We review loads of clothing on road.cc over the course of a year, and here’s the very best of it covering everything from base layers to waterproof jackets, summer mitts to winter tights. We’re also including shoes here because... well, they’re near enough.
How did we arrive at this selection? We only considered products that had scored at least 9 out of 10 when we initially reviewed it, taking into account all of our usual criteria: construction, performance, durability, fit, sizing, weight, comfort and value.
That’s not all, though, because more clothing scored 9 than we could include here. We had to whittle the list down by getting ridiculously critical about every product, looking for any weaknesses and making everything justify its place.
The test team debated at length – or argued the toss, if you prefer – and we eventually ended up with this final selection.
Rapha Women's Merino Mesh Base Layer £55
Beautifully soft, body-hugging without being restrictive, and capable of keeping you free of clamminess, Rapha's Women's Merino Mesh Base Layer is such a lovely undergarment it's almost a shame it has to be hidden away.
The fabric – a 'low micron merino mesh' – is soft, stretchy and airy. It's 60% merino and 40% polyester and incredibly comfortable against the skin. Any moisture you create just evaporates, and you hardly realise you're wearing it.
dhb Blok Mesh Sleeveless Base Layer £20
dhb's Blok Mesh Sleeveless Base Layer is a no-frills lightweight top that does as good a job as more expensive ones, and makes you wonder if there’s any point in paying more.
The dhb Blok is a soft mesh. It's an anatomical fit, incorporating a very slim cut and a slightly elongated back for when you're in a racy riding position.
That close fit means the mesh fabric is in a perfect position to wick moisture away. It dries quickly even if you get a real sweat on; it’s always working for you rather than getting sodden and staying that way.
dhb Aeron Speed jersey £55
The dhb Aeron Speed jersey offers a slim-fitting race cut, lightweight technical fabrics and some cool colourways at a competitive price point – it's a winner all-round.
The fabrics deal with moisture management and sweat dissipation, and there's also added antibacterial treatment to keep the jersey fresh. The close fit minimises air resistance when in a low road riding position, ensuring none of your energy is wasted by excess flapping.
There's flatlock stitching throughout, while a wide hem with a silicone gripper around the waist and sleeves is comfortable and effective at holding everything in place.
Rapha Women's Souplesse Lightweight Jersey II £120
There's little to dislike about the Rapha Lines Souplesse Lightweight Jersey II. It's very good quality, fits brilliantly, and works really well at keeping you cool and comfortable on the hottest rides.
With plenty of stretch to the lightweight polyester and elastane material, the jersey has a flattering, streamlined race fit. Adding to the comfort are the mesh sleeve cuffs, which sit flush against the skin without being over-tight.
The jersey is incredibly light and breathable, wicking away sweat well to keep you feeling relatively cool and dry. A perforated panel on the rear, mesh lining to the pockets and a mesh-lined collar keep the weight low while also helping to keep you at a comfortable temperature.
Assos SS.equipeJersey_evo8 £120
This high-tech racing jersey offers style, an excellent fit and superb breathability.
The Equipe is made from a 3D structure material that Assos says is better able to keep you dry by pulling sweat away from your body, while offering improved breathability. A large mesh back panel also helps the jersey in expending excess heat.
Preventing sogginess and heat buildup is the biggest challenge for any summer jersey, and on both fronts the Equipe impresses. It copes exceptionally well in hot weather, providing good cooling, and the material remains dry even during the most sweaty, prolonged climbs.
Kalf Flux Transition Windproof Jersey £74.99
This is an excellent lighter-weight windproof jersey that excels on changeable days when the temperature is about 10-18°C.
A windproof fabric covers the front of the torso and also the front and outside of the sleeves, and it’s very effective. It's treated with a durable water resistant (DWR) coating and the membrane is rated to give water resistance to 10,000mm and a breathability rating of 10,000g/m2/24h.
The use of a very stretchy and breathable fabric for the sides and back of the jersey helps with the fit and prevents overheating. Throw in careful detailing and the surprisingly keen pricing and this is a great buy.
Gore Power Windstopper long sleeve jersey £149.99
If you're after a lightweight, slim-fitting top that offers wind and rain protection with excellent breathability for three-season use, the Power Gore Windstopper Long Sleeve Jersey is a top pick.
Made from Gore's Windstopper fabric, the Power jersey is ideal for dealing with the constantly changing weather conditions of spring, summer and autumn. Wear it over a lightweight baselayer and it can cope with a wide band of temperatures, from nudging zero up to high teens. That versatility makes it easy to dress for many types of ride, so you can spend less time making tricky clothing decision and more time pressing the pedals.
Sportful R&D Strato jacket £120
Sportful has taken a long sleeve thermal jersey and integrated a windproof gilet using its own Wind Wick LT fabric on the front but leaving most of the back panel exposed. The result is a really good balance of protection, insulation and breathability. There are reflective details and three rear pockets.
Out on the road it provides superb comfort, warmth and breathability. Aside from wet weather, it's possibly the only top you'll need thru the autumn and winter.
dhb Aeron Hybrid Softshell £80
This top fits and feels like a winter jersey as the fabric is soft and it's not overly heavy. It's the type of thing you'd chuck on over whichever baselayer you think would suit the conditions and it'll keep you toasty warm.
The front panels and those running the length of the arms are windproof and water resistant. The entire inside of the softshell is fleece lined, which traps body heat for warmth, although the rear and side panels are a much thinner fabric to allow some breathability.
When rain does fall it'll start to bead on those water resistant panels for a time until the fabric is overwhelmed, which obviously depends on how heavy the shower is. In a light shower or drizzle you'd be looking at about an hour before you start to get wet, although once the rain stops the softshell dries quickly.
Castelli Idro Jacket £260
The Idro’s standout feature is the use of a new 2-layer version of Gore's lightweight Active fabric. Where previously you generally had an outer textile layer with some type of DWR treatment, here the membrane is outermost with a waxy "permanent beading surface", to shed water. The upshot of the new fabric tech is that it's lighter and folds down way smaller than other waterproof jackets – it’ll easily fit inside a jersey pocket with space for other stuff too.
The Idro staunchly keeps the rain outside and does an impressive job of allowing moisture to escape so you stay sweat-free in warmer temperatures. It’s also comfortable and well fitted.
Endura Pro SL PrimaLoft Gilet £114.99
If you need a gilet that can provide some vital insulation on top of windproof performance, the Endura Pro SL Primaloft Gilet could be the layer for you. It comes with a Primaloft filling that provides vital heat retention. It's so thin that it's possible to pack the gilet down into a decent-sized pocket. Moreover, it's cut so that there's little fabric wastage anywhere, which helps keep the bulk down.
Lusso Stripes Gilet £79.99
The Stripes gilet isn't the lightest, but then it's packing three full-size back pockets plus a fourth zipped one, a silicone gripper hem, underarm mesh panels, zip garage and a laser-cut front hem. It's packed with tech, performs faultlessly, looks the business and fits in a pocket when not in use. It's utterly impervious to wind, and does a pretty good job against a decent passing shower to boot.
Assos T.MilleShorts_s7 £100
The T.MilleShorts_s7 offer exceptional comfort and fit for the money and might just be the best bib shorts you can buy at this price.
Key to the comfort is the padded insert. It comprises 8mm-thick memory foam with a waffle and perforated composition to increase the breathability and comfort. A 'goldenGate' construction sees the pad stitched to the bib shorts only at the front and back, leaving the midsection to move independently.
The fit is excellent too, and Assos’ own Type.429 fabric is soft and supportive.
Santini Mago Bib Short with Nat Pad £104.99
Santini has struck the jackpot here in terms of comfort, performance and styling. The multi-density pad has a gel core and a fair amount of forming which allows it to flex to match your body shape without bunching in the compressed areas. There's also a myriad of holes to aid cooling.
The shorts fit snugly and the wide leg grippers with reflective detailing stay put without being uncomfortable, with or without leg warmers underneath. Likewise, the mesh shoulder straps hold the shorts in place while being completely unnoticeable in use.
There’s no pressure, no need to move about for relief, no bunching, no feeling of excess or sub-par support, nothing. You can just get on with riding the bike in comfort.
Endura Pro SL Biblong £159.99
Endura's Pro SL Biblongs are excellent: they're windproof, fit superbly, and the pad comes in three widths, offering a little customisation.
At the core of the longs is the four-way stretch windproof, breathable fabric with DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish front and seat panels.
The 700 Series pad is computer cut with a 'continuously variable profile' (CVP), features an antibacterial finish and is available in three widths to suit different riders.
The Endura Pro SL Biblongs are really, really good. The basics of fit and fabric are spot on, and they perform superbly, even in the nastiest conditions.
Rapha Women's Core Winter Tights With Pad £120
Simple, stylish and effective, these offer everything you want from a pair of cold weather tights. They do their job extremely well.
The seatpad is comfortable and the inside of the tights is lovely and fleecy, making them incredibly cosy on chilly days.
The Core tights come with a lower price tag than you’d usually expect from Rapha. Okay, they're still not cheap, but knowing the quality and durability you get from this brand, they’re worth the money.
Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Arm Warmers £39.99
These are near-perfect arm warmers with added water resistance. A very soft fleece backing provides the warmth here and no small degree of comfort besides. Comfort is further improved by an anatomical cut that's shaped at the elbow which means the fit is practically perfect. Flat silicone grippers on top of an elastane upper cuff guarantee they stay in place.
A new PI Dry coating adds water-repellency to the mix. Water is able to bead off remarkably well, and if you use them in fog then the condensation sits atop rather than ingressing.
Lusso Max Repel Leg Warmers £29.99
Manchester-based Lusso has come up with a product that's hard to fault – simple in both design and execution, with performance fabrics that work out on the road and look good doing it.
The 'Repel' bit in the name refers to the treatment of the fabric yarns before being woven. This treatment holds up under persistent water, the drops beading and falling off with no wetting out. While they aren't claimed to be 'waterproof', it would be a strong, persistent shower that managed to soak these through, and even then you have the brushed Roubaix fabric to keep things warm.
Sportful Sotto Zero Gloves £50
The Sotto Zero glvoes provide impressive warmth for the coldest winter rides, but without the bulk. The Italian company has achieved this by using PrimaLoft Silver, a continuous filament insulation more commonly used in sleeping bags and hiking jackets. The gloves have a fleece lining and the softshell outer material provides water and wind resistance.
Giro Proof Freezing Weather Cycling Gloves £64.99
These gloves provide windproofing, comfortable palms, decent dexterity and, most importantly, warmth down to below zero. They’re pretty much perfect for winter riding. Feel of the handlebar is very good with the Proofs featuring a full leather palm and fingers that provide excellent grip. You can also operate touchscreens while wearing these. The price might seem high but so is the quality.
Altura Sportive 97 Mitts £19.99
These really comfortable gloves are a pleasure to wear on long days out. The palm is made from synthetic leather and there's a sandwich of padding across the base of the fingers, and gel pads (with silicone grip strips) sewn into holes at the base of the thumb and heel of the hand.
The backing is made from a nylon fabric which Altura calls 'Flexmesh'. It's light and soft, very stretchy and well fitting.
All in all, these offer loads of comfort at a very good price.
Bont Vaypor S shoes £324.99
You might not want to spend this amount on a pair of shoes, but if you do you’ll be rewarded with a pair that are super-stiff yet provide an excellent level of comfort.
The mouldable tub-shaped soles are handmade from unidirectional Toray carbon fibre and they just don't flex. They’re also closer to the shape of your foot than many other shoes out there.
The uppers are made from Durolite synthetic fabric with a proprietary material underneath that doesn’t stretch. Two Boa IP1 dials take care of closure.
You can get lighter shoes and you can get ones with more ventilation, but these are stiff-soled, supportive, secure and very comfortable.
Giro Civila Women's Road Shoes £129.99
Giro's Civila cycling shoes for women are comfortable, stylish, light and functional. Laces might not be to everyone's taste, but they mean achieving a good fit is easy, and they go particularly well with civvies.
With an easy-to-keep-clean synthetic leather upper and grippy sections on the sole that are replaceable, these shoes are designed to offer both functionality and good low-key looks. They are easy to walk in, comfortable for the job and the grippy sole sections offer a much better likelihood of staying on your feet on a tiled or laminate floor than many shoes offering equivalent performance.
You can use them with flat pedals and toe-clips or two-bolt clipless pedals. The low weight and stiffness of the sole mean they're well up to the job of even sportives and audaxes, as well as touring and tea-shop rides.
Shimano RC7 SPD-SL shoes £169.99
These superb road shoes offer top-end comfort and performance at a mid-range price. They're stiff-soled and incredibly quick to put on and take off thanks to a Velcro strap and a Boa dial. A ‘cat’s tongue’ material inside the heel helps grip your foot while ventilation is reasonable with a mesh area on top of the toes and a small port underneath.
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.