What to Wear for the Ride to Work
Deciding how to dress for the typical ride to work is a conundrum every new cyclist faces. Many wonder whether they will have to invest in a week’s worth of fancy cycling gear, or resort to being full lycra-clad in order to gain from the experience.
The good news is that neither of those scenarios is necessary (unless lycra is your thing, of course). For the everyday cyclist there’s everyday clothing, so long as you’re warm and dry; comfortable on the seat and can move easily.
The trick to staying comfortable throughout your commute is to get your base layer right. After that, anything goes.
Choose long or short-sleeved tees made from polyester or another material that isn’t cotton. (Cotton will let your skin cool too quickly and leave you feeling cold and clammy.) Many cyclists highly recommend merino wool, which is at the slightly pricier end of the scale. Whatever you choose doesn’t have to be cycle-specific – just general or outdoor wear.
In cooler weather it’s advisable to wear a second or third layer over your base, but remember you’ll be heating up once you get going. A simple hoodie or sweater is perfect for this, and will accommodate a rain jacket over the top in wetter weather.
Waterproofs are an area where sporty cycling jackets have the edge. They’re breathable, have a longer fit and reflective patches in all the right places, so it’s an item that wouldn’t hurt to invest in.
However, a great alternative would be a longer style mac coat or trench coat, which can be smart enough for office wear. Just make sure to get one that won’t brush the tops of your wheels as it may get dirty.
Jeans and any kind of trousers providing they’re not too baggy, are fine for cycling in. If you plan on changing once you get to work, then leggings would also work well. In the summer you may even be able to get away with shorts and your favourite ankle grazers, but in wet, mucky environments, it may be useful to cover up as much as possible.
Trainers, breathable canvas shoes and walking boots are all great for cycling in, as they’ll keep your feet comfortable and won’t restrict ankle movement. Office shoes and brogues are also worn by a large proportion of cyclists, but unless your pedals have straps to keep your feet secure, it’s preferable to have shoes that’ll give you a bit of grip.
In wetter weather, a good tip is to place plastic bags over your feet as a cheaper alternative to overshoes. You might get a few funny looks, but it’ll get you to the office with dry feet.
It’s not absolutely essential to wear a helmet when cycling, but it is advisable for your safety. Luckily, they’re not all super sporty and when fitted correctly, can actually look quite stylish. This range of helmets from CycleChic is a good place to start.
Is it possible to look stylish while cycling?
Answer: yes! If you’re cycling gear-averse, you’ll be pleased to know there are plenty of ways to still look your best even when on a bike. Model and writer Laura Bailey says her usual clothing staples are a pair of Chanel trainers, her Nike hoodie and a duffel coat. For Malcolm MacKenzie, editor of We Love Pop magazine: “Shirts, ties and jackets are fine, so long as they’re not too tight-fitting.”
And fashion stylist Liz Thody has a neat little trick for wearing skirts to work – she wears cycling shorts underneath, hitches the skirt out of the way for mobility, and then removes the shorts on arrival. Mission accomplished.
For those of you who prefer to have separate clothing for cycling and working, or wish to get kitted out in the latest cycling gear – go for it! Cycling to work should be fun and enjoyable, so whatever you feel will enhance your journey should be what you wear. There are no rules.
If you’re looking to sweat less on your ride to work, then a simple tip (other than choosing the right base layer) is to slow down! Just going that bit slower and not trying to race with other cyclists or cars can make a huge difference to your comfort levels and how you feel when you arrive.
Also, avoid carrying your bag on your back, as this will make you sweat more. Instead, let your bike take the weight with a basket, pannier or saddlebag, and you’ll feel much more comfortable along the way.