Indoor cycling clothing can help make the unpleasant experience of sweating it out indoors a lot more bearable for some riders.
However, the need, or otherwise, for specific indoor cycling clothing is a topic for debate in itself.
The consensus from experts is that whilst many riders will get on fine sticking to their standard gear, some people will find that getting hot, sweaty and sitting in a static position will lead to saddle sores.
As former British Cycling head of physiotherapy Phil Burt put it: “If you allow the area to get hot and wet and apply pressure, you’ve got a recipe for a certain type of saddle sore.”
Therefore, good indoor shorts will aim to wick sweat away, allow breathability and offer a pad suited to a static indoor position.
Indeed, when Cycling Weekly compared moisture retention of a pair of indoor specific shorts versus standard shorts, we found a 64 per cent reduction in weight increase via sweat absorption.
We’ve taken a look at some of the indoor cycling clothing options available to help you navigate the growing market. Because this is an emerging trend, the consensus around exactly what’s required varies between brands – so we’ve explained the approach each has taken.
Based upon Burt’s expert opinion, the best options will aim to keep riders as dry as possible whilst offering a pad “that doesn’t bottom out completely when you’re loading it for a sustained amount of time.”
There are also indoor specific base layers and jerseys to match. At Cycling Weekly, most of us tend to stick with a standard base layer/sports bra.
If you don’t already have a super breathable base layer, some of the options listed could be an investment both for indoor and outdoor riding, with breathable fabrics limiting the well-documented effect of heat build up on performance and sweat-wicking properties preventing a ‘cool down’ temperature plummet.
Some brands have opted to create indoor jerseys, which could be preferable if you’re exercising outside the house – on the patio or backyard – and don’t want to scare the neighbours.
Our pick of the best indoor cycling clothing
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dhb Aeron Turbo Shorts
dhb’s Aeron turbo shorts are available in a men’s and women’s fit. Designed to be work with a base layer, the brand has decided to go without bib straps. We found that the waist on the women’s model slipped down, and we’d have preferred a bib version, but those used to waist shorts might be more comfortable with the simpler option.
The shorts feature a lightweight and quick-drying fabric, which we did find held on to less moisture when compared with standard shorts.
The chamois in the women’s shorts is Cytech Elastic Interface’s Paris HP Super Air pad whilst the men’s uses an Elastic Interface NICE HD Super Air pad. Both are very high density, and created to offer extra breathability.
Read more: dhb Aeron turbo shorts review
Le Col x Wahoo Indoor Training Bib Shorts
The indoor shorts from Le Col are an adapted version of the brand’s summer bib shorts, with a lightweight fabric that features laser-cut perforations through the thighs, where heat builds up and is (ideally) released.
The bib strap is light and aims to wick away sweat, and there’s increased padding at the front of the chamois. The logic behind this is that that riders indoors spend more time sitting in a static position on the nose of the saddle. So this is a good option for ‘on the rivet’ riders who keep their indoor sessions high intensity.
Le Col x Wahoo Indoor Training Jersey
On top, Le Col is offering both short-sleeved jerseys and sleeveless designs, made from a mesh fabric.
Both the long and short-sleeved options come with pockets, allowing you to also wear this smart jersey in hot conditions outside. If you’re keeping it indoors, though, we reckon the vest would be the best choice because it will also be the breeziest.
Read more: Le Col x Wahoo’s men’s jersey review
Madison Turbo shorts
Madison was one of the first players on the indoor cycling clothing market. These shorts are still only available in a men’s version, though, and pretty tough to come by outside the UK.
The shorts use an anti-bacterial polyester fabric all over, with open mesh straps at the upper. The pad in question has been designed specifically for this short, and comes pre-curved in the riding position to offer a better fit.
Commenting on the design, apparel designer Rachel Preston said: “Indoor turbo sessions are usually short – 30 to 60minutes – but we did find that our riders would shuffle around a lot in their saddles. As a result, we selected a pad that offered fantastic moisture management, and offered really good elasticity to accommodate the continual position adjustments between different types of riding efforts during their workout session.”
Read more: Madison Turbo shorts reviewed
Madison Turbo jersey
At the top half, Madison has gone for a short-sleeved jersey as opposed to the mesh base layer seen elsewhere.
The jersey uses an open mesh fabric, though, and as well as having an anti-bacterial coating to prevent bacteria from multiplying (lovely!) the pockets have been removed – which makes sense as they’re superfluous indoors and add extra bulk.
Castelli Insider bib short
Castelli created its Insider shorts using the 80 per cent polyester material it calls Inferno, with lightweight Giro Air elastic at the cuffs.
Interestingly, it’s opted for its KISS Air2 seat pad, a lighter construction and uses a lower density foam, based on the expectation that indoor rides will be shorter and therefore require less cushioning. This approach differs from other options on the market, but could be up your street if you prefer less chamois between you and the saddle.
Again, this is a men’s short and there isn’t yet a version for women.
Castelli Insider jersey
If you want to go matchy-matchy, there is a jersey, too. This is made from a 100 per cent polyester mesh, and weighs in at a claimed 88 grams. With two rear pockets, the idea is that you could still wear it for outdoor rides in hot weather.
Pactimo Apex bib short liner
Pactimo has taken a different approach to indoor cycling clothing to most. Rather than construct a specific turbo short, it’s repurposed the liner shorts typically used by mountain bikers underneath their baggies.
This makes a lot of sense – this kit is designed to offer padding without any excess material. The body fabric is a stretch mesh material, with Avertini Lycra in the centre panels to make sure the chamois stays put.
The approach does mean that the chamois isn’t turbo specific but it is a Cytech model created to offer comfort up to four hours.
Specialized Ultralight Liner SWAT short
If you want to ditch the bib straps and really feel the breeze, a pair of Specialized Ultralight Liner SWAT shorts might just be the ticket. They are made from what the brand calls VapoRize fabric, which is an open mesh, and they feature a 3D Chamois which is on the thinner side.
Be warned, these are VERY see-through. They are not specific indoor cycling clothing; they are designed to be worn underneath baggies – so best not to wander out to check the mail straight after your session.