection, which you’re likely to need at some stage given the British weather!
- Bib tights - These not only provide your legs with a little insulation if it’s a bit nippy, but they also keep your lower back covered. If you lean forward when cycling, your jersey can ride up and leave your back exposed, and bib tights are ideal for preventing this.
- Cycling gloves – As well as keeping your hands warm, gloves are crucial for comfort and control. They ease pressure points and keep moisture and sweat from affecting your grip.
- Cycle shoes – The right shoes will help you ride as efficiently and intuitively as possible. You can opt for flat pedal shoes or ones that clip into your pedals. Either will offer extra control and help make your commute easier.
- Cycling glasses – Eye protection is important for both safety and comfort. Any dirt, spray and even drafts are kept at bay with a pair of cycling glasses.
- Helmet – Helmet's remain optional to cyclists, but the are an array of styles available out there to choose from.
For cycle-specific clothing that isn’t tight fitting, we’d recommend Endura’s A2B range. Offering jackets, t-shirts, jerseys, padded shorts and more, you’ll still gain all the benefits of cycling clothing, but in a looser fit.
If you begin cycling to work, and really enjoy it, your commute will be made much easier by investing in some proper cycling gear. From your comfort to your performance, what you wear really does make a difference. The basic, minimum items you should invest in are a helmet and some shorts, but as time goes on and you realise your cycle to work is part of your everyday routine you will probably want to treat yourself to all the above.
By having all the gear, you really will start to see the benefits: comfort is a major plus, but you’ll feel much warmer – especially in winter – and waterproof clothing will keep you dry from the drizzle. The other major benefit is cycle specific clothing helps to keep you safe, which is why we’d always recommend it over your normal clothes, if you’re cycling to work.
What to Wear When Cycling to Work in Winter
Cycling in winter can feel like much more of a challenge if you’re not used to it. However, if you wear the right winter cycling attire you’ll find the protection you can get from the winter weather is considerable. Some cyclists enjoy the feeling of empowerment after a ride through less than ideal conditions. Getting the right gear will make you much more comfortable with winter cycling, and you might enjoy it more than you’d expect.
Here’s our guide on what to wear when cycling in winter:
Head Gear for Winter Cyclists
When it comes to keeping warm, any headwear that covers your ears and forehead will do - bobble hat, beanie, even a thermal headband.
For rain, sleet and snow, you’ll want a peak or brim that shields your eyes. For colder days, a scarf or neck tube will prevent a casual coat’s looser, lower collar from scooping air, and can easily be removed if you get too warm. Don’t use any coat’s hood if it restricts your vision when you turn your head.
As for helmets, if it has a peak, all you need is a stretchy neck tube or multi tube; it’ll easily fit under the helmet, possibly with some strap adjustment - just make sure it covers your ears. If your helmet lacks a peak, wear a winter cycling cap underneath it to keep the sleet out of your eyes.
What to Wear on Your Body When Cycling in Winter
A few thin layers are usually all you need:
- A vest (ideally a thermal vest that wicks away sweat)
- Your shirt or blouse
- A wind and waterproof jacket
If it’s bitterly cold, you might also want to don a thin sweater, but avoid thick woollens; you’ll get too hot (trust us).
Similarly, most winter coats are too well-insulated for cycling. Unless you really can’t abide bike gear, the simplest solution is to get a waterproof cycling jacket. Jackets aimed at hillwalkers are the next best option. If you prefer to cycle in a heavyweight pea coat, a waxed jacket, or anything else not purpose-made for cyclists, take it slow, and avoid long journeys.
If you want to wear cycle-specific clothing, three layers is once again, normally all you need:
- A short or long-sleeved base layer, which is the same as a thermal vest
- A long-sleeved cycling jersey or gilet
- A breathable, waterproof cycling jacket
A gilet is another useful piece of kit for winter cycling. It helps keep wind chill off the chest without adding too much bulk or warmth. Sportier and more-experienced riders may be able to get away with even less, for example: a long-sleeve base layer; a close-fitting winter softshell jacket, and a gilet; either worn or stuffed in a pocket in case the temperature suddenly drops. Read our post on how to layer cycle gear for winter for more information.
What to Wear on Your Hands When Cycling in Winter
Any gloves are better than none, although wind will easily cut through thin woollen or polyester gloves. At the very least, invest in insulated gloves. Waterproof cycling gloves are the best option of all.
There are loads of cycling gloves to choose from, but you’ll need to make a trade-off between warmth and dexterity.
What to Wear on Your Legs When Cycling in Winter
An essential item for your winter cycling commute is a pair of winter bib tights. These will have a snug fit and won’t leave your lower back open to windchill. You can also find Roubaix winter tights which have a fleece inner lining for extra warmth and comfort.
For rain or snow, wear waterproof trousers over your regular trousers. You can get basic waterproof trousers for around £20 from outdoor shops. If you’ll be wearing them regularly, it’s worth spending more on dedicated cycling trousers.
If you’re investing in cycle-specific equipment, you’ll be getting changed every day, so over-trousers aren’t required. Thermal cycling tights are all you need (ideally reflective ones). Bib tights are warmer than waist tights, as your lower back will be protected from the cold.
What to Wear on Your Feet When Cycling in Winter
When cycling, your feet don’t flex like they do when walking so they can get really cold – especially if they get sprayed with water from the front wheel of your bike. Boots or sensible shoes are fine, so long as they’re big enough to accommodate thicker, thermal socks, without constricting your feet (which will make them even colder).
Keep the wet away from your feet with:
- Cycling overshoes (some of which are designed for street shoes)
- Walker’s gaiters; or
- Waterproof socks
You can wear summer cycling shoes, so long as you’ve got neoprene overshoes and waterproof socks to hand for really cold weather.
A better solution is a pair of winter cycling boots that are waterproof and built for warmth. Take your winter socks with you when shopping, to ensure the boots are a perfect fit.
What to Wear When Cycling to Work in Summer
After all those weeks cycling into work in the cold winter, your reward for making it through is cycling in the summer. It’s like a little cathartic experience every morning, particularly if you get to enjoy a quiet, scenic route. It’s great for the body and the mind, and we often hear people report they’ve had their best ideas whilst in the saddle. You can’t beat it!
You can leave the coat at home, don some new cycle shorts, and feel the sun on your face whilst you ride into work with blue skies overhead. You can even consider switching up your route to take in more sights, since you’ll be able to enjoy them that bit more.
As delightful as this sounds, you’re more susceptible to sweating whilst cycling in the summer, so we’ve got some tips on how to adjust to the season, ensuring you don’t turn up to work looking like you’ve just stepped out of the shower.
Sweat The Details
Higher temperatures mean you’ll sweat more. That’s not a problem if you’ll be showering and changing at work, but it can be if you’re riding to work in the clothes you’ll wear at work.
How to Cycle to Work in Summer Without Getting Sweaty
- Slow down. The slower you go, the less you’ll sweat. Don’t stamp on the pedals. Shift down a gear or two and cruise along. Set off a little earlier so you’ve got time in hand. Enjoy the journey.
- Wear lighter, looser clothing. Allow air to circulate and you’ll stay cooler. Untuck your shirt or blouse, undo a button or two, and don’t wear a tie until you’re at work. If you feel yourself getting too warm, don’t press on - stop and undo a button or shed a layer.
- Put your luggage on the bike, not on your back. It’s good advice all year round but it matters more in summer. A backpack will stop air circulating, so you’ll get warmer in general. You’ll also wind up with a big sweat patch on the back of your shirt.
You may get a bit sweaty despite all this, especially on really hot days. Keep spare underwear in your commuting bag so you’ve got something to change into if things get uncomfortably clammy. If you need to freshen up further when you get to work, a couple of wet wipes will suffice for a wipe down, before topping up with deodorant.
Sights for Sore Eyes
Sunglasses with UV protection will stop you squinting and limit sun damage to your eyes, whether they’re designed specifically for cycling or not (although bear in mind that the frames of some sunglasses can interfere with your peripheral vision).
Eyewear also has another important role to play - keeping things out of your eyes. Sometimes that’s wind-blown debris. In summer, it’s often insects. A fly in the eye is painful and if it happens, you may instinctively close both eyes and put yourself - and other road users - at risk.
Open one eye as soon as possible, brake, and pull over to the side of the road (or off it) as soon as you can do so safely.
Stinging insects are distracting if they get trapped in a helmet vent or in clothing (though some helmets have insect mesh to prevent this).
If this happens, try to keep calm - an angry wasp is a lower risk than passing traffic. Pull over, free the insect, and continue. Biting insects like midges only tend to be a problem if you’re very slow moving, or stationary in areas of vegetation. Use repellent or cover up.
Sunburn from Cycling
Unless you’re a shift worker who rides to work in the middle of the day when the sun is at its fiercest, sunburn is seldom a problem for commuters. It’s a very different story if you’re going on long bike rides at the weekend.
The problem tends to stem from the fact you generate your own cool breeze while cycling, so it’s not obvious when your skin starts to burn. Apply a high SPF sun cream, particularly to the tops of the thighs, arms, back of the neck, nose, cheeks, and the tips of your ears. If you’re balding, wear a cycling cap or bandana; either will go under a helmet and can be soaked with water to provide better cooling in extreme heat.
On all-day rides, take sun cream with you so you can top up as needed. Long, loose clothing is also effective. Why not take a look at our dedicated post on essential summer skincare for cyclists for more information?
Staying Hydrated When Cycling
It’s always important to stay hydrated when cycling. If you’re experienced you’ll probably already have a good idea of what you need for your own body and length of ride.
If you’re not sure how much water you’ll need, take at least one bottle if you expect to be able to refill it; two if you don’t. Water is more useful than energy drinks because it can also be used to douse your head, rinse a fly out of your eye, wash your hands, and so on. You can top up your energy levels with snacks and/or gels instead.
Pausing at Green
Summer sees rampant growth, with nettles and brambles shooting up and trees and hedges suddenly overhanging the road. New growth can whip across you from the roadside – which is a good reason to avoid the gutter and use eye protection.
Local authorities are responsible for keeping highway verges in check, so most roads aren’t too bad, but visibility can be compromised, particularly at side roads. Off-carriageway cycle tracks tend to receive less attention and can easily become overgrown, while rarely-used bridleways may become impassable. Keep your speed down so that (as ever) you can stop within the distance you can see ahead.
Shelter from the Storm
Persistent rain is rarer in summer, but heavy showers are common. In most circumstances, the usual advice about riding in rain applies. If there’s lightning and you’re in an exposed area, there’s a small chance you could be struck. Get under cover if you can (but not under a tree) and wait for the storm to pass.
Fashionable Cycle Clothes
The only problem with cycling clothing is that it’s rarely the easiest on the eye, since it’s typically designed for function over fashion. That said, if you know where to look, and have a bit more cash to play with, you can get cycling clothing that’s not just practical, but stylish, too.
What’s more, if you’re ready to get kitted out with some of the best cycle clothes to feed your new habit (we know how it is), Cyclescheme can make it all the more affordable for you.
Here are some of the top brands you might want to consider shopping at:
- Pas Normal Studios – The Scandinavians seem to have it all figured out - from flat pack furniture to hygge, they think outside the box. Pas Normal Studios is a Copenhagen-based brand, bringing that typical Scandinavian minimalist aesthetic to their technically perfect cycle gear.
- POC – Another Scandinavian brand here. POC originates from Sweden and are best-known for their snow sports apparel. They’ve taken their know-how in that arena to make clothing for cyclists that’s just as popular and effective. Safety is their number one priority; it just so happens that their designs look great too.
- Rapha – This London based brand are a passionate bunch who make great cycle clothing for equally passionate cyclists. They aim to raise the profile of cycling itself and create clothing for every type of ride and rider!
Note that the brands above make cycle gear that looks very much like cycle gear, but some brands blur the lines between high street fashion and cycle attire. Sound interesting? Check these out:
- Huez – Frustrated by outdated designs and materials that are typical of cycling clothing, Huez decided to combine modern technology with classic cycling gear. Their garments are designed to improve your performance, while embracing contemporary style.
- Café du Cycliste – You might have guessed that this innovative brand is based in France, on Cote d’Azure to be precise. They believe that style doesn’t have to meaning compromising on performance, and create their own ranges from scratch. Testing takes place in the Alpes Maritimes, so you know you’re buying cycling gear that will fare well in all conditions.
Biking to Work in a Suit
Cycling to work in a suit is something to consider if you want to arrive at work office-ready. You really can cycle in whatever clothing you choose and although suits are seen as formal wear, they are perfectly suitable for shorter commutes. Here are our top tips on how to get your ride in and get straight to your desk with minimum fuss:
- Stick to short distances; a suit isn’t the most comfortable attire for a long ride.
- Choose a bike with a step through frame such as a Brompton bike. The absence of a top tube or crossbar will help reduce stress on your suit seams, which helps avoid splitting.
- Clean your bike regularly. Oil, dirt and grime will build up quickly and if you don’t remove it, some of it’s going to end up on your suit. Keep it clean and stay on top of it. Your suit (and you) will thank you.
- Invest in trouser straps. These will keep your trousers tight around your leg and prevent them from getting caught in your bike chain.
- Consider getting a pannier bag. Backpacks aren’t practical for cycling in a suit since the straps may leave you with sweat patches on your back and shoulders (not a good look if you have a morning meeting).
- To keep you looking smooth and sweat-free, consider investing in a different shaped helmet. Round helmets look relatively smart, but make sure it has a peak to protect your eyes.
Following these steps will help keep your suit clean and pristine whilst riding your bike, but there’s one more fool-proof tip for riding a bike in a suit – take it easy.
Don’t treat your trip to work like a race and you’ll stand less chance of sweating through your suit. You’ll also have more time to react to traffic and pedestrians, so you’ll be safer too. Once you arrive, you won’t need to find somewhere to change at work, so you can get straight to your desk and start your day.
So in Short: What Should You Wear When Cycling to Work?
With our guidance on what to wear when cycling to work, you can dress for success. Wearing the right clothes makes all the difference - don’t underestimate how important clothing is to your ride.
When heading out in the cold, you may be tempted to wear a big, thick coat, but you’ll quickly get too hot. Layering is the key to comfort in winter.
In the summer, you need to make sure air can circulate your body. This will help keep you cool.
We’ve given you some great cycling brands to check out and loads of advice to follow. With our salary sacrifice scheme, you can get yourself a top-quality bicycle and start cycling to work. Cycling is not only proven to increase your cardiovascular fitness, but it also makes you more flexible, works every muscle group, and improves mental health. In addition to cycling being great for your health, it will reduce your carbon footprint and is a really low-cost way to travel.