5 essential items for the cycle commuter's wardrobe

Everything you need for a safe and comfortable journey to work by bike

The last thing you’d normally ask a Lycra’d up cyclist for is fashion advice, but when it comes to cycle commuting garb, the BikeRadar team has got you covered.

Whether you’re trying to trendify your commuting wardrobe or are a beginner looking for tips on essential clothing for riding to work in, this handy guide will help you make the right choices. 

1. The high-vis jacket

The high-vis jacket is a commuter essential for those that ride year round
The high-vis jacket is a commuter essential for those that ride year round

For those looking to put together the classic commuter look, a high visibility jacket should be at the top of your list.

There are a lot of great and very cheap options out there — though there are of course more ‘luxurious’ choices too — for those that simply wish to be seen on the road.

Of course, the key to getting the high-vis jacket look ‘dialed’ is to ensure that it looks as though it’s never been washed. Those that have worked in a bike shop will know only too well the whiff of an unlaundered Altura Night Vision jacket — one of the most popular high-vis jackets out there — with the number of oil stains and the depth of the calcified streak of mud up the back of the jacket signifying the seriousness of the owner’s dedication to commuting.

For those in sunnier climes, a high-vis vest is also a suitable option, with high-end sleeveless options also available for the more stylish among us.

2. The trouser clip

This £30 leather trouser strap may be the most Brooks thing Brooks has ever produced
This £30 leather trouser strap may be the most Brooks thing Brooks has ever produced

No matter how nerdy they may look, there’s no denying that trouser clips are a commuting essential for those that forgo shorts.

Not only does a clip keep your trousers away from mucky drivetrains, but it also adds a degree of visibility to your legs if you choose a high-vis option.

In a pinch, a trouser clip can also be used to bundle together a pile of sticks or fashioned into a set of make-do handcuffs to perform a citizen’s arrest on a particularly compliant crim’.

3. The riding shoe

We're big fans of the Vans Transit Line range
We're big fans of the Vans Transit Line range

While any ol’ kicks will suffice for commuting duties, true commute-istas may wish to invest in more hardy sneaks that are built to last and be comfortable in all weathers.

Many will turn to waterproof ‘trail’ shoes for commuting, but it’s worth bearing in mind that a lot of brands also produce more casual shoes that are built with riding in mind.

Our favourites include Vans’ Transit Line range and these super durable ‘forged rubber’ trainers from Chrome Industries.

Of course, trainers aren’t the only option out there, with a number of brands producing ‘smarter’ options for either sex, our particular favourite being these $80 ‘tech’ plimsoles from Betabrand that look like they’re made from a recycled wetsuit.

4. The ‘urban specific’ backpack

A quality backpack such as this option from Mack Workshop is essential for those that plan on schlepping any amount of stuff to and from work
A quality backpack such as this option from Mack Workshop is essential for those that plan on schlepping any amount of stuff to and from work

At the height of the fixie craze, every urbanista worth their salt had an artisan messenger bag.

But just like the craze for fixed gear bikes, messenger bags largely fell out of favour with urban riders around circa 2008, with the humble rucksack now once again reigning supreme.

This increase in popularity is best illustrated by the truly astounding number of crowdfunding campaigns there are for rucksacks — at the time of writing, a cursory search for ‘backpack’ on Kickstarter reveals that the appetite for over-engineered portaging solutions is insatiable, with over 700 different projects currently active or funded.

For the commuter, you must choose whether a ‘modular’ or a more simple backpack is the right choice for you.

As a chronically disorganised person, investing in a backpack with a zillion pockets would just give me more opportunities to lose stuff, so I prefer a large ‘sack’ style rucksack, whereas videographer Reuben — who can actually keep track of his belongings — prefers a pocket-riddled bag such as the Life Behind Bars Peleton Asphalt he’s currently using.

5. The perfect commuting socks

Tuck 'em with pride
Tuck 'em with pride

Unlike road cycling, which has its own set of arcane and brutally enforced rules surrounding sports hosiery, commuting has but one rule regarding socks — no matter what length, style or colour your socks are, your trouser leg must be dutifully tucked into your right one.

While doubling up this trouser cuff saving measure with the aforementioned trouser clip will certainly earn you extra kudos, the truly bold among us can dare to wear a pair of ‘Wednesday’ socks on a Friday, showing off maverick disregard for the Gregorian calendar to the whole world.

  • Sponsored: UK readers — can you go the extra mile this summer? By running or cycling to work you can be a part of Red Bull’s UK-wide Million Mile Commute. Join the club in Strava to be eligible for a Red Bull sample kit to set you on your way. Don’t forget to share your commutes by tagging @RedBullUk and use #MillionMileCommute
Jack Luke

Staff Writer, UK
Jack has been riding and fettling with bikes for his whole life. Always in search of the hippest new niche in cycling, Jack is a self-confessed gravel dork and thinks nothing of bivouacking on a beach after work. Also fond of cup and cone bearings, skids and tan wall tyres.
  • Discipline: Long days in the saddle by either road or mountain bike
  • Preferred Terrain: Happiest when on a rural road by the coast or crossing a remote mountain pass. Also partial to a cheeky gravel adventure or an arduous hike-a-bike.
  • Current Bikes: Custom Genesis Croix de Fer all road adventure wagon, Niner EMD 9.
  • Dream Bike: A rigid 44 Bikes Marauder, all black please.
  • Beer of Choice: Caesar Augustus
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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