When it comes to buying cycling clothing, there are thousands upon thousands of brands to choose from. Some brands are brilliant and others, less so. Luckily, the best cycling clothing brands are the ones that stick around, while the not so good brands often fade with a lack of repeat custom.
Whether you’re new to cycling or not, if you stick with the best cycling clothing brands, you’ve got a good chance of never making a bad choice. There’s always someone new doing great things but experience, heritage and reputation makes a difference, especially when there’s a lengthy warranty involved. Sure, not everything the best brands make is a winner but the chance is high that it is.
As cyclists, we spend a lot of time talking about the fastest wheels or what percentage more aerodynamic this year’s frame is than last year’s frame. Everything counts and every little advantage is worth considering. But above all else, the thing that has the most dramatic effect on the performance of a bike is the rider. That doesn’t just mean how much power you can put down either, often the clothes you wear can affect your comfort, your temperature, and your aerodynamics. In fact, in many scenarios, the clothes you wear can make for the best investment when the aim is going faster.
Of course, going faster isn’t the only concern when riding a bike, and your clothing does a whole lot more than make you faster. It also makes you comfortable and it’s worth mentioning that it can help make you look great too.
The best cycling clothing brands can be expensive but with the increase in price often comes an increase in quality, so the price can often be considered an investment in the long run. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the best cycling clothing brands, in no particular order, that we look to when buying our own kit.
Clothing guides – quick links
Looking for some clothing that will work both on and off-road, check out our gravel clothing guide or our best women’s gravel cycling kit for off-road adventure orientated gear.
Scroll down for a pick of the best cycling clothing brands we think make some of the best gear out there. We’ve also picked a couple of standout products from each brand. We chose items that tell the story of the brand, or are unique in an important way, but there is plenty more great stuff from each cycling clothing brand.
Having started in 2004 Rapha is a relatively modern brand. Despite that they are one of the most important voices in the conversation of modern cycling. Rapha was initially a fashion-focused road cycling brand but over the years they’ve carved out a unique space in the adventure cycling world.
You can still find Rapha in the pro peloton but now it’s with EF Education-Nippo with heavy support for their alternative racing calendar. The focus is on connecting with fans through events that more closely resemble what the rest of us are doing. There is also support for the Canyon-SRAM women’s team, UCI Continental cycling team L39ION of Los Angeles, and ultra-endurance cycling icon Lael Wilcox.
Rapha’s Cargo bib shorts may have been designed with bikepackers and gravel riders in mind but they are great options for riders who are looking to increase pocket real estate on road rides. Two thigh pockets and two rear pockets increase carrying capability or give riders the option to wear a more casual jersey that might not have standard pockets. The secure thigh pockets are particularly handy for quick access items such as snacks or a camera.
Beyond the pockets, the bibs are made from a water-resistant material to ward off the odd shower and uses Rapha’s popular Brevet pad for comfort as the miles roll by. The Cargo bib shorts are subject to all the usual excellent Rapha customer support as well.
Updating the product that arguably built the foundation of a brand is no small task. It’s no surprise it took Rapha 12 years to overhaul the Classic Jersey. The second version features an improved fit, longer sleeves, shorter overall length, and instead of stitching seams, bonded seams are used to save weight.
Rapha has also updated the fabric to a new Merino blend called RPM150 — (Rapha Performance Merino, 150g per square meter). According to Rapha, this unique fabric is lighter, softer and more breathable than generic merino blends. It amplifies merino’s “cool when it’s hot, warm when it’s cold” characteristics. The incorporation of recycled materials makes sure that it’s a sustainable choice as well.
It’s not a requirement to have a rich history if you want to make some of the best cycling clothing, but some brands do. Castelli has a history spanning back to a small tailor shop in Milan in 1876. Since then, Castelli has earned quite a few industry firsts as a brand. They were the first brand to manufacture lycra race shorts. The first to use the sublimated printing process for jerseys and shorts. The first with thermal winter clothing. The first to make aero skinsuits, the list goes on and on. Today they are the clothing sponsor for Ineos Grenadiers, as well as the official kit sponsor to the Giro d’Italia and they make some of the best of what’s available across a range of price points.
In 2010, the Gabba jersey changed how road riders approached wet weather. It repelled water, stopped the wind and most importantly was breathable. Using a softshell material allowed for stretch and a tight-fitting, aerodynamic race jersey. Now in its fourth generation, the Gabba Ros (Rain or Shine) has continued to evolve. Castelli has updated the fabrics, improved the seam sealing around the shoulders, and added a covered zipper to prevent leaks. While previous generations had three small pockets you can now expect two larger pockets for easier access with large gloves. To keep a pump in place with the larger pockets there’s a clever internal pump sleeve.
The perfect bib short is the equivalent of winning by a tire width. There are a lot of great bib shorts but the Castelli Free Aero Race 4 is just that little bit better. There’s a radio pocket because it’s the same product you’ll find at the WorldTour level but it performs even if you never pin on a number. The chamois hits that perfect balance of comfortable for 12 hours but never bulky. The legs are the right length. The vertical grippers keep everything where it’s supposed to be without feeling constrictive. Oh, and the Free Aero Race 4 also happens to look great.
Endura cycling clothing is a brand founded in Scotland in 1993 by Jim MacFarlane. Jim was dissatisfied with the cycling clothing available at the time so he made his own. Despite his interest in time trials, the brand found its feet producing mountain bike clothing. The weather in Scotland being what it is, it will come as no surprise that they make performance clothing that excels in all conditions. Today, the company produces technical clothing for both road and off-road disciplines.
Until recently Endura was the clothing sponsor for team Movistar who developed and raced in Endura’s Pro SL and D2Z Aero kit. The latter was subsequently banned, and Endura left the WorldTour in October 2019 stating that the UCI’s restrictions were a “developmental dead end”. With fewer restrictions, Endura hopes to further develop cutting edge clothing.
For truly wet weather there’s little more capable than a hardshell, and for Endura, that means the Pro SL jacket. It’s made from Endura’s ExoShell40 which uses a membrane sandwiched between a liner and a denier tricot laminate protective outer.
This material boasts a claimed breathability rating of 40,000g/m²/24hr and a waterproof rating of 20,000mm to let the sweat out and stop the rain getting in. There is a small outside pocket for easy to reach food and zippered access to jersey pockets underneath. The fit is generous and comfortable with no flapping in the wind.
The Endura Pro SL Primaloft II is all about flexibility. It’s exceptionally warm, windproof, and it will hold warmth even when wet. The front of the jacket uses the heaviest Primaloft insulation while the arms and rear are less insulated. If it’s cold but dry the pockets mean you only need a base layer under it. If it gets hot use the underarm perforations and two-way zip on the front. When the weather is at its coldest, and wettest, pair it with the Pro SL Shell Jacket II and you can still be comfortable.
The history of Sportful is like many other technical clothing companies. An innovator and athlete created clothing they wanted to wear and it never stopped growing. In this particular case, in 1972 Giordano Cremonese, became intrigued by the challenge of a new 70km cross-country ski race taking place near his home. He felt that the clothes available at the time were inadequate for such a long race in a cold valley. His solution was to create his own using state of the art, for the time, acrylic fabrics. In 1985, after establishing itself as a successful ski wear brand, Sportful began to develop cycling clothing. In the 1990s the Sportful parent brand acquired fellow Italian clothing brand Castelli. Both are now produced under the same roof along with Karpos, an outdoor brand specialising in climbing, hiking and ski mountaineering gear.
The Supergiara jersey is very similar in fit to the rest of the top-of-the-line Sportful jerseys. What’s different is a subtle collection of features that speak to the intended use. There are more panels for better articulation at the shoulders, more reflective hits, and double the pockets. The zipper is also a less aero, but easier to use and sturdier, plastic large tooth design. There are six total pockets and they aren’t just slapped on. There’s a lot of thought in the design of them. The chosen fabric won’t stretch and there’s plenty of grip tape to keep the jersey stable with fully loaded pockets.
Winter weather covers a huge span of temperatures and conditions. Depending on when in the winter, or where you are in the world, the weather you deal with can be drastically different. The best cycling kit companies have a range of clothes to handle all that variance. One piece that is often missing though is a wet weather specific bib short. The Fiandre Norain Team bib tight is what you grab when it’s just cold enough that leg warmers don’t make sense and there’s likely to be some rain. They aren’t an extreme weather solution but they are comfortable and breathable. Perfect for when it’s chilly and damp.
Pearl Izumi is a brand of dualities. It’s unassuming with a wide distribution network. Walk into many small bike shops or outdoor stores with bike sections and Pearl Izumi tends to be there. The prices are affordable and the gear is well made. Look a bit further though and Pearl Izumi has another side. There is some incredibly innovative and tech-focussed gear in the Pearl Izumi portfolio. They were the first with mountain bike specific apparel, the first to use the BOA closure system for their shoes, and the first to make a lobster-claw cycling glove.
Outside of the specific clothing available today. Pearl Izumi is a brand focused on sustainability. The aim is to use 90-per cent sustainable content by 2022 through the use of as many recycled, renewable, and organic fabrics as possible. It’s an altruistic goal and it never comes at the expense of quality.
The Pearl Izumi Interval Cargo bib short puts a small pocket on each leg and two on the low back. Placement of the rear pockets means they could replace traditional jersey pockets, and the thigh pockets are so integrated that it seems almost as if one panel of the design is missing stitching from the top. Of course, that’s not what’s happening but it’s such a low-profile, design that you could almost believe it was. The straps are a similar material to a jersey so they practically disappear while riding, and as a package, it’s not far off a traditional bib short design. Just with added pockets.
Pearl Izumi solves a lot of problems with the Torrent WxB jacket. It’s a lightweight and packable rain jacket but you can think of it as the jacket you might make to solve problems found in other jackets. The zipper is a two-way zipper, which makes it easy to cool off by unzipping from the bottom. If you do decide to zip it all the way up, it’s offset to the side so you don’t have to worry about pinching your neck or catching your helmet buckle. At the back of the collar, there’s a small dip to avoid bunching when down low on the bike. Finally, the Pi Dry hydrophobic coating coats each fibre of the fabric and it should last the lifetime of the jacket.
Assos is a clothing company that started with a bike, which in some ways is odd but it gives a certain insight into the company culture. The bike had a carbon fibre frame at a time when that was unheard of, and also somewhat unheard of was the aerodynamic testing that the bike went through. It was this testing that led to the clothing and those early experiments set the company’s course that, in some ways, has lasted even until today.
Assos is a company of innovation that happens to make clothing. Start spending some time with their clothing and you notice the details. Instead of choosing good enough off-the-shelf fabrics, it develops its own. Designers then use every fabric deemed necessary only in the exact spot that it works best. The clothes are very specific to their uses and the fabrics used are equally so. There’s a constant forward drive of development and problem-solving.
Assos bring racey features like raw cut sleeves and high-tech fabrics with a relaxed fit that’s great for a do-it-all summer weekend and training jersey. Assos has used its Type.112 Dual Tex fabric for the front and back panels to wick moisture from the body and provide UPF30 protection as well. For the arms, there’s the bi-stretch ‘Push Pull’ fabric which increases sun protection for the top of the arms to UPF50. This is the same material that Assos use on its race jersey and the stitching and tailoring is all influenced by the performance jerseys.
The Equipe RS S9 bib shorts use Assos’ A-Lock racingFit system which combines their Type.441 knit compression fabric with the shoulder straps to form a rollBar frame. The idea is to stabilise the shorts during the side to side and position adjustments that are a part of riding. The construction also uses fewer panels and 30-per cent fewer seams, which has reduced points of irritation and made the shorts lighter.
The chamois is attached at the front and the back of the shorts which allows the pad to move laterally with your body, independently of the shorts, to minimise rubbing. Assos’ kraterCooler features a system of small holes to enhance airflow.
Gore cycling clothing stands for high-performance, weather beating gear and has for decades. Such is the level of the technology, other clothing brands regularly license the technology and build entire ranges around fabrics such as Gore-Tex, Windstopper and Shakedry fabrics.
You can go straight to the source though. The company has had its own cycling range since 1996, concentrating on making the most of its own fabrics with fastidious cut and detailing. Going direct to Gore is often cheaper for the same technology and no one understands Gore technologies like Gore.
The current road range is a good balance of consolidation. It focuses on some classic design, plus the evolution of some more recent introductions. You can expect input from cycling legends such as Fabian Cancellara as well as a wide colour range. This year the sizing has undergone an update to better reflect industry standards. If you have been a loyal customer through the years then expect to go up a size. If you are new to the brand things should fit the way you expect.
Gore’s Shakedry uses a single layer of Gore-Tex technical membrane. It forces water to bead and roll off whilst allowing any humidity on the inside to escape. As the water doesn’t soak into the jacket, there is no chilling effect, making this a great windproof layer even in wet weather. Gore has specced the C5 Shakedry 1985 with a reinforced two-way zipper and an ergonomically shaped collar with adjustable velcro for a perfect fit. The back features reflective detailing and a small rear zippered pocket that doubles as a storage sack for the jacket to fold away into.
Building a hat out of the Shakedry material makes perfect sense. Waterproof hats will always saturate over time either from sweat or from rain. Once a hat is wet it holds less heat and, in some cases, can become a real liability.
Shakedry is different, as it doesn’t hold water and as such it will never saturate. Just like a Shakedry jacket, the hat is incredibly light, only 22 grams in this case, and unreasonably warm for the size. It also happens to be completely windproof. This is an easy hat to bring anytime the weather looks unpredictable, and if things get warm, it’s easy to store.
UK clothing company, dhb, has forged a solid and well-deserved reputation over the years. The clothing delivers excellent performance at a fraction of the price of many competing brands. With a name like “Don’t Hold Back” anything less would be unacceptable but who is dhb and what does the company stand for?
Dive deep and things start to get clear. dhb was founded in 2004 as an in-house brand at Wiggle, and today it is part of the group now known as WiggleCRC. That means the two largest companies in the UK online cycle retail market, Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles, stand behind dhb. Over 800 employees spread out across three countries and all that weight comes to bear when designing and sourcing technical clothing at dhb.
One thing that is very clear though is the WiggleCRC, and by extension dhb, commitment to ethical sourcing. That means sustainability work through better materials and longer-lasting products. It also means a commitment to ethical practices at the 165 factories that make up the supply chain. When you buy something from dhb you can feel comfortable knowing where it came from.
As mentioned, dhb is part of a very big company, and that means there are lots of products in the portfolio with goals that aren’t about being the fastest, but the Aeron Lab collection is different.
Products with the Aeron Lab label exist to be the absolute best and highest performance possible. The Aeron Lab Raceline short sleeve jersey is an aero optimised, wind tunnel tested jersey that fits like a second skin. It’s designed for going as fast as possible. It also happens to have a large, plastic, zipper that won’t degrade from sweat or catch in the fabric around it.
Like other Aeron labs products the Raceline Bib Short is aero optimized. The hex pattern on the thighs helps manage the airflow over the surface. When it comes to bibs though it’s the chamois that matters. The fastest bibs in the world are no good if you can’t comfortably wear them, and to that end, dhb is using the best of what Elastic Interface has available. The Hybrid Cell System is an ultra-dense material designed to combine the advantages of gel with none of the downsides. It allows the pad to be thinner while still retaining enough padding and good moisture management.
Maap cycling has only been around since 2014 and is a relative newcomer in riding apparel. There’s a definite fashion element to the brand founded by Oliver Cousins and Jarred Smith, since the pair brought decades of design and fashion experience to the table and have previously worked with the likes of Stussy, Mambo and Globe.
There is no doubt Maap gear is stylish, but it’s not to the detriment of performance. Maap’s fabrics come from Swiss and Italian mills with production in Milan, and the brand has even worked with sports scientist and founder of Adaptive Human Performance, Ken Ballhause, to design their own chamois. Over the years Maap has expanded its range and today it comprises everything you’re likely to need on the bike.
An important part of that journey has been collaborations with other brands such as 100%, Suplest, Bellroy and Basso, and while the core Maap range is now expansive, collaborations remain an integral part of what makes Maap the brand it is.
Nothing on the MAAP website or in any literature says anything about the fabric used on the Pro Bib Short. The short description talks about “advanced fabrics” but there’s nothing that would clue you in to the fact that it’s completely different. It’s different from anything else that MAAP sells as well as anything else on the market.
It feels a little bit less like a typical soft fabric and perhaps closer to a rain shell. It’s less pliable and definitely less likely to snag on an errant piece of velcro. It breathes exceptionally well and lies smooth against your skin. There’s nothing else quite like these bibs and it’s a welcome surprise.
If there’s a piece of gear that sums up what MAAP is all about, the PAAM Team jersey is the one. It starts with the MAAP expertise in creating a highly technical jersey, in this case, it’s the slightly more generous team fit for a “classic and sleek profile.”
From there the aesthetic comes from streetwear and lifestyle brand Perks And Mini (P.A.M.). The married P.A.M. founders met through the graffiti culture of Melbourne where they used the graffiti tags “Perks” and “Mini”. They share a background in fine art, fashion and graphic design that plays well with the history of MAAP.