What to wear on your ride to work
Published 7 March 2013
You wouldn’t dress like a Formula One driver for the morning commute, so there's no need to get kitted up for the Tour de France just because you're riding to work!
You don’t need to spend a fortune, or be clad in head-to-toe lycra, to be a cycle commuter. The simple fact is: everyday cyclists wear everyday clothes. Check out the Copenhagen Cycle Chic website for proof – and inspiration!
Not going far?
For sedate, short distance stuff, you can wear anything you like. Even for more briskly paced, longer commutes – say 3-5 miles – it’s still perfectly possible to wear clothes that’ll fit in at work, or at the pub later.
Layering is great
The layer that goes next to your skin is the most important. Rule number one is to avoid cotton. When you sweat in cotton, your sweat cools fast, making you feel cold and clammy. Polyester is better, but king for performance and everyday looks is ultra-fine Merino wool. A good quality merino base layer will regulate your temperature, keep you warm even if you get wet, and won’t smell. These base layers don’t need to be cycling-specific either – some of the best are for general outdoor wear. They come with short or long sleeves, and can be layered up according to how cold it is. Look for a longer length fit that will keep your lower back warm when you're riding.
If you've got your base layer sorted, you can wear pretty much anything on top. A good old-fashioned sweater works really well and you can layer a rain jacket over the top without ending up looking crumpled and clammy when you reach your destination.
The shocking truth about jeans
It’s true: you can wear jeans when riding a bike! In cooler conditions, jeans – or any normal trousers that don’t restrict your movement – are just fine.
Keep the rain off
This is one area where cycling-specific stuff does have the edge and it’s probably not worth compromising. Sporty cycling jackets have a unique fit, longer at the back, with longer arms, reflectives and pockets in the right place. Shop around and you can still find something that’s smart enough to wear off the bike as well. Nowadays there are also longer length mac-style coats which are specially designed to keep rain off and be smart enough for office wear. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to go for something really breathable and probably a lot thinner than you’d choose for everyday wear. Even on moderate commutes, you can generate plenty of heat inside a jacket. Something that packs down small can be helpful too.
Get a grip
Unless you’ve got a bike with pedals that your shoes clip into, just choose footwear which is flat with a good grip. Look for something light that won’t restrict the movement of your ankles when pedalling.
Use your head
It’s not compulsory to wear a helmet on the roads, but it’s a good idea. There are plenty of styles now, and they’re not all super-sporty either. Just make sure it’s a snug fit, secured properly (with enough room for two fingers between your chin and the strap) and positioned squarely on your head – sitting just above your eyebrows, not tilted back or tipped forwards.
It's not just about the clothes
There’s no point trying to ride in normal clothes if they end up wet and dirty. Make sure your bike has mudguards, and a chain guard to keep mud and grime from splattering your work gear.