The best cycling clothing has moved on in leaps and bounds over the last ten or twenty years. Whereas cycle clothing used to be woven and loose-fitting, cycle clothing brands have recognised the importance of choice of materials and a close fit for performance and aerodynamic gains.
That’s led to the characterisation of cyclists as lycra-wearing pro wannabes. Not all cycle clothing is made of lycra, though, and there’s still a place for a more relaxed fit - which is particularly popular for gravel bike clothing.
As well as fabrics providing hot weather comfort, poor weather clothing has also advanced, with performance fabrics offering a better fit, protection and breathability, making for a more comfortable ride in the wet or cold. Merino wool and wool blends are a popular choice that can provide superior performance in these conditions.
Although cycle clothing is often expensive, you can also find performance at more reasonable prices, and some brands specialise in providing top-notch kit that’s more affordable.
Here’s Cycling Weekly’s pick of the best cycling clothing brands and three picks from the range for each.
Okay, having said that cycle clothing doesn’t have to be expensive, we’ve started out with a brand that invariably is. Assos is based in Switzerland and was the first brand to use lycra for its cycling shorts.
It still produces innovative designs, often with whacky names attached, like its Golden Gate seat pad which, rather than being sewn into the shorts, is just anchored at the front and rear, which Assos says provides better comfort on longer rides.
It uses high quality materials in its gear, which help to ensure comfort across a variety of conditions and we’ve consistently rated its products highly in our reviews.
We loved the seat pad in these Assos shorts. They're lightweight and comfortable with a great fit. We also really appreciated the level of compression that the fabric provides.
Read our full review of the Assos Equipe RSR Bib Shorts S9 Targa.
This Assos jersey is made of soft, close fitting fabrics that are comfortable, but still give streamlined performance. It's well made with an understated design.
Read our full review of the Assos Women's UMA GTV Jersey C2.
Assos provides really good waterproofing combined with great breathability, making the Targa jacket comfortable for wet weather riding. Fit and packability are excellent.
Read our full review of the Assos Equipe RS Rain Jacket Targa.
Another brand that’s innovated extensively, Castelli is based in the Italian Dolomites. It’s got a long history in cycling, making silk jerseys for Fausto Coppi in the 1950s, keeping him more comfortable and cooler than the wool which was the norm at that time.
More recently, Castelli produced the Gabba, a jersey/jacket which provides rain resistance, wind protection and insulation for wet weather rides, without bulk or the need to add a shell jacket. It was the prototype for a garment style that’s now offered by almost all brands, and we still rate it one of the best poor weather options.
The heritor to the aforementioned Gabba, the Perfetto RoS jacket offers the same impressive mix of warmth, water resistance and breathability for comfort on cold rides.
Read our full review of the Castelli Perfetto ROS Long Sleeve Jacket.
Castelli makes the legs of these bib tights of windproof fabric, which adds comfort in cold conditions without extra bulk. There's a comfortable, quality seat pad as well.
Read our full review of the Castelli Entrata Wind Bib Tights.
The Castelli Superleggera jersey is designed for the hottest rides, with the current Version 3 weighing a claimed 70g while still packing in a fourth pocket and UV protection.
Read our full review of the Castelli Superleggera jersey.
The in-house brand of Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles, dhb sells cycle clothing at a wide range of prices from the inexpensive to higher priced, but still affordable, performance items. We’ve consistently rated its kit well in our reviews.
Its lower priced clothing has a more relaxed fit, but is still a good option for recreational riding. Move up the range and the Aeron and Aeron Lab collections offer performance to match the big brands, but undercut them price-wise.
If you're taking to the turbo trainer, dhb's indoor shorts are lightweight, but still keep you covered up. They're a lot less expensive than much of the competition as well.
Read our full review of the dhb Aeron Turbo shorts.
We loved the fit and fabrics of the dhb Aeron Thermal Jersey. It's versatile, warm, fends off wind and is as good or better than much more expensive competitors.
Read our full review of the dhb Aeron Thermal Jersey.
dhb offers a great seat pad and really good fit in its women's bib shorts. They're made from quality Italian fabrics and are comfortable even on hot rides.
Read our full review of the dhb Aeron women's bib shorts.
Like dhb, Endura offers quality cycle clothing at prices which are a little lower than many cycle clothing brands, but offer similar performance. Although its sponsorship of the Movistar pro team ended a few years ago, that partnership has rubbed off in cutting edge features.
Endura is based in Scotland, so it’s a good bet for wet, cold weather gear as well as its quality warm weather and off-road clothing. It also majors on environment-friendly features like the use of recycled yarns and PTFE-free water-resistant coatings.
Endura's winter jacket includes a removable gilet inside. Along with the array of zips this allows great temperature regulation in a well-priced jacket.
Read our full review of the Endura Pro SL 3-Season Jacket.
The DS in Endura's women's shorts stands for Drop Seat, indicating that comfort breaks are made easier. There's a great fit and comfortable seat pad. The price is good too.
Read our full review of the Endura Women's FS260-Pro Bibshorts DS.
For protection in winter conditions, these Endura tights include windproofing and water repellency, plus there's a first-rate seat pad for long distance comfort.
Read our full review of the Endura Pro SL Bibtights II.
Founded by former pro Yanto Barker, Le Col has established itself in the performance cycle clothing market with quality, durable products that are made in its own factory in Italy. Many of its jerseys offer comfort and simple block colour designs, although you can also buy busier-looking pro replica kit.
Le Col’s bibshorts also have the classic look and feature quality seat pads that will keep you comfortable on longer rides. It was also one of the first brands to embrace lightweight indoor cycle clothing.
Le Col's long sleeve jersey offers warmth plus a little extra protection from the wet with its Aqua Zero coating. It's not too expensive either.
Read our full review of the Le Col Pro Aqua Zero long sleeve jersey.
Thermal bib shorts are a versatile option for cooler weather riding. Le Col also includes cargo pockets in these shorts for extra carrying capacity.
Read our full review of the Le Col Sport Thermal Cargo Bib Shorts.
Le Col's top winter jacket provides a race fit, good wind and water resistance and reflective detailing for fast rides in the off-season.
Read our full review of the Le Col Pro Jacket II.
Sportful is the sister brand to Castelli, designed in the same Italian facility. Like Castelli, it uses premium fabrics, usually with a technical edge, to produce quality cycle clothing.
Its summer jerseys and shorts have performed well in our tests, but it’s perhaps better known for its Fiandre and NoRain ranges of water repellent, windproof damp weather gear, the equivalent of Castelli’s Nanoflex clothing.
The Sportful Classic bib shorts include a quality seat pad and have gripperless leg openings. There are minimal flatlocked seams for a comfortable, seamless fit.
Read our full review of the Sportful Classic Women's Bib Shorts.
The Tempo jacket works well across a wide temperature range from autumn to spring. While the front is windproof, the rear is breathable, although you'll need a waterproof if it rains.
Read our full review of the Sportful Tempo Jacket.
Sportful's Loom jersey is a mid-weight piece that works well on its own, with a comfortable, relaxed fit. Add a base layer underneath and you're good for cooler weather as well.
Read our full review of the Sportful Loom Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey.
At a time when much cycle clothing was garish, lycra and pro replica, Rapha made its name with quality wool-rich fabrics and simple designs that harked back to the era in the 1960s when Jacques Anquetil was winning his five Tours de France.
Ironically, Rapha has gone full circle and the clothing it supplies to its sponsored teams, in particular its break-out kits, are among the loudest, most stand-out designs in the pro peloton. It’s also embraced lycra and other performance fabrics, although there are still classic designs and materials available, featuring its signature left side armband and pink highlights.
Rapha is another brand that’s expensive but durable and that tends to score well in our reviews.