Yet again, as we are discovering with so many riding related things, there is so much choice… women’s riding clothing, specifically designed for moderate to high intensity exercise, can come in all sorts of options which is great if you know what you’re looking for. Come with me on a journey that will look at fabric choice for exercise so you can better understand what you should be looking for and why it’s a good choice. If you’re riding is easy or low intensity, there is no need for special clothes. Just allow movement and be comfortable…see What to wear on a bike?
What should the Fabric in Womens Riding Clothing do?
Control Moisture. You are dealing with two elements here. 1. Sweat/heat being trapped creates condensation on the inside of your clothing so allow this mositure to get out so that it is not absorbed. 2. Rain – stopping moisture from getting in and being absorbed.
Why do you need to stop moisture? Once your clothing is wet, in warm conditions it will lead to chaffing, and in cold conditions it will lead to hypothermia. The combination of wet clothing & wind is dangerous and riding creates a draft without any help from the actual weather conditions
Allow Movement. Clothing should stretch and be non restricting. Places that this movement is needed are generally joints so across your shoulders, elbows, hips, butt, knees…
Terms you will come across…
Wicking – allows moisture to move through the fabric weave, pulling it off your skin onto the surface of the fabric to evaporate which is cooling. These types of fabrics have a direction of pull so don’t wear them inside out!
- Breathable – a bit of a contradiction as it prevents water from entering while allowing moisture usually in the form of body heat out.
- Lycra – lycra is a brand name for the generic term spandex and can also be called elastane. Weaved into a fabric it allows stretch and holding of shape
- Fast drying – as the name suggests dries at a rapid rate, usually found in base layer garments. Nike coined the term “Dri-fit”
- Anti-microbial – also termed odour resistant, this is a treatment applied to the fabric to prevent the build up of bacteria that leads to smell
- Water resistant – repells water to a certain degree
- Waterproof – does not allow water to pass through the fabric
Bamboo – wicking, soft, durable, naturally anti-microbial
Merino – wicking, breathable, warm, naturally anti-microbial
“IF YOU REMEMBER ONLY ONE THING ABOUT NATURAL FIBRES, IT SHOULD BE THAT COTTON IS A TERRIBLE CHOICE FOR MODERATE TO HEAVY EXERCISE”
Avoid cotton in your base layers (next to your skin), even in your socks. Why? Cotton is hydrophilic which means it is really good at absorbing water and is not quick drying. It can hold up to 25x its own weight in water. This leads to chaffing in the heat and hypothermia in the cold…
Nylon, polyester, lycra create combinations that can be…
Wicking, breathable, fast drying, odour resistant when treated, stretch, durable
Expect blends – manufactures create exceptional fabrics by choosing two or more fibres for their performance benefits… So as much as you can match your level of exertion to the fabric features.
Wind proof, water proof, water resistant, seam sealed, breathable, reflective, bright
Includes rain jackets, fleece, puffers, waterproof trousers
Breathable, warmth, anti-microbial, easy to remove – zips/openings
Includes fleece, micro fleece, merino, long sleeve, high necks, hoodies, leggings
Wicking, soft, anti-microbial, stretch, light weight
Includes sports bras, underwear, singlets, t-shirt, cycle shorts/underwear, socks, gloves, beanies
Tips for Cleaning
- some of these fabrics are water repelling so not easy to clean which leads to smelly exercise gear…pre-soaking is the answer. Either with a anti-microbial detergent or 1 cup of vinegar in a bucket or wash tub of water
- do not use fabric softener on any technical activewear fabric
- wash inside out in cold water on a gentle machine cycle
- avoid tumble drying on a high heat as this weakens the lycra in your fabric
Think about what will work well in YOUR riding wardrobe…choose the solution YOU need.