26 July 2011

Form and Function: A Clothing Buyer's Guide for Women

Imagine BicyclingHub's surprise when we opened our July 2011 issue of Velo News and discovered some of the products we carry were featured in their Women's Gear Guide! That's great news for the more than 16 million women in the U.S. ride road bikes looking for performance-enhancing apparel built with the female figure in mind. Below are some of the highlights, showcasing some of our favorites found on BicyclingHub.com.

Form and Function: A Clothing Buyer's Guide
by Rebecca Heaton

When it comes to cycling clothing, women have a dizzying array of options to choose from. To help with all the choices, we selected short-sleeve jerseys and shorts in small, medium and large sizes from 10 different companies. Then we gathered a group of 10 female cyclists of all interests, shapes and sizes — several road racers, a few casual triathletes, and a number of women who enjoy putting in serious miles at endurance events, century rides and multi-day bike tours — to try everything on and give their feedback wearing the clothes both on and off the bike.


COLOR AND PATTERN: Fun colors and prints, but nothing transparent or frilly.

FIT: Tight, but not too tight. The jersey shouldn't slide up and expose skin.

FABRIC: Soft, light, breathable fabrics are best, nothing scratchy.

POCKETS: Three pockets — a small zipper pocket for key and cell phone is a bonus.

BOTTOM BANDS: Minimal elastic, as tighter band tend to slide up on women with an hourglass figure.

FRONT ZIP: Three-quarter to full-length zippers.


WAIST BAND: Wider, softer bands and those that drop down a bit in front.

LENGTH: Nothing too long, although longer styles offer better compression.

FABRIC: Strong and thin, but not flimsy or see-through.

LEG GRIP: Need a gripper in the leg band, but not too grippy or sticky, and not so tight as to cause sausage legs.

CHAMOIS: Soft and comfortable, but not bulky.

STITCHING AND STYLING: Flat stitching is a must, and subtle style touches are welcome; basic black is still the most popular.

BIB VS. NO BIB: The jury is out; interesting option, but bathroom stops remain a challenge.


In the clothing descriptions, we note which pieces fit these four body types:

P PETITE BUILD: 5'2" – 5'4", chest (30"–32"), hips (32"–34")

B BROAD BUILD: 5 '4" – 5 '7", c hest ( 36"+), hips (39"+)

M MEDIUM BUILD: 5 '5" – 5 '7", chest ( 32"–36"), hips (34"–38")

T TALL BUILD: 5'8" – 6', chest (33"–36"), hips (33"–38")

Pearl Izumi Ultrastar Women's Cycling Jersey

"Designed with a semi-form fit, this jersey uses wicking, textured fabric with UPF 50 protection. Three back pockets offer up great storage for clothes and snacks, and a few reflective hits keep a rider visible early morning or when the sun sets."

PROS: Well constructed; great color and design; comfortable fit; good pockets; good value

CONS: A bit heavy for warm days; styling best for recreational riding

BEST FIT FOR: Petite, Medium, Broad builds. A bit too short in torso length for Tall builds.

Pearl Izumi Women's Elite Drop Tail Cycling Bib Shorts

"These shorts live up to their name with a unique “drop tail” flap in the back to make bathroom breaks easier. Made with a soft and breathable UltraSensor fabric in a multi-panel design, the Drop Tail features a seamless ELITE 3D Chamois, which is antimicrobial, breathable and padded in just the right places."

PROS: Great mesh in the bibs; soft, breathable fabric; comfortable, padded chamois; nice flatlock seams.

CONS: Drop tail flap — it works, but it's awkward.

BEST FIT FOR: Petite and Medium Builds. Bib didn't fit longer torsos well.

Descente Women's Aero-X Cycling Shorts

"Made with Descente's Aero-X fabric, a blend of nylon and spandex, these shorts provide great compression and stretch on long rides. An elastic-free waistband makes for a comfortable fit at the waist, and the women's lightweight Stealth chamois is antimicrobial and breathable."

PROS: Comfortable waistband; simple styling; no-nonsense chamois; well constructed, form-fitting fabric.

CONS: Overly simple styling; no leg grippers.

BEST FIT FOR: Petite, Medium, Broad builds. Too short for Tall tester.

Castelli Perla Women's Cycling Jersey

"Made with Castelli's Softlex fabric, this jersey feels like soft cotton and is wicking and form fitting with seamless arm and neck bands, each with a nice hit of color. The full-length zipper allows for maximum venting, and the plethora of pockets — three elastic and one zip — allow for plenty of room to store ride necessities."

PROS: Comfortable fit; soft fabric; well constructed; classy, feminine styling; trim detail matches shorts; good pockets.

CONS: Poor fit for longer torsos.

BEST FIT FOR: Petite, Medium, Broad builds. Too short for longer torsos.

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