Lycra: explained

When it comes to comfort, function and feeling good on a bike - cyclists can't go past Lycra

Tight, figure-hugging and unforgiving. Wearing lycra can be a pretty big step and even a barrier for many women who are new to road riding.

Besides the associated costs and the fit, wearing a full cycling kit can be a big statement to the world that you've crossed over and have become a full-blown roadie. Plus, Lycra has had a bad rep. The image of the aggressive, super serious lycra-clad cyclist is a favourite trope used in the media and can be a turn off for some.

But when you think about it, a cycling kit is no different to prolific lycra 'activewear' you see women wearing to yoga, the gym, shopping, dinner etc..

The only difference with a cycling kit is that it's made for bike comfort and functionality and generally only worn when on or around bikes. 

So what is Lycra and why do cyclists swear by it?

Made from a spandex material (an anagram for 'expands'), Lycra is the brand name of a synthetic fibre known for its elastic properties.

When fitted correctly, it is aerodynamic and won't flap around in the wind. Its design ensures ease of movement and reduces chafing, particularly on longer rides. 

Worn tight, the fabric will wick moisture away from the skin, absorbing and then evaporating it in the least stinky way. Your sweat is drawn away from your body to the outer surface of the jersey (the shirt) or knicks (the shorts) and dries in the wind. Without good wicking properties, sweat will rest on your skin, so that if you stop riding to check a map, enjoy a coffee, or embark upon a long descent, you’ll soon find yourself feeling pretty cold.

Lycra is also easy to wash and maintain. Simply chuck your kit in a garment wash bag and put it on cold wash and it's practically dry after the spin cycle.

Another added benefit is the addition of pockets, usually found on the back of the jersey.

Lycra comes in all shapes and sizes

While many MAMILs (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) are proud to show off their kits no matter what their size, it seems that women are less inclined. Research has found that women tend to battle with body confidence issues when participating in outdoor exercise.

To be brutally honest, unless you're a super model or elite Tour de France rider, no one looks good in Lycra. Cyclists come in all shapes and sizes and if you're going to spend hours on the bike, comfort > looks.

For the lycra skeptics out there - our only piece of advice is don't knock it until you try it.