Road cycling items for everyday cycle commuters

I am very much an advocate of ‘wear what you want, ride what you want’. Yes, we review a lot of products designed for cycling and a lot of bikes which have features that make life a little easier in the city. But essentially, I strongly believe that people should do whatever gets them on a bike and out cycle commuting.

There are some strong ideas out there though about what constitutes a commuting bike, and what equipment is needed to be a commuter. It always comes up in comments on bike reviews, and discussion is good, but derision is not. Generally items designed for ‘road’ cycling split opinion on their suitability for city commutes.

I admit to thinking that lycra was not needed for commuting, until I used it. I am still more a jeans advocate, partly because lycra is so revealing, but I have recognised how comfortable lycra is and why people wear it.


Wear what you want, its the riding that matters!

There are other things that I used to think had no place in city cycling until I tried them. Here is a list of things I really like for certain city rides but are generally considered ‘road’ gear.

Padded shorts / lycra

They may not look great on most people, but cycling shorts are actually very comfortable, especially if your ride is over 10/15 miles one way.

I have a pair of dhb bib shorts that are very comfortable and can easily be worn under a skirt or trousers. They have a nice wide band on elastic on the legs and are fairly long so they don’t dig in – I tried a pair of shorts intended for spin classes and they were too tight and short so you could see them digging into your legs under trousers.

If you don’t fancy going for full cycling shorts, Vulpine have a padded merino boxer that is very nice (I picked a pair up in their latest sale). They work well for a social cycle ride or longer commute as you can wear them under anything and make jeans a bit more comfortable. However I don’t find them comfy to wear all day if I am just sitting/standing around an office or what have you, but changing them at destination is easy enough.

Padded Merino Boxers

Gym wear as normal clothing has always seemed a little odd to me. But gym leggings are pretty awesome for cycling. They are so comfy and you don’t have to rush off and change straight away because now it is acceptable to wander around town in them. Even more so if you happen to be carrying a helmet.  Plus, most of them dry pretty quickly.

Water bottle cages

I don’t like having to carry too much weight on my back, it makes me feel like everything is so much harder, no matter how good my backpack. I started using a water bottle cage and never looked back. Plus you can get really cool bottle cages, I have a PDW one that looks like a bird.

PDW the bird bottle cage

Cycling gloves

By cycling gloves, I mean the half finger mitt type, not ones to keep you warm. If you don’t want calluses on your hands then cycling gloves are a must for a regular commute. They also help with grip in the rain and protect your hands from the sun and can save your palms if you happen to fall off.

SPD shoes

As much as the idea of falling/crashing with my feet still attached to the pedals scares me, I actually really like clipless pedals. They are especially good for wet commutes in the winter as your feet doing slide on the pedals. Mountain bike shoes are great for the city as the cleat is recessed and they have enough grip that you can walk pretty normally.

Shimano pedals

I still haven’t embraced SPD only – my bikes have duel sided Shimano pedals on them so I can wear regular shoes if I want. This, for me, is the ideal set up for commuting and then going to a cafe or pub at the weekend or nipping down to the shops. It also means I can wear my sandals in the summer.

Cycling jerseys

If you have a pannier or other on bike bag, jerseys are great as they have back pockets. You can keep a key or two back there and a small wallet so you don’t have to root around in a bag when you stop. The drop tail is also good, as is the snugness so you can easily chuck a jacket over the top if you need too.

The material of most cycling jerseys is made to dry quickly so you stay comfortable, and you can also get merino versions for limited stink. I have a Svelte merino one that is particularly lovely.

Arm warmers

We have done a round up of these before. They can be kind of funny looking on their own, but they make a great layer, especially on longer commutes when it is cold in the morning. Plus, you can get some awesome jazzy ones, and who doesn’t like a little colour on their arms?!

Svelt arm warmers

What items do you love for your commute that are more ‘road’/performance orientated?

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8 Responses to Road cycling items for everyday cycle commuters

  1. David 04/08/2016 at 6:02 am #

    Good post Emily. Only problem with lycra is when you’re on a ride and need to go. Lycra shorts and drop tail jerseys don’t make it easy

  2. James McRae 05/08/2016 at 10:21 am #


    Good post, agreed with all the suggestions, especially the need for clip pedals, for with those come shoes which are designed for cycling, and they’re massive improvement in comfort and function.

    My personal “can’t do withouts”

    If travelling more than about 5 miles, even on a road bike, your life is improved immeasurably by 1) mudguards and 2) panniers, if you are a regular commuter.
    The mudguards, well, nothing more dispiriting than soggy crevices is there, and who wants to inhale water sprayed up from a filthy road more than necessary?

    The panniers? I find anything worn on the shoulders like a backpack restricts breathing, ruins your posture and gives you a bad back over time. With panniers, you can easily carry a complete change of clothes, a towel and shower kit, and because the kit is lower down, your centre of gravity is better, so your bike handling should be better.



  3. Chris 05/08/2016 at 10:56 am #

    I have MTB Cleats and pedals but am now considering duel sided Shimano pedals for the same reason you mention. Have to say that I would not consider my morning ride of 30k without padded shorts under my baggy, cargo pocketted, very uncool, Dad shorts. Being 55 I think I am now legally allowed to wear them? (the cargos, not the padded…)

    Great article Emily.

  4. David 05/08/2016 at 11:07 am #

    Oh, surely not Chris! The padded shorts clash with the cargoes. I hate it when that happens.

    • Chris 09/08/2016 at 12:28 pm #

      Clash? Good Lord no. Everything is carefully colour-matched. I am working towards a capsule cycling wardrobe!!

      I don’t just throw this stuff on you know!

  5. Kris 05/08/2016 at 12:20 pm #

    Bike glasses with changeable lenses are a must. Nothing worse than being dive bombed by insects and losing vision whilst on a ride. Having changeable lenses means you can use them at night as well as the glare of the sun. Whilst you can easily spend £200+ on a pair of Oakley’s or other brand you can also pick up a perfectly functional pair for £20.

  6. William Crowder 05/08/2016 at 4:28 pm #

    Safety glasses. You can purchase the tinted or clear for around 10 dollars at hardware stores. They keep the bugs out as well as the sun and come in lots of styles. I dont ride without them.

  7. AJ 14/09/2016 at 5:14 pm #

    Yeah, I’m pretty certain that ‘none’ of these things are required for commuting..

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