Cycling Clothing Buyer’s Guide

From challenging trails to tough road rides, what you wear when you cycle can have a big effect on your performance. Whether it's something light and comfortable for a hot day, or something thick and durable to keep out rain or snow, there's a wide variety of bike clothing and accessories to choose from.

Our bike clothing buyer's guide will explain:

  1. Why dedicated cycling clothing matters.
  2. What each item of clothing does
  3. What the different properties of cycling clothing mean
  4. Which cycling clothing brands to look out for

We’ll also touch on why different materials are important and highlight a few top clothing picks to suit both your riding style and preferences.

What's so good about cycling clothing?

If you've ever ridden a bike, you'll probably realise that the position you sit in isn’t really a natural position. You'll either be hunched over the handlebars of a road bike, or bouncing up and down on your pedals as you zoom through a trail or skate park on a mountain bike or BMX.

While cycling, you’ll also notice how you’re affected by factors such as the weather, sweat, chains, gears, and pedals getting in the way, and even soreness, rubbing and (unfortunately) blisters.

Having to cycle any significant distances while battling these challenges can be difficult, especially in normal clothing. That’s why specially designed cycling clothes are popular; they help you cycle comfortably and boost your efficiency, allowing you to keep your focus on the road.

What are the different types of cycling clothing?

Here are our picks for the top pieces of cycling clothing to have on your radar, and why you might need them.

Base layers and thermals

The key function of base layers and thermals is to keep you at a comfortable temperature while you’re riding. You’ll want these layers to be close-fitting but not excessively tight, and the type of material they’re made from will determine whether they’re right for your needs.

A light, breathable base layer material such as polypropylene will help your sweat evaporate and keep your skin cool - perfect for hotter conditions. Conversely, a more insulated base layer will help you maintain your body heat while cycling in the cold winter months.

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Cycling shorts

There are two key features to look out for when it comes to cycling shorts.

First, you'll need flexibility. Since your legs do most of the work on a ride, your shorts need to not restrict your movement. The best option is usually a stretchy elastane fabric that acts as a second skin and moves with you on the bike.

Padding is the other key feature. As your body weight usually rests on a few points on the saddle, soreness and stiffness can occur on sensitive areas, especially if you ride for extended periods of time. To combat this, many of our cycling shorts come with built-in padding or a chamois, which helps to cushion some of the pressure from the saddle. You'll certainly be thankful of extra padding if you're just getting into cycling, as you won't be used to sitting in an awkward position!

If you're planning on longer road rides, then a pair of bib shorts may be the best option. Bibs offer straps that sit on the shoulders to prevent them from falling, and a specially designed thinner waistband to prevent them from digging into your stomach.

If you don't want a snug fit, then try out baggy shorts that are ideal for leisure riding, mountain biking and commuting. They'll still offer plenty of flexibility, with the added bonus of padding.

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Cycling jerseys

Choosing a good cycling jersey will make life a lot easier, even on short rides. As well as conforming to your body shape as you move, cycling jerseys do a few important jobs.

If you're working hard in the saddle, then it's likely you'll start to sweat. A decent cycling jersey will draw this sweat away from your body, keeping you both dry and comfortable and helping to regulate your temperature. They'll also do the opposite if it's cold, acting as another insulation layer to help you retain heat.

You'll find pockets on the lower back of the jersey, which can be very handy on long rides and allow you to store your keys, phone, energy gels, multi-tool, or other ride essentials on your back and out of the way.

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Jackets and gilets

If you're riding in winter, then a long-sleeved jacket is a great way of conserving heat and keeping the wind off your arms. Ask any rider what the key to staying warm or cool is and they'll tell you it's all about the layers. Try mixing up a jersey and jacket or even adding a base layer underneath for additional heat conservation.

Other features to look out for are dipped hems, to stop any unwanted drafts, and neon colours and reflectives to help you be seen out on the roads.

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High-visibility clothes

One key piece of clothing that all cyclists need in their wardrobe is a high visibility jacket or gilet. Cycling on roads at night or during bad weather can get dangerous, so giving other drivers the best possible chance of seeing you is critical. High visibility and reflective clothing uses special materials that reflect light from streetlamps and car headlights, making other road or path users aware of you.

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Cycling gloves

Just like pretty much every piece of cycling clothing, gloves do several important jobs that will not only keep you comfortable, but safe too. Spending a lot of time supporting your upper body on the handlebars can result in sore palms, so some gel padding to support the main pressure points will allow you to ride for longer, as well as making it easier to get back on your bike a few days later without too much soreness.

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Cycling socks

Whether you're a road rider putting in effort on a hot day or a mountain bike rider battling against the elements, a good pair of socks will go a long way to keeping you comfortable. If sweat and heat are problems, then a decent pair of cycling socks will wick sweat away, keeping your feet nice and cool. If you're on the other end of the temperature spectrum, then look for a pair of thicker cycling socks that will keep your feet warmer for longer.

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Cycling shoes

While we're on the subject of feet, cycling shoes are super important. Although it's totally possible to ride a bike in trainers if you're commuting a short distance, we'd always recommend cycling shoes with cleats for longer journeys. These specially designed shoes allow for a cleat (or clip) on the sole that clips into specially designed pedals (which you'll need to fit to your bike - check out our guide).

This means you can not only push the pedals but also pull, increasing efficiency and allowing you to cycle further by using more muscles in your leg. The other benefit to cleats is that your feet won't slip off the pedals, ideal if it's a particularly wet ride.

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A pair of clear glasses will keep wind and bugs out of your eyes, so they're a must-have if you're planning on flying down hills or winding up the pace on the flat. If you're riding in summer or in bright conditions, then consider a pair of cycling sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays.

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Bike helmets

Your helmet is the key to safe journeys. Here at Halfords, we have a wide selection of helmets for every type of rider. Whether it’s something aero for roadies, a stylish number for your daily commute, or a trail-ready mountain bike helmet, you’ll find the perfect option to help keep you safe out on a ride. If you need some expert advice before choosing your new helmet, head over to our Bike Helmet Buying Guide.

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KinetiCore technology

KinetiCore is an advanced helmet safety technology from Lazer that’s been ten years in the making. It uses unique EPS foam blocks to protect against both direct and rotational impact. Inspired by cars’ crumple zones, these blocks crumple under impact to absorb the energy and keep you protected.

Shop KinetiCore helmets

MIPs technology

MIPs (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) is another innovative helmet safety system. Adding an extra low-friction layer into a helmet’s shell helps to reduce the rotational forces exerted to the head during an accident, making helmets with MIPs technology a worthwhile investment.

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Important cycle clothing properties

Now that you know what the common pieces of cycling clothing are, these are the key features to look out for and why it makes a difference to your cycling experience.


Staying dry is key to a comfortable ride. Waterproof clothing will have a special tape on the seams to stop water from getting in, and the fabric will have a water replant coating applied too.


Riding in winter can be tough enough if there's already a wind-chill factor when you're stationary, so imagine cycling into an icy breeze at 15-20mph. As with waterproofing, wind proofing involves applying a special coating or layer to the fabric to keep the breeze out.


This is when a fabric is designed to be especially breathable, allowing sweat and moisture to be drawn away from the body to ensure you stay warm. These fabrics are clever enough to be able to keep heat in when required too, keeping you comfortable regardless of the conditions.

The best cycling clothing brands


Ridge provides a wide range of cycling jerseys, shorts, jackets and much more. Offering good value for money as well as a great selection of materials and colours, Ridge clothing is great for casual cyclists and beginners who want to start exploring the world of cycling.

Shop Ridge cycle clothing


Altura clothing is a good step up for cyclists who are starting to look for ways of improving performance and increase the amount of time they can spend on their bike. You'll get features like water and windproof materials, added reflectivity, improved gel padding on shorts and clothing designs that make cycling comfortable - perfect for intermediate to advanced cyclists.

Shop Altura cycle clothing


If you're looking for performance clothing to match your high-spec bike, then Boardman is a great choice. Featuring outstanding breathability, high quality materials, and specially designed panelling that help to improve your performance, Boardman cycle clothing is ideal for intermediate cyclists.

Shop Boardman cycle clothing

If you aren't sure what size you'll need, or whichcycle clothes suit your type of riding, just visit your local Halfords store and one of our bike experts will be more than happy to help. From tips and tricks for staying warm to choosing the right outfit for the weather, we'll be able to give you plenty of advice - and don't forget to bring your bike in for a free safety check too!

Are there any other types of cycling clothing to be aware of?

Aside from searching for clothing by item (jackets, shorts, etc), you could also search based on the type of cycling you’re doing. For example, mountain bike clothing is often specialised to fit off-road needs, while winter cycling clothing could help you stay warm on icy roads.

Shop all cycling clothing