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Ironically, the perfect women’s cycling kit is one you almost never think about. It does the job, fits comfortably without chafing, rubbing, or irritation, and allows you to ride hard or long or short or on dirt or whatever you want without problems. But when there are problems with your cycling clothing, it can ruin an entire day’s ride.

A well-designed cycling kit helps regulate temperature, relieves pressure, prevents saddle sores, and allows you to ride harder and recover faster. That requires more than just a pair of spandex and a t-shirt. We tested six different companies’ shorts and jerseys to find the right cycling clothing that can stand up to the heat—and that you can turn into a year-round staple with the right accessories. (We’re assuming most shorts are worn year-round with leg warmers or other cool-weather layers.)

These are the women’s cycling kits; the men’s cycling clothing was reviewed last week.

2020 Summer Cycling Clothing: Let’s Talk About Bib Shorts

Bib shorts are a touchy topic for a lot of female cyclists. Bibs are cycling shorts that don’t stop at your waist, but rather have straps that come up over your chest and shoulders. Many cyclists tend to favor bibs because they stay put and don’t pinch around your stomach. But, at the same time, many female cyclists tend to dislike the full wardrobe change that is required to go to the bathroom—because your jersey (and jacket or vest during cold weather) go over your bib shorts, you have to take everything off every time you need to pee. (For what it’s worth, somehow most men are able to just pull the short’s leg up or to the side and pee without issue.) We mostly tested bib shorts here, because that is the current trend and direction, but we also tried a couple of regular cycling shorts. And while the features on bibs can vary, all cycling shorts come with some chamois—ie. padding between you and your seat. Ideally, the right chamois allows you to ride all day comfortably.

2020 Summer Cycling Clothing: Chamois

Chamois (pronounced “shammy”) is the padding in your bike shorts that provides some vibration protection, relieves pressure, and keeps your groin area dry and chafe-free. While personal preferences on chamois vary, there’s generally an agreed upon Goldilocks-level of chamois: not so thick it feels like a diaper, not so thin it does nothing. There are also a number of new kinds of foam and design that are aimed specifically at women’s pressure points.

2020 Summer Cycling Clothing: What To Look For

Whatever cycling clothing you choose will likely come down to personal preference and fit. While there are some features you can simply choose to pay more for (or not), your choices will typically come down to the cycling details that are important to you and the price. Look for a jersey that fits you, and choose bib shorts that offer the features you’re looking for. When making the purchase, choose a retailer that lets you try on items, and if you’re ordering at home make sure you can return items that don’t fit.

We’ve included a rating system that evaluates different characteristics of cycling clothing to help you find your perfect kit at a glance. (More on our rating criteria below.) Along with the comparison roundup below, each kit also has a longer review linked out that goes into more depth. This year, all women’s cycling clothing was tested and reviewed by one reviewer, and while the clothing was provided by the brands represented, all clothing was selected independently without promotional consideration.

You can read the men’s cycling clothing roundup here.

2020 Summer Cycling Clothing – The Ratings, Explained

Fit – “Fits small” to “as expected” to “fits large”

Comfort

  1. Poor – Materials feel cheap and reduce ride comfort. This may be due to poorly designed suspenders or materials that are scratchy or that move around during a ride.
  2. Okay – Material doesn’t cause any problems, but doesn’t have any advanced tech like moisture wicking or compression to increase ride comfort.
  3. Good – Bibs are comfortable and dry and sit flat against the skin without need for readjustment
  4. Great – Like “good” only with one or two features that set them apart, like compression or moisture wicking
  5. Excellent – These are bibs you don’t mind keeping on for the post-ride BBQ. They feel like a second skin, and stay dry and comfortable all day long.

Moisture Control

  1. Poor – Chamois acts like a sponge and retains sweat
  2. Okay – Long rides and hot days may lead to rashes and irritated skin
  3. Good – In cooler, dry weather, chamois will perform well on rides up to 2 hours
  4. Great – Wicks moisture away and stays dry in warm weather
  5. Superb – These pads go above and beyond in keeping you dry and preventing skin irritation. Examples are chamois’ that promote air flow through the pad or were shown to dry out quickly during a ride even if they were fresh out of the washing machine.

Durability

  1. Fragile – Require hand washing, have thin materials that wear easily and may be destroyed by a slight abrasion
  2. Use care – Need to be washed in their own cycle from other clothing, material can tear easily and may not survive a dryer
  3. Average – Can wash in a normal cycle without shrinking or signs of wear; won’t rip if you lean against a rough surface
  4. Strong – Throw them in the wash with your sheets, wear gravel riding without worry and should withstand minor scraps with a tree or the ground
  5. Protective – Machine washable, outer layer designed to protect you from abrasions

Saddle Relief

  1. Poor – Pad may have seems or material that chafes
  2. Okay – Prevents chafing but minimal vibration reduction and nerve relief; typical of minimalist pads found in triathlon race shorts
  3. Good – Reduces chafing with adequate vibration and nerve relief for rides up to two hours
  4. Great – Feels great against the skin while riding and prevents saddle fatigue on the longest rides
  5. Superb – A bib that you can wear day after day, this rating is reserved for the best chamois that can make a crummy saddle feel good and have you finishing a century with a fresh-feeling tushy
Photo: Hannah DeWitt

2020 Summer Cycling Clothing – Assos

T.laaLalai_S7 Bib Shorts

$229, competitivecyclist.com

Fit: True to size
Comfort: 3/5
Moisture Control: 4/5
Durability: 5/5
Saddle Relief: 4/5

Dyora RS Summer Bib Shorts

$260, backcountry.com

Fit: True to size
Comfort: 5/5
Moisture Control: 3/5
Durability: 5/5
Saddle Relief: 5/5

Dyora RS Summer Jersey

$189, competitivecyclist.com

Fit: True to size
Comfort: 4/5
Moisture Control: 5/5
Durability: 3/5

Based in Switzerland, Assos has developed a reputation over four decades of being at the cutting edge of cycling technology. The T.laaLalai_S7 shorts are the women’s version of their over-the-head unique style, while the Dyora bibs and jersey are their high-end race-level cycling kit. These are expensive, high-quality, performance-minded, Euro-style cycling clothes that are only worth the money if you really care about the details and going fast.

Full Review Here

Photo: Hannah DeWitt

2020 Summer Cycling Clothing – Wyn Republic

Velocity Bib Shorts

$199, wynrepublic.com

Fit: True to size
Comfort: 4/5
Moisture Control: 5/5
Durability: 3/5
Saddle Relief: 4/5

Paradigm Premium Cycling Jersey

$139, wynrepublic.com

Fit: True to size
Comfort: 4/5
Moisture Control: 5/5
Durability: 3/5

Luceo Hex Racer Jersey

$149, wynrepublic.com

Fit: Fits small
Comfort: 4/5
Moisture Control: 4/5
Durability: 3/5

Wyn Republic, founded by a pro triathlete couple, has developed a cult following and a reputation for their bespoke small-batch stylish kits with a high attention to performance detail. These shorts and jerseys are designed to be mixed and matched, with the Luceo Hex Racer as the race-level high-end option. While the mesh and materials provide excellent wicking and moisture control, some triathletes might find the fit a little snug and the sleeves slightly tight. The bibs are comfortable and an excellent choice for hot weather. Once you get everything in the right place, you can ride all day. A portion of the proceeds from the Paradigm collection also go to grants for minority athletes.

Full Review Here

Photo: Hannah DeWitt

2020 Summer Cycling Clothing – Machines For Freedom

The Endurance Bib Shorts

$235, competitivecyclist.com

Fit: Fits small
Comfort: 3/5
Moisture Control: 4/5
Durability: 4/5
Saddle Relief: 4/5

The Essential Shorts

$148, backcountry.com

Fit: True to size
Comfort: 4/5
Moisture Control: 4/5
Durability: 4/5
Saddle Relief: 4/5

Pebble Print Jersey

$178, backcountry.com

Fit: True to size
Comfort: 5/5
Moisture Control: 4/5
Durability: 4/5

Machines for Freedom is a women’s specific cycling brand, with a wider range of shapes and sizes than you typically find in luxury cycling clothing. The sizes are so widely varied, you definitely want to be sure to get the right size or you’ll end up with shorts that are far too tight or too loose. These compression bibs were the company’s first item and remain a fan favorite, with chamois and cuts specific to women’s bodies. The Essential Shorts are high-waisted and aim to bridge that gap between elite performance and non-bib shorts. And the Pebble Print jersey, with 10% of proceeds going to The Okra Project, is a stylish very on-trend cut—form-fitted with slightly longer sleeves.

Full Review Here

Photo: Hannah DeWitt

2020 Summer Cycling Clothing – 7Mesh

WK3 Cargo Bib Shorts

$200, backcountry.com

Fit: True to size
Comfort: 5/5
Moisture Control: 5/5
Durability: 5/5
Saddle Relief: 5/5

Horizon Jersey

$140, 7mesh.com

Fit: True to size
Comfort: 4/5
Moisture Control: 3/5
Durability: 5/5

These are shorts designed for adventure. The new cargo version of the Canadian company’s popular WK3 bib shorts has lots and lots of pockets. But it’s the well-designed chamois, with integrated mesh around the seams, that really make these shorts the most comfortable we tried and worth the money even if you’re not planning any huge adventures. The jersey is also designed for more extreme weather and isn’t as fitted as the trendier options here, but still has some nice features, like waterproof floating pockets.

Full Review Here

Photo: Hannah DeWitt

2020 Summer Cycling Clothing – Ornot

House Bibs

$156, ornotbike.com

Fit: True to size
Comfort: 4/5
Moisture Control: 4/5
Durability: 4/5
Saddle Relief: 4/5

Long-sleeve Lightweight House Jersey

$139, ornotbike.com

Fit: True to size
Comfort: 5/5
Moisture Control: 5/5
Durability: 3/5

For the price, this is the nicest cycling kit you can buy, especially considering it’s manufactured in the U.S. The long-sleeve jersey, with its fine lightweight jersey knit material, is perfect for any weather. The bibs, which are the company’s bestseller, have some interesting touches in the material—but the overall effect is: high-quality high-end cycling clothing without anything flashy from a company that’s also committed to being carbon neutral.

Full Review Here

Photo: Hannah DeWitt

2020 Summer Cycling Clothing – Louis Garneau

Fit Sensor 5.5 Shorts

$90, backcountry.com

Fit: True to size
Comfort: 4/5
Moisture Control: 3/5
Durability: 4/5
Saddle Relief: 3/5

Zircon 3 Jersey

$85, garneau.com

Fit: Fits large
Comfort: 5/5
Moisture Control: 3/5
Durability: 4/5

If you’re just looking for the most cost-effective cycling clothing, then look no further. These shorts are short (or you can opt for the 7.5-inch length), without a ton of bells and whistles, and the chamois is nothing amazing, but it’s plenty comfortable and plenty moisture-wicking for most rides. The jersey is slightly baggy, so you might want to size down, but it has some nice touches for the price.

Full Review Here