Bike Clothing For Every Budget

Having a versatile wardrobe can significantly lengthen your cycling season and allow you to enjoy riding comfortably in a wide variety of weather all year long. There are two ways you can maximize the versatility of your cycling wardrobe and therefore your ability to ride regardless of the conditions. Option one, you can choose your favorite brand of cycling apparel and buy everything they offer. You pick; Assos, Giordana, Castelli, Hincapie, GORE Bike Wear, Louis Garneau, they’re all great and they offer a full line of fantastic cycling apparel and accessories that will suite all of your needs. Option two, be selective and choose items that are designed with versatility in mind. If you want to fill your closet with a lineup of jerseys and jackets for use in five degree increments go for it. But if you are like me and want the best bang for your buck there are some really great items out there that will adapt to a wide range of conditions.For maximum functionality look for cycling jackets with features such as zip-off sleeves, removable inserts, or vents that can be zipped open or shut. Also look for items that are removable and packable. Advances in fabric technology have also dramatically increased the usefulness of many pieces of cycling apparel. Many items utilize fabrics that are windproof and/or waterproof yet breathable and very pliable. Stuffing a newspaper in the front of your jersey and keeping a trash bag handy in your back pocket is not a substitute. The following is a brief offering of some of the bike clothing and accessories that can be found to be most versatile.Before we get to fancy cycling jerseys and jackets lets start with the number one source of versatility in your cycling wardrobe, cycling base layers and warmers. Maybe the most basic and essential of accessories is a pair of arm and knee warmers. While there are a multitude of warmers out there the most common and useful are ones that are those made of classic Roubaix, a stretchy material with light fleece on the inside. You can find a version made by your favorite brand to match the rest of your kit. In cool conditions put on warmers with your favorite cycling shorts and jersey and as the temperature increases you can peel them off and stow them away in your back pocket.As for base layers, we mentioned in the previous review of the Assos Intermediate EVO Jersey that with the proper base can make one item perform at 45 degrees just as well as 60. At more mild temperatures you may just use a lightweight base layer like the Garneau Drytex or Pearl Izumi Barrier to wick away moisture and keep the chill off. In colder conditions you can often wear the same jersey or jacket with a heavier base like the Castelli AirCo or Assos Early Winter Interactive to provide extra thermal protection in addition to moisture control.The next item you may want to think about for cool and variable conditions is a packable shell jacket. Basically it’s a lightweight cycling jacket that you can stuff in your back jersey pocket. These things are pretty amazing. There is really no excuse to go on a bike ride unprepared when you can carry an entire jacket stuffed down to about the size of a bagel in your jersey pocket. Packable shells are useful in two ways. If your ride starts out chilly you can wear your shell until things start to warm up and then stuff it away. Don’t tie it around your waist — when it gets caught in the spokes and sucked into your cassette you will understand why.On the flip side if the temperature begins to drop, whether due to altitude or a shift in the wind, or a rain shower pops up, you can pull on your shell and keep on down the road. Some of our favorites include the Hincapie Pocket Shell, the Pearl Izumi PRO Barrier Lite, Louis Garneau Climate Grid and Giordana FRC Compactable Wind Jacket. One thing to consider is that these shells are typically wind and water resistant not wind or waterproof. They are designed for moderately variable conditions not torrential rain and hurricane force winds.Versatility isn’t too much of an issue when the weather is nice and warm. There isn’t too much preparation and forethought required when deciding what to wear when temperatures are above 65 degrees. Because of this the item of bike clothing designed with the most versatility in mind is the cycling jacket. While each manufacture pretty much has you covered from 65 down to sub freezing, Castelli seems to have put some particular thought and effort into this idea of versatility. Three Castelli jackets really stand out in this regard; Castelli Fusione, Castelli Leggerezza Jacket and the Castelli Insolito Radiation Jackets. These jackets will give you options like no other. However, if you want to but a cycling vest, light jacket, cycling long sleeve thermal jersey and a heavy winter jacket go ahead. There are plenty of fantastic choices available for each. But if you are on a budget give these items some serious consideration.