Cities are evolving to become a bit friendlier to casual cyclists - so it’s about time clothes did too. While lycra shorts and garish waterproof jackets are still the uniform for commuter cyclists, there are some labels out there catering to the more discerning rider, who wants to feel comfortable on their journey and look good at the end of it.
These labels are finding new ways to incorporate reflective elements to clothes, from stripes on the turn-ups of jeans, to reflective piping underneath layers of fabric, to brand new technology infused in the clothes themselves. Jeans are being designed especially for cycling, with stretchy, tough denim and waterproof qualities. And waterproofs themselves are no longer exclusively neon yellow, bulky and unflattering, if you know where to look.
We got on our bikes in the city and put gear to the test in all weathers on rides to and from work. We chose pieces for a combination of comfort on the bike and style both on and off two wheels.
1. Fierlan Navy Cycling Layering Jacket: £100, Fierlan
Specialist women’s cycling kit company Fierlan has been producing lovely-looking gear since 2014, with a focus on flattering shapes. This high-necked jacket flares out slightly at the waist, so it skims over the hips rather than clinging to them. It’s super light and silky soft, but remarkably water-resistant; after a rain-soaked 45-minute ride, drops were still beading on the surface, and the inside was dry. The coral-coloured sleeves and inside collar are a nice touch. It’s a snug fit across the chest, and the fabric doesn’t stretch, so if you prefer your kit a little looser, opt for one size up.
2. Levi’s Commuter jeans: £90, Levi
Levi’s Commuter range offers a few, carefully designed pieces for urban cyclists. Roll up the bottoms of these jeans and you’ll find silver reflective stripes - a nice touch, but not likely to save your life on a roundabout at night. The other features are far more impressive: the denim is stretchy, hard-wearing and also, miraculously, waterproof. The rain brushed off me when I got caught in a shower. They’re also cut high at the back and sit nicely on the waist, making them more flattering.
3. Vulpine Silk Air T-shirt: £59, Vulpine
This loose cycling top is designed to look “office ready” – no Lycra here, just a lightweight silk and synthetic blend that makes it smart enough to wear to your desk. As long as your ride to work isn’t too long, that is – it did start to stick a little after half an hour, but for short commutes it’s a great option. Available in two shades, navy and sea grey.
4. Sweaty Betty Chase Cycle Shorts: £65, Sweaty Betty
The best word for these shorts is “jazzy”. With reflective tape along the bottom of each leg and bright Nineties-inspired panels, they’re great for visibility, while the stretchy fabric, high waist and padded seat make them a comfortable wear for longer rides. There’s also a zip-up back pocket for keys and such. Sweaty Betty does a matching jersey if you can’t get enough of that pattern.
5. Chapeau Madeleine Jersey: £69.95, Chapeau
You don’t have to be a pro to wear a jersey. Chapeau specialises in high-spec cycling gear with a stylish twist, and the Madeleine’s spots-and-stripes motif manages to dress down what might otherwise look a little too technical for the casual commuter. It’s slim fit and made from quick-drying moisture wicking fabric, but if you need to cool down a little more there’s a zip down the front. There are three large pockets on the back for all your essentials.
6. Cleverhood Electric Glen Rain Cape: £209.90, Cleverhood
This rain cape with reflective piping fits over the top of backpacks and handlebars thanks to concealed elastic loops that hook over the rider’s thumbs. That does mean you look a bit like you’re wearing a camo tent, as the French tourists who shouted, “Ahoy Glastonbury!” at me in the park will attest, but it also keeps you and everything you’re carrying bone dry.
Buy now Use code IndyBest at checkout to get free shipping.
7. Proviz Reflect 360 Jacket: £79.99, Proviz Sports
Stand out from the sickly parade of neon yellow and green on the commute with this revolutionary reflective jacket. It looks a subtle grey colour in the daylight, but transforms into a silver beacon in the dark. Air vents under the arm and on the back and front keep the rider cool, while the lined material is quite snug when it needs to be. A revelation.
8. Rapha Classic Shorts: £130, Rapha
Rapha also does a pair of commuter jeans that have similar special features. But it’s the brand’s classic cycling shorts that are invaluable in summer. Slip them on under a dress or a skirt when you set off and ride with extra confidence and comfort thanks to the chamois pad, sewn into the seat, and seams that are specially positioned so as not to chafe.
9. Urban Legend Shinty Jacket: £96.81, Urban Legend
Zsófi Geréby founded Urban Legend in her native Budapest, which has 200km of cycleways. Everything she makes, from dresses to coats, is designed to be functional for the urban cyclist. These are the kind of clothes that look good enough to wear all day, with added features that make them more comfortable for riding home afterwards. The Shinty jacket comes in bright blue with a Parka-like orange lining, huge, practical pockets, waterproof outer layer and a breathable lining. Perfect for when you get caught with your bike in a shower.
At £100, the Fierlan jacket isn’t cheap, but you’re paying for quality, both in the fabric and the fit. It’s ideal for spring and summer, but can be worn year-round as a top layer, so you’ll get your money’s worth. On the bottom, for us, Levi’s commuter jeans are an excellent investment for the anti-lycra cyclist. They look good enough that people will assume you just splashed out on a nice pair jeans. But they have several special powers: a waterproof layer that works and tough, stretchy denim so that they won’t go baggy at the knees.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing