Rapha Manuals: Wear Something Tight

For the uninitiated, cycling clothing can throw up more questions than answers. In this Manual, we recommend what to wear and explain why it’s alright to wear something tight.

19 July 2018

Let’s get one thing out of the way first; lycra isn’t essential if you’re rolling around town, aerodynamic sleeves won’t add much on a grocery run and featherweight bib shorts could be overkill on the average commute. But as you begin to ride further and more frequently, clothing designed specifically for the rigours of cycling can transform the experience. Rapha was created to perfect moments on the bike, and we continue to innovate every day to create more comfortable, better performing clothing.

“The right cycling kit can be the difference between enjoying every kilometre of your ride and feeling every kilometre in all the wrong places”, says Rapha Women’s Category Lead, Alicia Bamford. Here, she takes us through the key reasons you might want to consider wearing something tight(er).

Sitting comfortably

The fit of your cycling kit should be reasonably tight since this prevents excess material gathering and rubbing against your skin, causing friction and discomfort.


Cut through the air

Besides a more comfortable fit, tight-fitting cycling kit won’t billow and flap in the wind, making a racket and slowing you down. As Alicia says, “silence equals speed”.


Stay seen

Whether you ride mostly in a city or through open countryside, you’ll often share the road with motorists. To ensure you stay seen on the road, cycling kit often features reflective tabs and treatments.

Built to last

Whereas your average pair of jeans would wear out quite quickly with the movement of your legs against the saddle, cycling shorts are designed to last. You’ll be worn out before they are.

These four elements are important to bear in mind when buying cycling kit but most importantly of all is finding the kit and the fit that’s right for you. As an old story label from Rapha’s City collection succinctly puts it, “buy clothes with intelligence, put them on with care, then forget all about them.”

The Classics range was Rapha’s first and includes the iconic Classic Jersey, made from our proprietary performance merino fabric and a staple of Alicia’s cycling wardrobe. “The Classic collection combines performance on the bike with subtle, understated styling to ensure you don’t stand out at the coffee stop,” she says. “It’s the antithesis of the fluorescent, garish numbers previously associated with cyclists. If you’re just getting into cycling, it’s perfect as you can be sure that your Classic kit will wash well and last for ages. I see them as ride essentials.”

For those who like their kit a little tighter, the Pro Team and Souplesse ranges have been inspired by and designed with some of the best professional riders, such as CANYON//SRAM’s bright British talent, Alice Barnes. “Normally when I hear ‘aero’ or ‘race fit’, I think of kit that is so tight that it restricts movement on the bike and becomes uncomfortable but that’s not the case with Rapha,” she says. “I particularly like the Souplesse Flyweight Jersey. It’s tight-fitting and feels fast yet there are no compromises on comfort.” Pro Team and Souplesse garments are also cut a little shorter at the front for an on-bike fit and feature the highly technical fabrics carefully positioned to create the quickest kit around.

At the other end of the spectrum, many riders choose to eschew Lycra altogether and opt for much looser-fitting outfit. “Why not?” asks Alicia. “So long you’re wearing technical clothing, you can be comfortable on the bike. Our Technical T-Shirt and Randonnée Shorts use the same fabrics as our racewear with a fit that, though a little looser, is still supremely comfortable while riding.”

For more hints and tips on finding the right cycling kit for you and how to prepare for riding in different weather conditions, see Rapha’s series of clothing guides. From summer spins to the worst of the winter weather, a little pre-ride reading will prepare you for any ride.