Last week we revealed the best bikes reviewed during 2015, and now it's time to turn our attention to the best cycle clothing we tested last year.
We tested a huge amount of clothing across many different categories, from racing to commuting, from base layers to jackets, in 2015. It's been a good year to get into cycling and buy clothing fit for purpose.
Cycle clothing is going through an interesting period. There are some really exciting developments, in fabric technology and fit that are, in my opinion, far more valuable to riding enjoyment than the latest carbon wheels or aero frame. We're a long way from woollen jerseys. Fabrics now are more breathable, waterproof and insulated, allowing you to dress for any conditions, with improved fit and greater emphasis on visibility.
There are some exciting products on the market. To make it onto the shortlist, and item of clothing had to get a 9 or higher rating to even be considered. Then it was the mammoth task of going through the list and rounding up the best of the best.
While we've listed the RRP prices, it's worth shopping around as many of these products are available cheaper. We've linked to shops selling the products, just click the heading.
Wiggle's in-house clothing brand, Dhb, brings fantastic value to its Classic Roubaix bib tights, teamed with top performance. At £55, these bib tights are knocking around the bottom rungs of the cost ladder but punch way above their weight for comfort, warmth, chamois quality and fit.Roubaix bib tights teamed with top performance.
Nothing can ruin a ride more than frozen and sodden toes, and a good pair of overshoes can really make the difference between cycling misery and happiness at this time of year. These Shimano S3000R NPU overshoes, with their thick neoprene construction and water resistant coating, provide the necessary barrier to the elements and insulation to keep you pedalling happy circles and not frozen squares.
The Sublimated Pro Winter Hat from Dorset-based Prendas doesn’t cost a fortune but does a brilliant job of keeping your head and ears warm. It looks stylish worn on its own but is slim enough to fit underneath a helmet. The peak keeps the low sun out of your eyes, and the sides cover your years, but can be folded up if it's warm enough.
The Hoy Vulpine Saitama Trail Shorts are a trail and city offering from the clothing brand and Sir Chris Hoy's collaboration, designed for the female commuter. Attention to detail and a good balance between tailoring and performance makes these shorts great for long rides and day trips, especially if your hours in the saddle are interspersed with off-bike activities like cake stops or sightseeing.Saitama Trail Shorts are a trail and city offering from the clothing brand and Sir Chris Hoy's collaboration, designed for the female commuter. Attention to detail and a good balance between tailoring and performance makes these shorts great for long rides and day trips, especially if your hours in the saddle are interspersed with off-bike activities like cake stops or sightseeing.
The Bontrager Race Gel Women's Gloves are a good buy. They dealt with sweaty palms pretty well and seemed to vent it out and absorb it. The material on the top of the gloves is thin and porous so air could circulate well. There are cheaper gloves, however, the padding on these really works and makes them stand out.
Swedish company Craft knows a thing or two about base layers. They have an unusually broad range, that's for sure, including a base layer to wear when it's too hot and this, the Active Extreme Windstopper Long Sleeve base layer, with a Gore Windstopper layer built in. The addition of a windproof panel on the front gives protection for which you'd otherwise need a jacket or a gilet, so it can mean you can get away with one less layer, saving weight and improving aerodynamics when that matters.gilet, so it can mean you can get away with one less layer, saving weight and improving aerodynamics when that matters.
Nalini's Trail base layer is supremely comfortable thanks to the seamless construction and stretchy fabric. The variable weave adds a bit of bulk where you need warmth and opens up to a light single layer in high-wicking areas. In terms of comfort and performance, it's difficult to find fault with it. It's even pretty good at not retaining odour, especially for a synthetic.
The Walz is one of the best caps I've worn, staying put at high speeds plus its ability to cope with a range of temperatures and conditions means it's ideal for year round use. The price of £25 is well worth it especially considering the versatility of looking cool with both lycra and civvies you can wear it all of the time.
For when it’s seriously cold out, and you need to keep your hands warm, Rapha’s superb Deep Winter gloves step up to the plate with impressive insulation. They’re Rapha's 'modular winter glove' system, which means you can add optional merino liners and an overmitt, but on their own they’re warm enough for most typical British cold weather. The magic is the Primaloft ONE insulation which stops the cold from getting through while an OutDry membrane stops the rain spoiling your ride. Pricey but a good investment for winter riding.
Slipper-like comfort, easy-to-use Boa dial and a good weight-to-stiffness ratio make the new Fizik R5B shoes a really good buy. They offer much of the performance of a high-end race shoe without depleting your funds quite as badly. They look really good too, and with shoes, that's important to many people.
ICGloves combine a comfortable fingerless commuting glove with an integrated LED and motion sensor on the back of the hand. The simple idea is that when you raise your hand to signal, the orange lights 'indicate' for you, mimicking a car's indicator lights.
Sportful's Fiandre NoRain bib tights handle rain really well, keeping your legs drier than regular tights. Add good insulation for cold temperatures, impressive breathability and excellent comfort, and you have a great pair of bib tights for tackling the British winter.
While there's always going to be a time and a place for super-stiff lightweight road shoes, sometimes that's not always what's required, or desired. The Giro Petra VR Shoes are designed for those times when there's going to be a fair bit of walking as well as riding, and when a more low-key looking shoe may be the thing. But they're still technical. -
It’s an expensive jacket, but there’s a lot to like about it. The Primaloft filling bumps up the price but the trade off is a light as a feather slim jacket, as warm as anything you will find in the Ski section of Sports R Us. It has a slightly lower cut back, but this is not a jacket for speeding along in the drops: you'd overheat in seconds. This is a jacket for cycling to work in, then the pub, and then taking the dog for a once around the park in. Normal life, in fact, including being on a bike.
Aero helmets are all the rage at the moment. Bontrager's first aero road helmet offers very good ventilation that keeps your head cool and comfortable as you ride. We can't test the Ballista's aerodynamic efficiency, unfortunately, so you can either take Bontrager's word for it or reject the claims. What we do know it’s that it’s very comfortable fitting and very cool to use.
The Stolen Goat Orkaan Race Tech Jersey is a water-resistant jersey in the mould of the hugely popular Castelli Gabba, and this one is a cracker. It’s a skin tight jersey aimed at racers with a good range of sizes available. Compared to the mighty Gabba, the fabric feels nicer next to the skin (thanks to a fleece backing) and it’s much more stretchy and way more breathable.
Dressing for the UK winter just got a whole lot easier with the new Sportful Fiandre Extreme Neoshell, a comfortable, warm and waterproof jacket that copes well with a wide range of weather conditions. It really is one jacket to rule in all weathers. IT’s designed to cope with variable and constantly changing conditions, and does that with a Polartec Neoshell fabric with fully taped seams. It’s flexible and comfortable, it's very breathable and insulating, and best of all it keeps you dry.
Santini's Storm 365 winter bib tights certainly deliver on their promise of keeping you both warm and dry on winter rides building on the company's long record of delivering good technical cycling clothing. The mix of 80% nylon and 20% elastane make for a comfortable, stretchy set of tights. They’re finished with an Acquazero treatment to ward off rain, and the BeHot fabric keeps you warm in the cold.
The Giro Synthe is a new aero road helmet that's lightweight, comfortable and very well ventilated. In terms of ventilation, this is one of the best helmets I've ever used. Giro reckons that using a heat-sensing headform reveals the Synthe to be cooler than the existing Aeon and nearly as cool as a bare head.
Three-quarter length shorts are ideal for warmer spring days, and these cunningly-named howies Bib Sh34rts are both well priced and exceedingly comfortable. A seamless circular knitted construction gives a second skin fit without feeling at all restrictive. The TMF Professional cycle padded insert is more than comfortable enough for the longest rides you have planned.
A common sight in the professional peloton, the Sidi Wire Carbon Air Vernice road shoes offer fantastic fit, comfort, stiffness and ventilation that marks them out as a very high-performance shoe, easily among the best I've ever tested. There's a wider range of available adjustment compared with most other shoes, which helps you personalise the fit. Pressure is spread evenly across the foot, no pinch points or pressure hotspots at all. The carbon fibre sole is incredibly stiff, you won't flex these things.
Definitely not cheap, but probably one of the best cycling waterproof jackets available. The first thing that's noticeable about the Women's Elite 2.1 Jacket – aside from the not inconsiderable price – is how well featured and how meticulously designed it is. This is not a walking or outdoor waterproof repurposed for cycling, it's a cycling jacket from the ground up. The waterproof fabric is a mix of three-layer eVent and Elite rip-stop fabrics, designed to make it a tough, hardwearing jacket that's genuinely breathable yet fully waterproof.
Mountain Hardwear clothing is aimed predominantly at the climbing, hiking and mountaineering market. That said, many of their pieces have crossover appeal for recreational and summer cycling, and their Women's Wicked Lite Tank is a perfect example. Made from super-quick-drying and breathable Wicked Taper SD Fabric. For hot weather riding it's extremely comfortable, although realistically its use will probably be limited to overseas cycling as it rarely gets hot enough in the UK to warrant such a super-light sleeveless top.
If you want to feel warm and comfortable on your bike this winter without compromising on appearance, then look no further than the Madison Keirin thermal jersey. Its medium to heavyweight fabric has a super-soft fleecy lining that feels lovely against the skin and does a pretty good job of wicking sweat.
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.