By Stefan Abram
Cycling clothing can be unbelievably expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of cheap, but good quality, options out there.
Cycling specific clothes are designed to be at their most comfortable when on the bike. In conforming neatly to your body, you won’t find excess material restricting the range of motion on the bike, meaning your focus can be wholly on the ride.
It also brings aerodynamic benefits which will increase your speed. Don't think that this won't be of advantage to you - it is quite amazing how much faster you are wearing a form-fitting jersey than a baggy kit.
It's important to be beware of cheap and low-quality cycling clothing. In reality, there is little improvement in function above simply wearing generic sports clothes that you already own.
If the price is your utmost concern, there is no greater saving than simply spending nothing.
If you are looking for clothing that is more efficient and comfortable for longer rides, then bear in mind that a small increase in cost has a disproportionality large improvement in quality. A few extra bucks here will be some of the best spent money you'll ever put into cycling.
>>> Watch: the difference between budget and premium clothing explained
Best cheap cycling clothing
We have rounded up some of the best cheap cycling clothing for you to invest in. Most of these products also come in a women’s version. Those that do will also have the relevant link.
Looking for more premium options?
With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ or 'Best Deal' link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.
Van Rysel RR 900 bib short
Coming in at 10/10 in our review, these shorts are best in class in terms of value. The fabric is lightweight and breathable, with the perforated outside leg panels adding to this. We've spent up to five hours in total comfort thanks to the triple-density chamois pad.
Contrary to the current fashion where shorts extend right to the top of the knee, these come up a little shorter. There are barely any performance downsides to mention. Since we reviewed them, the design has changed slightly, but they still have the same pad and fit.
At £50 / $80 they are more expensive than other shorts, but in terms of value for money there is nothing better.
Read more: Van Rysel RR 900 bib short review
Buy now in the UK: Men's Van Rysel RR 900 bib short at Decathlon UK for £49.99
Buy now in the US: Men's Van Rysel RR 900 bib short at Decathlon USA for &79.99
Buy now in the UK: Women's Van Rysel RR 900 bib short at Decathlon UK for £49.99
Buy now in the US: Women's Van Rysel RR 900 bib short at Decathlon UK for $79.99
dhb Classic Bib Shorts
We were very impressed with these shorts, awarding them 9/10 in our review. The Lycra was supportive and fitted snuggly, whilst the pad remained comfortable even on long rides.
The only strike we could find was that the seams around the leg grippers were not particularly neat, which left us unsure about long term durability. But no problems presented themselves while on test.
Read more: dhb Classic Bib Shorts review
Buy now in the UK: Men's dhb Classic Bib Shorts at Wiggle for £44
Buy now in the US: Men's dub Classic Bib Shorts at Wiggle from $56
Buy now in the US: Women's dab MODA Classic Bib Shorts for $70
Pearl IZUMi Quest Bib Shorts
These classic-looking shorts features the brand's SELECT Escape 1:1™ chamois. It's not the thickest you'll find but still offers plenty of padding. Elsewhere there's a mesh upper that's plenty breathable and a turned-hem gripper that uses a silicone print to keep the shorts in place.
Another sensible feature of these bibs is the 'BioViz' reflective accents that offer improved visibility in low-light conditions; making these shorts a smart choice for commuting or fall or autumn rides. Sizes range from S-XXL.
Buy now in the US: Pearl Izumi Quest Bib Shorts from Backcountry for $70
Buy now in the UK: Pearl Izumi Quest Bib Shorts from Cycle Store for £44.99
Boardman Cycling Bib Shorts
The construction of these shorts is very impressive for the price. A high-density chamois pad and quick-wicking fabric will keep you cool and comfortable on long rides. The wide silicone grippers keep the legs from riding up but without feeling like a constraining band.
Other well-thought-out features include a rear zip pocket for keeping valuables safe—particularly useful if your jersey doesn’t have one—and reflective highlights to increase your visibility.
The women’s version opts for a waistband instead of bib straps, which does make a toilet stop a much less involved affair. The cross-over design stops the waistband cutting in uncomfortably when bent over the handlebars.
Boardman Short Sleeve cycling jersey
A straightforward jersey that offers everything you need without any unnecessary extras inflating the price. You get three decently sized rear pockets, as well as an extra zippered one.
The silicone gripper in the hem keeps it from riding up, while the fabric is breathable and quick-drying. A full-length zipper and reflective highlights add to its practicality.
It is nice that Boardman have not gone with plain, boring black, opting instead for an eyecatching blue striped design. If it is a little too loud for you, a plain navy version is sold as well.
With a breathable fabric that feels comfortable against the skin, this represents another good value option for a cycling jersey. There are three rear pockets, but no zippered one, and a silicone gripper keeping everything in place.
One aspect to note is that the collar does come up a little high, so if you are sensitive to that, this may not be the jersey for you.
Van Rysel Ultralight Summer Road Cycling Jersey
A little more expensive, but as with their shorts, Van Rysel, Decathlon's in-house clothing brand, presents incredible value. The fit is form hugging without being overly tight and the open weave mesh fabric breathes like nothing else.
Three standard pockets are found on the rear and an additional zippered pocket for valuables . With understated logos, this is a smart and sleek jersey.
Specialized RBX Classic Jersey
This is a no-nonsense jersey ideally suited to those who prefer a clean and classic look. It features a full front zipper, three standard rear pockets and the fabric is UPF 30+ rated to help protect against the sun's rays.
Specialized describe this as their 'regular fit'. That means it's close-fitting without looking like a skin suit. It comes in a wide range of colors to suit most tastes, from a muted sage green to an eye-catching Fluro-yellow.
Buy now in the US: Specialized RBX Classic Jersey at Specialized from $27.99
Triban RC 500 Short-Sleeved Merino Jersey
A £40 / $50 jersey is perhaps a surprising choice to include as a cheap cycling jersey, but this is arguably the cheapest option on our list.
Thanks to the anti-microbial properties of merino wool, this jersey can be worn for multiple consecutive days, and is ideal for commuting or a multi-day trip, doing away with having to have three synthetic jerseys.
It's important to consider the pros and cons of merino: 100% lacks elasticity and makes for a shapeless fit. Equally, be cautious of brands claiming a jersey is merino when actually is has the barest minimum of fibers in its blend. With this jersey, 70% of the main fabric is wool, providing an appropriate balance.
Features to look for in cycling jerseys
Cycling jerseys, by tradition, have at least three rear pockets. These are useful for keeping keys, phones, or any tools such as pumps and spares you might need on a ride. It's therefore desirable for the pockets to be made from quite an elastic material to prevent the pockets from sagging.
Some jerseys also include a zippered pocket which can be very useful for keeping values, providing peace of mind that there’s no chance they’ll bounce out.
There are few things worse than the boil-in-a-bag feeling of clothing that doesn’t breathe well. To help regulate your temperature and to help mitigate the horrible feelings of sweat fabric clinging onto your skin, highly breathable fabric is desirable for cycling clothing.
These give you full flexibility when it comes to ventilation. You may think you can get by with just a quarter zip, but when you’re struggling up a climb with the sun shining relentlessly on you, sometimes you really need just a little more.
A full-length zipper also lets you take your jersey on and off without having to first empty your pockets. A quarter length zip forces you to take the jersey off over your head, inverting your rear pockets and spilling their contents.
A jersey that hugs your body like a second skin isn’t a necessity, but it still should be form-fitting. A baggy jersey can cause uncomfortable bunching of the excess material and will flap in the wind, which is annoying as well as inefficient.
All good cycling jerseys come with some form of gripper to to prevent it from riding up. Some also have grippers on the sleeves for the same reason. Watch out for jerseys with grippers that dig in so strongly as to be uncomfortable.
Features to look for in cycling shorts
Most cycling shorts use bib straps rather than a waistband, as these can cut into your midriff when hunched over the handlebars. Bib straps avoid this while also keeping the shorts in exactly the right position, there’ll be no slipping about as the ride goes on.
Wider bib straps are often more comfortable as narrower ones can cut into your shoulders.
In the past the pads of cycling shorts were made from the leather of the chamois mountain goat, hence its name. These were replaced by synthetic materials, which offer significant improvements.
The pads are made to offer support where it’s needed and reduce bulk where it’s not. They are wicking and quick drying meaning that you won’t have the horrible feeling of wet material against your skin.
Nobody wants shorts that ride up as soon as you start to pedal. To prevent this, all good cycling shorts will have some kind of gripper at the bottom of the legs, normally silicon based.
Beware of very narrow gripper bands as these can dig into your thighs. Wider leg grippers are better because they spread the pressure evenly.
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