As requested, here is a basic list of the essential items you need for road biking all year-round! Cycling is an incredible way to get a challenging workout while being outdoors, but like most other outdoor sports, it requires the proper gear for you to perform at your best and stay comfortable. These are the pieces of cycling apparel and gear that I have learned are necessary in San Francisco, CA. Of course, depending on where you normally cycle, you might adjust this list to fit your climate better.
Short Sleeve Jersey
This is the piece of cycling gear that I wear the most. The temperatures are warm enough during Summer and Fall where biking in a short sleeve jersey is necessary to stay cool. A cycling jersey is much more functional than your average athletic T-shirt because it’s made from lightweight moisture-wicking material, has a front zipper for ventilation, and has rear pockets to store your cell phone, energy gels, or snacks,
Long Sleeve Jersey
I wear a long sleeve jersey throughout most of the Winter. It has thicker material and will protect your arms from the cold air rushing against them as you move. This also has a front zipper to help you ventilate, as well as the rear pockets.
These are the 2nd item that I wear the most on my bike. The padding in cycling shorts is necessary (I repeat, necessary) for your sit bones and skin while sitting on the hard seat of your road bike. I was told about a year after I started cycling that you are not supposed to wear panties under your bike shorts. How was I supposed to know?! At first it seemed very strange to “go commando” while cycling, but now it all makes sense. It helps to avoid the rubbing and irritation that can come from underwear seams, which tight spandex shorts press into your skin. If you’re biking more than 2 hours per session, you should absolutely be going commando. Don’t worry, the shorts are designed for it!
When it gets cold, you will definitely want a choice of cycling tights. I have one pair of capris tights that I wear often, and one pair of ankle tights that I wear when it’s really cold. If you don’t buy yourself these, you just won’t bike when it’s cold. Be wise and get yourself the tights! I have not yet ventured into the world of bibs (pants with suspenders)…if anyone has any insight to provide on that, please comment below!
Jacket & Vest:
You will definitely need to layer with a jacket and/or vest when cycling on cold days! Cycling jackets are lightweight and you can roll some up into the back pockets of your jersey if you need to strip layers! On cold and foggy mornings paired with a challenging ride, I usually wear my long-sleeve jersey with a vest because I know I’m going to work up a sweat. I’ll wear my jacket on even colder days, or on easy rides where I know my body might not be warming up as much.
Cycling Leg Warmers & Arms Warmers:
These were the most recent additions to my cycling wardrobe. I was having difficulty layering properly so my friend suggested arm and leg warmers. I live in an area that has different microclimates every several miles…you can start your ride in freezing cold fog and end up in 70 degree blue skies 3 miles later. It was such a bummer to sacrifice comfort and dress properly for only a certain portion of a ride. The leg and arm warmers are great because you can remove them quickly and store them easily in your jersey pouches!
Duh! : P You’ll get blisters if you don’t use them and be really sad :(
They’re really nice once you have them. I was stubborn and just used my normal running socks for a while. But once you get a pair of cycling socks, you don’t go back. They are thinner than most socks and your feet cool off so much faster! They also just make you look like more of a serious cyclist, if that’s the look you’re going for!
If you have a road bike, you most likely have clipless pedals (the kind you click-in to), which means you need cycling shoes. Cycling shoes have a tight fit and help you make the most efficient and smooth pedal stroke. This allows you to ride more powerfully. You have the option of buying road biking shoes with a smooth and rigid sole, or mountain biking shoes with more tread and slightly less rigid souls. I own a pair of hybrid shoes that are a little bit of both!
This is not optional. Get one! Cycling accidents are gnarly and there’s no reason not to invest in the safety of your head! There are lots of biking helmets. I use a basic recreational bike helmet I’ve had forever, but I’d love to have one of the more aerodynamic styles designed specifically for road biking.
A pair of aerodynamic sunglasses will protect your eyes from the elements, and more importantly, from dust or pebbles that might fly up on the road. It’s important that they are wrap-around (yes…the dorky looking kind) because while you’re moving fast on your bike the wind can make your eyes water and tear. There are also options with interchangeable lenses for changing light conditions.
This might seem obvious, but you can’t fit just any type of water bottle into your bike’s bottle holders. You can buy cycling water bottles at any of your local bike shops.