The Spring Cycling Apparel Guide

The newest apparel from our favorite brands offers innovation, style and above all else, comfort.


Specialized Women's SL R Bib Shorts and Specialized SL Air Short Sleeve Jersey 

Brand new this year, the Specialized Women's SL R Bib Shorts ($180) wowed us by improving our favorite features: The elastic bib straps were almost luxurious in their fit—with a clasp in the rear for easy on/off—and a chamois that was so much more comfortable than its modest size infers. The 9-inch inseam kept us rolling in energized comfort and made almost any saddle we were on comfy. We really appreciated less obvious details too, like the leg grippers that are easier on sensitive skin compared to other brands.

The sheer, race-ready Specialized SL Air Women's Short Sleeve Jersey ($120), fit us so well—especially around the shoulders and the waist—that it became our go-to top. This pro level jersey is ultra-breathable, and even though we should have been drenched in sweat from our effort, the SL Air Jersey kept us dry.


Specialized Men's RBX Bib Short with SWAT and Specialized SL Air Men's Long Sleeve Jersey 

The Specialized RBX Bib Short with SWAT ($120) has a familiar comfort to it, much like the race bibs we rode in and loved last summer. The RBX—which hints at Roubaix—are race bibs but made better by side-mounted pockets for quick access to gels and our phone.

Zipped up, the Specialized SL Air Mens Long Sleeve Jersey ($140) protected our skin from the sun, and also kept us cool even on hotter days. This is a sheer jersey with a race fit and just enough room for a summer-weight base layer, so you might want to size up.


Assos Equipe RS Bib Shorts S9 

We now have the new standard of comparison for a chamois thanks to the Assos Equipe RS Bib Shorts S9 ($249). Anchored in place only at the front and rear, the chamois in these premium bibs floated in place and offered comfort we'd not previously experienced—but now expect—in high-end cycling shorts. These are the lowest cut bibs we've worn, providing the most freedom and  were the easiest to manage when stopping for quick nature breaks. The straps felt like perfectly-sized, bespoke suspenders, accomplished through multiple anchor points in the rear panels.


Assos Uma GT Half Short and Assos Wild Short Sleeve Jersey 

An extra stretchy waistband and a race-ready, snug fit are the defining characteristics of the Assos Uma GT Half Short ($129). We quickly came to appreciate the energized feeling offered by the compressive legs, which ended without a cuff or seam and were devoid any agitating grippers. After just a few miles, these Assos shorts became our second skin. We noted that the Assos shorts also fit pretty snugly, so if you're in between sizes, you'll definitely want to opt for the arger option.

We were delighted by the cut of the Assos Wild Women's Jersey ($139). The sleeves were the perfect length without feeling restrictive, and the body is simply flattering and so slimming—without being skin tight. A large band supports the jersey at the rear, ensuring this top stays in place and doesn't leave a gap above our shorts line. This Swiss-engineered top fits true to size.


Rapha Classic Bib Short II 

The Rapha Classic Bib Short II ($235) fits and feels much like the comfortable Rapha Thermal Bib shorts we rode in last fall and winter, with a smooth brushed interior—but without the insulation needed for cold days. These Classic Bib Shorts provide so much freedom of movement when we're in the saddle and when standing on climbs. Yet the straps and chamois seemed to magically stay in place—which was great when repeatedly bouncing back and forth between gravel and pavement. Plus, unlike other high-end bib shorts, which frequently have a lot of material between the shoulder blades, the Rapha Classic Bibs feature an open back, which made them feel lighter and perhaps kept us just a little bit cooler too.

Just for fun, Rapha sews a "fun label" into the inside of the pocket in the center, which unless you use a race radio, you might never notice.


Gore C7 Vent Bib Short+ and Gore C7 Race Jersey 

One of the most interesting and functional features of the Gore C7 Vent Bib Shorts ($179) are the patterned vents in the leg panels and bib straps. (We think this will create a really interesting feature above the razor-sharp tan line we usually have by late spring.) These race-cut, compressive bib shorts feature a long inseam, a super-soft front panel and a variable-thickness tapering profile chamois. Notably, the chamois in the Gore C7 Bib shorts just might offer the best cooling of any chamois in our test group.

The extended sleeves of the Gore C7 Race Jersey ($199), like the C7 Bib shorts, has vents to promote efficient heat management. The many body panels of this top vary in weight and orientations and are designed to keep you cool, as well as aerodynamically efficient. Don't be surprised if this jersey seems just a little short in front—the Gore Race Jersey is cut to fit best when in a riding position. Reflective detail on the sides and rear of this jersey will help you be seen in low-light, as well as in the noon sun.


Pearl Izumi Elite Socks and Pearl Izumi Toe Warmers 

The classic look of the Pearl Izumi Elite Socks ($15) will never go out of style, and the comfort they provide has us reaching for them ahead of other cycling-specific sock brands. We especially liked the mid-foot support band. Amazingly, even after some hot, sweaty miles, these Pearl Izumi socks didn't even smell bad! These socks are available in a variety of colorways and rise options, from ankle to mid-calf heights.

Since we started many of our early spring rides in cooler temperatures—and hate cold feet just as much as the next cyclist—we wrapped the toes of our shoes in the Pearl Izumi Thermal Toe Covers ($20). We could easily slip them on and off over our shoes, and our cleats kept them in place. Since these toe covers are diminutive, we could pop them into a jersey pocket once we warmed up and not give up too much valuable storage space.


Louis Garneau Neo Power Art Motion Cycling Shorts and Louis Garneau Art Factory Short Sleeve Jersey 

If you're looking for comfortable and affordable men's cycling shorts without the hassle of bib straps, the Louis Garneau Neo Power Art Motion Cycling Shorts ($104) are the way to go. The yoga waistband is snug without being restrictive, which means they offer a great, comfortable fit when you're in a go-hard riding position. The leg panels just end without grippers, which is a nice feature that provides a tug-free experience.

The matching Louis Garneau Art Factory short sleeve jersey ($79), with slightly longer sleeves that extend past the biceps, are also free of grippers at the cuff. This cycling jersey is designed with a generous cut that feels loose yet doesn't billow in the wind, due to the stay-put band at the bottom edge of the Jersey.


Castelli Men's Free Aero Race 4 Bib Shorts and Castelli Espresso Men's Short Sleeve Jersey 

You don't have to race to appreciate form-fitting cycling apparel that keeps wind resistance low and comfort high. The minimalist straps of the Castelli Men's Free Aero Race 4 Bib Shorts ($199) support compressive leg panels that have been designed with drag-reducing textured surfaces. The minimal, high-density chamois is allowed to float and position itself exactly where needed but without ever bunching. If you like a minimal chamois, this is the bib short for you.

The matching Castelli Espresso Men's Short Sleeve Jersey ($149) is has a slim fit without being second-skin sheer. The zipper is both durable and easy gliding, which makes for easy mid-ride adjustment. A fun bonus we didn't even notice on our first few rides: a minimal yet very useful zippered pocket on the left chest.


Castelli Womens Tabula Rasa Short Sleeve Jersey and Castelli Tabula Rasa Bib Shorts 

The most striking feature of the Castelli Women's Tabula Rasa Bib Shorts ($129) and Tabula Rasa Short Sleeve Jersey ($89) is that they are striking—we are really excited about all of the color options available! The low-rise, below-the-navel body of these bibs is supported by stretchy straps that have been placed the perfect width apart. The minimal chamois, which has been anchored lower into the legs than other shorts we've worn, kept us from chafing on the insides of our legs.

Offering a generous cut, the Castelli Tabula Rasa Short Sleeve Jersey has a flap at the base of the rear pockets that extends over and below the waist gripper. This design allows the three rear pockets to expand without sagging, even when loaded with mid-ride snacks and while standing and rocking from side to side when climbing and sprinting.


Giordana Moda "Sette" Tenax Pro Bib Shorts and Giordana Moda "Sette" Tenax Pro Bib Short Sleeve Jersey 

The simple, classic styling of the Italian-made Giordana Moda "Sette" Tenax Pro Bib Shorts ($150) immediately drew our attention. The uniform thickness of the do-it-all chamois provided hours and miles of comfort in any position, on all our different bikes and saddles. We're a real fan of the tape-like design of the super-stretchy straps, which offered lots of give with elasticity.

The matching Giordana Moda "Sette" Tenax Pro Short Sleeve Jersey ($130) is the perfect classic-looking, lightweight top to match the Giordana bibs. Giordana apparel is true to size for bottoms and tops, so the form-fitting cut of this jersey was just right for us. A bit of elastic at the top of the rear pockets offered enough security to keep contents in yet didn't prevent access while riding.

No cycling kit would be complete without accessories: The Giordana FRC tall sock ($16) is a must-have to finish off the pro look.

READ THIS NEXT: The 2019 Spring Cycling Shoe Guide  

About the Author

Greg Kaplan,

A lifelong endurance sports athlete, Greg raced bikes on the road as a junior prior to changing his athletic focus to rowing. Upon retiring from elite rowing competition, Greg revisited his passion for racing bikes and also added some swimming and running into the mix, competing at the ITU Age Group World Championships on multiple occasions. He and his wife Shannon—also a rower, bike-racer, and triathlete—enjoy traveling, learning about wine and keeping up with their rescue cats when they are not training or racing.
A lifelong endurance sports athlete, Greg raced bikes on the road as a junior prior to changing his athletic focus to rowing. Upon retiring from elite rowing competition, Greg revisited his passion for racing bikes and also added some swimming and running into the mix, competing at the ITU Age Group World Championships on multiple occasions. He and his wife Shannon—also a rower, bike-racer, and triathlete—enjoy traveling, learning about wine and keeping up with their rescue cats when they are not training or racing.

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