Every cyclist likes to spoil themselves with some new cycling clothes. And with an ever growing number of cyclists on the road, many specialist clothing brands have popped up to supply their needs. In short: there’s a lot of choice! But what exactly should you pay attention to when buying a new jersey, new bibs or a complete kit?

Cycling shorts

You maybe wouldn’t admit it at first, but the chamois in cycling shorts is one of the most important pieces of your cycling kit. The chamois is a section of padding that compensates for the hardness of the saddle. It’s hardly ever seen, but on longer journeys it can make all the difference. There isn’t necessarily a superior style of chamois but you can  assume that the more familiar brands have greater experience in manufacturing optimal padding for their cycling shorts. Clothing brands that supply professional cycling teams in particular tend to be up to date with the latest studies and the best products. Bargains are therefore not always what you’re looking for; if the chamois is cheap, you’ll pay for it with discomfort.

Size chart

Just like with regular clothes, you can’t assume that standardised sizes like ‘S’, ‘M’, ‘L’ and ‘XL’ are universally harmonious. Although these labels do indicate general sizing differences there is quite some disparity (sometimes quite a lot) between manufacturers. Our tip is therefore: see where the manufacturer is from. Italian brands typically make tight, streamlined kit. This is because they are based on a different base sizing. It may sound like a bias that Italians are smaller, but our experience is that you have to go one size larger than normal with the real Italian cycling apparel suppliers.

Many suppliers typically provide a sizing chart on their webshop. Take a moment and use a tape measure to measure all the points of your body specified on the table. It takes some time, but totally worth it to ensure your new kit fits legit.

#aeroiseverything, or is it?

If you’re on the market for aerodynamic clothing, then you’re looking for so-called skinsuits. Skinsuits are typically a tighter fit on your body and the fabric is different from more bargain garments. The material may yield less air resistance, which on paper means fewer watts of power output. Like anything else, you get what you pay for. In fact, for a little extra, you could even get the quality enjoyed by the professional peloton.

Alessandro de Marchi in an skin suit. Photo Courtesy: Cor Vos

Pro versus replica

Rule #17 of Velominati: team kit is for members of the team. But if you still go for a kit that is similar to the kit of your big heroes, be aware that these are issued in two different tiers of quality. The cheaper clothing is often made of looser and less aerodynamic fabric. It’s still a good fit though for those not looking for the best of the best. The pro version is often made from tighter, more aerodynamic fabric. It’s something that only really benefits (semi-)professional cyclists, however.