When looking to improve the cycling experience we often focus heavily on the bike, looking for upgrades that will heed a mechanical advantage whether it’s riding faster, longer or in more comfort. The reality is while there are certainly advantages to be gained from faster rolling tyres, better groupsets and shaving grams, there is only so much that can be achieved.
Specific road bike clothing has proven to have a far more dramatic effect on a rider’s performance and is an area that can be easily overlooked. Technical cycling-specific clothing is lightweight, aerodynamic and can keep you comfortable in as temperatures change or the miles rake up. Having the right clothing can have unseen advantages as well, being able to you to ride longer and in conditions that you may otherwise write off as being too cold or wet will improve fitness.
Road bike clothing can be expensive but compared to the cost of that go-faster wheelset you have your eye on new kit can offer huge value for the potential gains in performance and enjoyment on the bike. Performance road bike clothing doesn’t have to cost a lot either, cycling-specific garments are getting cheaper and there are always cheap cycling clothing deals available.
While this list is a selection of road bike clothing that we think really stands out there are plenty of alternative options that still provide excellent performance. To help you choose what kit you need we have a number of guides filled with information to help you choose the best possible option in each category.
Clothing guides – quick links
Looking for some clothing that will work both on and off-road, check out our gravel clothing guide or our best women’s gravel cycling kit for off-road adventure orientated gear.
Scroll down for a pick of the road bike clothing that we think is the very best of their categories.
A lot of thought has gone into the engineering of modern cycling jerseys, blends of fabrics and materials are able to manage temperature and moisture, textures can give aerodynamic advantages and the fit has been refined to provide the most comfort possible when on the bike.
Jerseys not only improve comfort, performance and have handy pockets on the back to store snacks but also allow riders to express their own style. Jerseys come in all colours and designs from understated black to bright and loud patterns.
Rapha’s Pro Team Aero jersey is a WorldTour winning jersey that combines textured and smooth materials to improve airflow across the body and thus make you faster. A smooth material on the front aids airflow over the body and the rear panel has a textured finish to minimise drag. Unsurprisingly the Pro Team Aero jersey has a race fit to eliminate any excess material that will flap and undo the aero advantages. There are three pockets at the rear which use a bonded tape to provide support once loaded with your ride essentials.
It’s not simply performance and good looks that earn the Pro Team Aero jersey a place on this list but also Rapha’s customer support which includes free repairs to crash damaged garments and a jersey downsizing scheme.
Assos has used its Dual Tex fabric for the Erlkoenig jersey to create a lightweight jersey which helps keep you cool on hot days and hard efforts. The breathable material wicks moisture away from the skin, cooling the body and keeping you dry and comfortable on warm rides. The Dual Tex material is also UPF30 and the Push Pull warp-knit textile used in the sleeves us UPH50 to protect you from the sun.
Assos hasn’t gone for a super tight race fit for the Erlkoenig, instead the stretch Dual Tex material has been body mapped to still offer a close fit. The more relaxed cut should improve comfort across a wider range of body types and increase all-day comfort.
While synthetic materials have become extremely advanced natural materials still have their place in cycling clothing. Merino wool has the perfect properties to make a jersey with superb thermoregulation performance, ideal for riders who like to ride in mornings and evenings when the temperatures are likely to change. Merino is also very soft to the skin giving it a luxurious feel and thanks to the blend of merino, polyamide and elastane La Passione have been able to make a jersey that has a close race fit for the best performance on the bike.
La Passione’s Merino jersey has three generously sized rear pockets, full-length zipper with a zip garage and is available in four tasteful colours. High-quality Merino jerseys aren’t cheap yet because La Passione sells directly to the consumer, its Merino jersey is only £85, which we think is a steal for such a nice jersey.
Castelli’s Gabba was a pioneer of inclement weather race clothing and the Gabba RoS is the 4th generation of the water-resistant jersey. Designed to be paired with Castelli’s Nano Flex arm warmers it creates an adaptable water-resistant layer offering flexibility should the weather change.
The Gabba ROS uses an exclusive Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper 205 warm brushed water-resistant fabric on the front panels and is paired with Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper 203 material which adds breathability and stretch for a close fit. These materials make the new ROS more water-resistant and lighter than previous generations. The seams are tapped and a YKK Vislon zipper is used to help keep water ingress at bay. A long dropped tail and high collar stop any cold trickles or splashes getting inside.
The Gabba’s biggest strength is its versatility, Castelli rate the Gabba as comfortable between 9°-16°C although with some considered layering we suspect that temperature range could be broadened. For riders who regularly ride in terrible weather, the Gabba is sure to be a worthy investment.
A comfortable pair of bib shorts are worth their weight in gold to a cyclist. Spending time in the saddle can quickly lead to discomfort and a well-designed bib short with a high quality padded chamois will eliminate saddle sores and unpleasant chafing. Everyone is different and the intimate nature of a chamois means that what works for us may not work for you. The below bib shorts are a selection of shorts that are universally liked for their comfort and high quality.
The Equipe RS S9 bib shorts use Assos’ A-Lock racingFit system which combines their Type.441 knit compression fabric with the shoulder straps to form a rollBar frame. The idea is to stabilise the shorts during the side to side and position adjustments that are a part of riding. The construction also uses fewer panels and 30% fewer seams, which has reduced points of irritation and made the shorts lighter.
The chamois is attached at the front and the back of the short which to allow the pad to move laterally with your body, independently of the shorts, to minimise rubbing. The pad uses a three-layer perforated foam construction and uses microShock foam for additional shock-absorbing comfort, Assos’ kraterCooler features a system of small holes to enhance airflow.
Endura knows how hard it is to find a pair of bib shorts that fit just right which is why they not only offer their Pro SL II in three different chamois sizes across six different bib sizes but also two different leg lengths. Endura even has an online Pad Fit tool that advises which chamois size to get based on the saddle you ride. That’s 36 different options to choose from. The 700 series pad has seen an update for 2020 with improvements to foam constructions and a micro-polyester face fabric.
Italian lycra provides compression and uses Endura’s Coldblack technology to reflect UV and inferred sunlight keeping you cooler on hot days. The pre-shaped multi-panel construction and silicon print on the hem keep the bibs in place when riding. The straps have also been reworked to be wider and more lumber support.
La Passione’s Prestige bib short range is an all-round bib short designed for endurance riders who frequently spend 7+ hours in the saddle. The shorts come in a standard version for regular conditions and a lightweight version for hot climates.
The bibs are anatomically cut to provide a better fit when in the riding position and offers compressive qualities to help muscles. A rear mesh section up the lower back helps regulate temperature and connect the wide straps for better stability. The pad is from Elastic Interface and has been chosen for its comfort for long periods of time.
Rapha’s Cargo bib shorts may have been designed with bikepackers and gravel riders in mind but they are great options for riders who are looking to increase pocket real estate on road rides. Two thigh pockets and two rear pockets increase carrying capability or give riders the option to wear a more casual jersey that might may not have standard pockets. The secure thigh pockets are particularly handy for quick access items such as snacks or a camera.
Beyond the pockets the bibs are made from a water-resistant material to ward off the odd shower and uses Rapha’s popular Brevit pad for comfort as the miles roll by. The Cargo bib shorts are subject to all the usual excellent Rapha customer support as well.
When the weather rolls in, the best waterproof jackets will not only keep you dry from the rain and fend off the effects of wind chill but also be breathable to stop the build-up of heat and moisture on the inside. This is no mean feat and is only made more complicated by cyclists demands for the ultimate in lightweight and packable designs.
Gore’s Shakedry technology is its most advanced material yet and has quickly become the gold standard for wet weather activities. Shakedry uses a single layer of Gore-Tex technical membrane which forces water to bead and roll off whilst allowing any humidity on the inside to escape. As the water doesn’t soak into the jacket there is no chilling effect, making this a great windproof layer even in wet weather. Constructed from a single layer of Shakedry membrane paired with a thin liner, the resulting jacket is very light and packs away easily.
The Shakedry material isn’t perfect, the exposed membrane can be easily damaged, the material lacks stretch and it comes at a price but the wet weather performance is far superior to alternative options on the market.
Gore has specced the C5 Shakedry 1985 with a reinforced two-way zipper and an ergonomically shaped collar with adjustable velcro for a perfect fit. The back features reflective detailing and a small rear zipped pocket that doubles as a storage sack for the jacket to fold away into. Gore offers an insulated version for deep winter riding and a racier C7 and C7 Stretch fit as well.
The lightweight waterproof properties didn’t go unnoticed and many brands were quick to licence the technology from Gore to create their own variations of the perfect waterproof jacket from the Shakedry material.
7Mesh’s take is worth a special mention as they saw the potential of the lightweight Shakedry material and took it to the extreme, producing one of the lightest and most waterproof jackets available. The Shakedry membrane keeps the rain out but the absolute minimalism of the 7Mesh jacket means that it only weighs a claimed 95g for a medium and a pack size so small it could get lost in a jersey pocket.
Features have been stripped back in the pursuit of weight and packability however 7Mesh did spec a pass-through vent that allows access to jersey pockets and the jacket has a built-in stuff sack so it can be safely packed away when not in use.
While other brands are jumping on the Shakedry train, Assos have chosen to develop their own materials to use for the premium RS Equipe jacket. Schloss Tex is a 3 layer construction made up of a DWR (durable water repellent) layer that protects the inner hydrophobic membrane.
While pack size and beading levels might not compete with Gore’s wonder material, Schloss Tex does offer more durability as well as some stretch to aid fit. By using body-mapping, Assos has created a closer fitting jacket, improving aerodynamics without restricting movement.
Taking the RS Equipe on and off is easy thanks to the elasticated cuffs and good-sized 2-way waterproof zipper. On the rear are two vents that double as access to your jersey pockets.
Arm warmers and leg warmers
Two versatile pieces of clothing that once you get, you won’t remember how you managed without them. Arm and leg warmers provide that little extra warmth to your kit and are perfect for rides that might start cold and warm up or vice versa as they can be easily taken off and stowed in a jersey pocket. At first look, they may give the appearance of being simply a tube of material but not all warmers are created equal.
Designed to be used with Castelli’s Gabba ROS jersey that we featured above, they are made from water-repellent DWR treated thermal and breathable material for the best performance in bad weather.
Double-sided silicone grippers keep the warmers in place and the leg warmers have a zip at the ankle so that they can be easily removed over your cycling shoes. Available in arm, leg and knee guises.
The benefits of merino in jerseys translate to arm and leg warmers, providing excellent thermoregulation properties to help regulate body temperature in changeable conditions. Merino also keeps its thermal properties when wet, continuing to insulate when man-made fabrics will suffer. Resistance to odour mean that at the tail end of a multi-day bike trip you won’t repel your riding buddies when you pull them on for a little extra warmth.
Designed for scottish winters Endura’s FS260-PRO Thermo warmers offer superb insulation from the biting cold thanks to its Thermoroubaix material which has been DWR treated to help stop water from soaking in. Double sided silicone grippers stop them creeping down to expose gaps and reflective details help keep you safer when riding in the dark.
Depending on the material used, base layers can help keep you warm when it’s cold or cool when it’s warm. As a next-to-skin layer, they can also play an important role in managing moisture to help you stay dry and comfortable when tackling climbs or doing efforts.
In hot weather the primary purpose of a base layer is to move sweat away from the body, this not only stops discomfort and possible chafing but also cools the body as it evaporates and stops potential wind chills on descents.
Assos uses a material they call Transport Mesh which, questionable string vest aesthetic aside, has a lightly compressive fit to wick moisture away from the skin quickly. The Skinfoil base layer has a seamless design to eliminate any possible areas of irritation.
Sportful has designed the Bodyfit Pro cycling base layer for temperatures of 15+ºc, using Sportful’s Diablo mesh fabric to regulate body temperature and allow airflow for comfort when riding hard. DRYnamic Mesh provides additional breathability in key areas. Considering many lightweight jerseys offer very little protection from harmful UV rays it is notable that the Bodyfit Pro baselayer has a UPF10 rating to provide protection when riding in the sun, filtering out 90% of damaging rays.
When the weather starts getting colder the Gore Windstopper cycling base layer is in its element whether being used to add some chill protection to a jersey on a cold day or as part of a winter layering system.
When riding the chest and shoulder experience the full brunt of wind and rain so in poor conditions require some extra protection. Gore has used its Windstopper membrane on the front and shoulder panels to protect against wind chill and offer a little water resistance. This is combined with an open weave mesh on the rear and under the arms to disperse heat and help wick moisture away.
The Gore Windstopper has a form fit that offers a close-fitting shape to make the most of the properties of the materials whilst remaining comfortable.
Any socks will do, right? Wrong. This is cycling so of course there’s a bewildering selection of socks claiming to offer superior performance and impeccable style. Whether you are looking for the best in comfort, perfect cuff length or jazzy design these are the socks we think stand out from the rest.
When we first read the technical claims that Swiftwick makes about its fibres and knitting process, we thought it was typical over-hyped marketing. They are just socks, after all. Then we tried them.
The Aspire socks are available in a number of cuff lengths and have a thin profile with minimal cushioning, seamless construction, and the Olefin fibre is lightweight, highly breathable, and quick-drying. Over the years the Brentwood, Tennessee-based outfit has cultivated a fervent following, so much so that one of our former colleagues even travelled to the US so that he could replenish his supply before they were available in the UK.
Launched alongside its flagship road and XC shoes, Shimano says it “engineered” the S-Phyre socks to optimise performance. We won’t go as far as saying these fancy socks will give you extra watts in a 40km time trial, but they are supremely comfortable.
The cuff is pretty tall and surprisingly compressive, while the heel is specially knitted to grab onto the anti-slip cat’s tongue silver thread commonly found in the heel cup of shoes, and mesh-vented panels extend under the foot to prevent overheating. We weren’t so sure about the padding on the top, but it lines up with the ankle strap/BOA on most shoes and does add a degree of comfort.
Matt Hawkins founded Ridge Supply after he was hit from behind by a vehicle on a solo training ride. Left with a broken pelvis, his left foot was non-weight bearing, so when his wife brought a change of clothes to the hospital, she grabbed a pair of hi-vis DeFeet socks to remind him not to put his foot down.
Once he was riding again, he started wearing bright colours, especially on his feet, and Hawkins has carried this ethos into his brand Ridge Supply. Another sock based around the DeFeet Aireator, the brand says the Skyline socks pay homage to the Blue Ridge Mountains, which the brand calls home.