Being a female in the cycling world, I’ve come to accept that there just aren’t enough good options for women’s clothing. It can be tricky because not many cycling companies make women’s gear, and the ones that do usually seem to think if it doesn’t have a swirl or a flower on it no one is going to buy it.
Bike and merino hero shot in the Wiss!
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to wear exclusively light pink, white, swirls and flowers; I’m an adult, not a little girl. I want something functional that fits and looks good. Is that too much to ask? There are some gear companies that are better than others, and sometimes you don’t even really need to get cycling specific at all which always makes finding things easier. Since winter seems to be here to stay, warm wool layering seems like a good place to start right? Ladies unite! We can be badasses and ride in the winter no prob with the right gear!
When I look for clothing for riding I like for it to have practicality outside of cycling, that way I can invest more in something useful and high quality that will last. I’ve found that merino wool is where it’s at, because it’s the best for moderating body temperature. Even if you misfire and wear too many layers and get sweaty, wool won’t punish you for it like other materials do. There are a lot of companies that do wool well; Smartwool, Icebreaker and even Rapha, but my favorite by far is Ibex. They make some great merino wool women’s gear that has held up amazingly well for me. It is super functional, fits well, holds up well against constant use, looks good and isn’t emblazoned with girly embellishments. The fit of the tops is really what makes them stand out, though.
Acadia parking lot picnic wearing all the wool.
When you’re riding in regular clothes there are a lot of exposed wrists and lower backs. When using non-cycling specific athletic gear, the fit is usually pretty much the same as a regular top, just made from a performance material. That’s great for hiking and other outdoor adventure, but when you’re scrunched into a typical cycling position it means a warm core and cold wrists and lower backs. Ibex in general tends to make their tops a little on the long side in both body and sleeves, so they’re great for riding and won’t leave your lower back out to give the taxi driver behind you a bun shot. Their tops are also just fitted enough that you feel as cute as you can while wearing super functional athletic gear. Also, when using non-cycling specific clothing there’s never binding across the chest (Do cycling companies really think we’re never going to stand up while wearing their gear?) or drop tail in the back, so you can easily wear them for any other sort of outdoor activity and you won’t look like a cyclist that lost your bike either.
All the brands I mentioned up top have minimal flowery embellishments and come in a few pretty stereotypical girl colors and black. Ibex gets a little more adventurous in the color department across the board. All things considered, it seems like Ibex’s women’s line is designed by women who actually use it, and ride in it, which is awesome for us. That means the difference between a stash pocket right on your boob (useless) and a stash pocket below said boob (perfect!). Well worth the price and their web specials are usually awesome, too.
My favorite tops, Woolies 150 base layer, Shak full zip, and Indie half zip. So legit.
I have a Shak (sadly mine with the stash pocket is discontinued), an Indie half zip, and a Woolies 150 base layer, and they are by far my favorite pieces of gear. Throw that Shak on under a rain jacket or as a layer under a puffy coat and you’re good to go in even the most wretched conditions. I even wore it doing a winter hike up in the White Mountains and the appropriately placed stash pocket kept my camera battery warm enough to work while still being easy to get to so I managed to get some epic pictures. My Indie is that perfect mid-weight to wear when you don’t know what to wear, and it’s even nice enough looking to wear as a top layer without feeling too sporty.
So what are your favorite mid-layers for riding? Do you have any favorite tips, tricks, or solutions for the challenges of dressing well for cycling? Leave it in the comments below and we can all benefit from our collective personal experiences!