Bike Week 2015: 12 best women's cycling gear

To mark Bike Week 2015, we’ve teamed up with keen cyclists to find kit for girls who mean business on two wheels

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The Independent Online

If you do find you're spending more and more time in the saddle, it might be worth investing in some specialist kit to stay comfortable, protected and streamlined on your bike.

We're talking padded bottoms, practical tops and female-focused accessories. So, shorts designed to flex and stay in place as you pedal and jerseys and base-layers that will wick-away sweat and won't ride up as you move. Plus the accessories - from saddles to chamois cream - that have been designed with girls in mind. We took tips and advice from women who are used to spending hours in the saddle. Keen cyclist (road and MTB) and all-round outdoor enthusiast Fiona Russell (fionaoutdoors.co.uk) and reformed couch potato turned road-biking fiend Donna Navarro (ordinarycyclinggirl.co.uk) gave us their recommendations. Plus, we put kit through its paces on our own hybrid bike on some long urban rides. Let us know what you think of our edit.

1. Morvelo Turtle Cycling Cap: £15, velovixen.com

 

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“This is the perfect solution for hiding sweaty helmet hair,” says Donna. “Wear it peak up or peak down, under your helmet or on its own post-ride.” The comfy cotton-polyester mix wicks away sweat. Plus, the tropical design ensures you’ll stand out during a post-peloton pint.
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2. Gore Bike wear women’s element active shell jacket: £82.81, wiggle.co.uk

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Gore's durable bike gear will last for years if you look after it. This lightweight, packable jacket will keep out the breeze and protect from light rain on grimmer summer days. It’s cut looser than some so it’s flattering on (and doesn't look so "bike" that you couldn't wear it for other activities) and there are zip pockets for valuables. Go for the neon yellow for maximum visibility.
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3. Vulpine Women’s Summer Capri: £75, velovixen.com

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If you don’t do black lycra, these from the style-focused British brand are a smart compromise. There’s a higher waist at the back, they’re made of stretchy fabric and designed so you’re not sitting on seams. Team with padded underwear (like Vulpine's merino boyshorts) for maximum comfort.
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4. Hoo Ha Ride Glide: £14.99, planetx.co.uk

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Many cyclists tackling longer rides won't get in the saddle without chamois cream (lubricant to help ease chaffing). Fiona recommends using a female-specific version. “Hoo Ha Ride Glide does what it says on the pack," she says. "It can be applied liberally to all your ‘nooks and crannies’ [sic] for anti-chafing happiness while riding your bike.”
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5. Acceleration Cycle Top: £75, sweatybetty.com

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Stylish workout wear specialist Sweaty Betty has a small but decent cycling collection. This patterned jersey gives good coverage when you’re riding, the elasticated sleeves mean nothing’s flapping about and there’s a useful zipped back pocket for your keys and cash.
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6.  Cycling Shorts: £70, fierlan.com

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“These padded shorts by Bristol-based brand Fierlan are really comfortable and good quality,” says Donna. “They’re cut with a high waist to avoid slippage, have reflective tabs for extra visibility and a zipped pocket to stash coins for cake stops.”
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7. Sleeveless Base Layer: £50, rapha.cc

 

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Rapha’s merino base layers are some of the best we’ve tried; they’re breathable, wick away sweat, are super-comfortable and look good. Wear this one on its own on warmer days on casual rides or under a jersey when the weather and the cycling  are more serious.
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8. Dhb Blok Roubaix Arm Warmers: £7.50, wiggle.co.uk

 

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“Arm warmers can be a lifesaver on colder summer mornings,” says Fiona. "You pull them on over your hands, like socks, to fit between wrists and short sleeves as a useful next-to-skin layer.” Then just stuff them in a pocket when the mercury rises.
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9. Selle Italia Diva Gel‑Flow Saddle: £57.67, halfords.com

 

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“It’s the hole in the middle of this saddle that makes the difference between happy nether regions and chafed ones,” says Fiona. “If you’re wondering why there are women who can ride for miles without any discomfort, you can be fairly sure they have a female-specific saddle.”
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10. Unisex Gilet: £80, lecol.net

 

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“Cycling in the British summer calls for a gilet which is wind- and shower-proof and folds up small,” says Donna. She’s a fan of this lightweight jacket by Le Col, the brand established by professional cyclist Yanto Barker. “The mesh back panel and soft fabric keep it flattering and super-breathable.”
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11. Gore Bike Wear POWER 2.0 LADY Bibtights short+: £75.47, evanscycles.com

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"Comfort is important on a bike and these  quality bibbed shorts are my favourites," says Fiona. "The female-specific padding is great and the zipped back access for “easier toilet breaks” revolutionises the world of comfortable bibbed short wearing for female riders. Think about it and you’ll realise why rear zips are a godsend."
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12. Rapha Women's Souplesse Jersey: £120, rapha.cc

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If you are tackling longer rides this summer and want to travel fast, this lightweight, streamlined jersey is a sensible choice. The slanted rear pockets are roomy enough to stash any on-ride essentials, plus there is a zipped pouch for valuables. The contrast rear stripe gives it bonus style points.
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Verdict
Gore's gear is both quality, a good fit and super-practical. Riders we spoke to sung its praises for lasting years with its padded bib shorts getting top marks for comfort. Pieces like the Element Shell Jacket can be worn for other sports, too. If versatility is important, we think Vulpine's stylish capris look just as good off the bike as on. For longer rides, just make sure you team them with some padded bottoms.

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

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