Believe it or not, indoor cycling is not a modern concept. It has been a winter activity for many years, and while the basic principle remains the same – pedaling on a stationary trainer without movement – technology has significantly improved to enhance comfort, performance, and immersion. In this guide, we’re going to take a closer look at one key element of the modern indoor rider… clothing!

however you train indoors, try to keep your cool!

Indoor Cycle Clothing… Let’s make sense of it.

Cycling apparel created specifically for indoor training is generally designed to keep you cooler compared to outdoor clothing due to the warmer ambient temperature indoors, and the absence of a cooling breeze. We’ve all completed indoor sessions where you end up swimming in a pool of sweat, with your bar tape drenched in the byproduct of your hard work.

To help counter this, indoor cycle clothing is designed to keep you as cool as possible, without forgetting the all-important comfort. The absence of wind to cool you down can turn even the coldest winter garden shed setups into steamy saunas. In this case, layering up is not necessary. The important factor when choosing an indoor cycling kit is ventilation, which allows for heat dissipation and helps sweat to wick away from your skin.

Evaporative heat loss becomes the dominant or only mechanism for heat dissipation when the environmental temperature increases, so having clothing that is breathable is vital. This is because heat is mainly released from the skin to the surroundings via convection, so poor kit choices will inhibit this process.

Ultimately, the key to deciding what to wear is prioritising your own comfort. It’s no secret that feeling good can positively impact performance, and clothing can play a key role in that.

Should I invest in indoor cycle clothing?

Determining whether or not to purchase indoor cycling clothing, shoes, and accessories largely depends on your current wardrobe, frequency of indoor training, and level of perspiration.

While typical summer cycling attire for outdoor riding can certainly be utilised for indoor cycling, it’s recommended to opt for lighter and more minimal layers. Let’s face it, some of us are heavy sweaters. No, not the Norweigan fisherman type. These individuals who tend to perspire heavily during exercise may particularly benefit from these lighter, and more breathable indoor cycle clothing options.

If you regularly participate in strength training or running or enjoy going to the gym, perhaps surprisingly, you may already have technical wicking layers that can come in handy for indoor cycling. Take a rummage through your wardrobe to see what you may discover!

Investing in specialist indoor training apparel can be beneficial if you plan to incorporate indoor cycling into your training routine frequently. We’re talking 3-4 times a week here. Anything that is going to aid you in feeling more comfortable and cooler while cycling indoors, is going to hold back any doubts about getting in the saddle for a session. We all know that a bit of retail therapy helps morale, too…

Indoor Clothing vs Outdoor Clothing – The key differences

When it comes to indoor cycling, there are distinct differences between the equipment and clothing required compared to riding outdoors. One notable difference is safety. Since you’re not exposed to the risks of traffic or trails, there is no need for a helmet or high-visibility elements in indoor cycling attire.

Modesty also comes into play. While outdoor riders typically prefer wearing at least a short-sleeved or sleeveless cycling jersey on hot days, when training at home, you might not even need to wear a top. Generally, no one is there to see or judge you!

However, if you participate in spin classes or use a stationary bike at the gym for indoor cycling, it’s important to consider not only your own preferences but also how your clothing choices make others around you feel. Some gyms may have a policy requiring tops to be worn.

The weather, or lack thereof, is another factor to consider when comparing indoor cycling attire to outdoor gear. Indoor kit doesn’t need to be windproof, waterproof, or as durable as outdoor apparel.

This contrast becomes even more apparent in the winter months. You can forgo all the thermal layers, waterproofs, overshoes, neck warmers, hats, and gloves that are typically required for riding in wet and cold weather. That also means less getting ready time, and more training time.

For those new to cycling who haven’t accumulated a sufficient collection of gear for enjoyable outdoor winter riding, indoor cycling provides an opportunity to overcome bad weather without the need to invest in specific foul-weather attire. And let’s be frank, good quality weatherproof outdoor gear can cost an arm and a leg so that’s another win for specific indoor cycle clothing.

What should you be looking for when buying indoor cycling clothing.

In addition to the obvious comfort and breathability, there are certain aspects to consider when purchasing indoor cycling apparel.

Similar to outdoor cycling, it is highly recommended to wear padded shorts for indoor training. Bib shorts are going to be the best option as they provide the best support, but there are also waist-only options available for both men and women.

Indoor cycling shorts are designed with enhanced breathability and quick-drying fabrics to prevent saddle sores caused by excessive sweating. Choose bib shorts too thick for a 1-hour Zwift race, for example, and you’ll know about it in all the wrong ways.

Jerseys or baselayers should be as breathable as possible, with garments still being close fit but allowing the technical nature of the fabrics to wick sweat away from the skin. This all helps

Some indoor cycling shorts come with a cargo pocket on one or both thighs, which is convenient for carrying phones, remotes, or snacks within easy reach.

For more extreme cases and private indoor training, some riders prefer to use MTB liner shorts with mesh from brands like Endura. These come with a pad and are designed to be worn beneath baggy shorts, which can be somewhat see-through when worn alone, but will also offer less support and pad thickness.

Indoor cycling shoes – They do exist!

More common in group spin class spaces, indoor-specific cycling shoes offer more breathability than your standard road shoe. The last thing you want when you’re on a static turbo trainer is any sensation of hot feet, which can cause discomfort and even numbness.

Typical characteristics of indoor cycling shoes include significant ventilation to prevent sweaty feet and additional antimicrobial treatment. Shimano has several two-bolt cleat MTB-style options, including the Shimano IC501 shoes, which are more compatible with most spin-class static bikes – but also your home setup with the requisite pedals.

Indoor cycling tops – Is less more?

Sleeveless or sleeves? Baselayer or topless? Deciding what would work best for you is down to personal preference, and trying different options when riding at different intensities. You may be more comfortable with a mesh-style jersey for a social group ride, but then only a breathable baselayer on some shorter and tougher sessions.

For ladies who ride with a sports bra indoors, look for a well-ventilated option. Sometimes more traditional materials can hold onto sweat and cause discomfort, and overheating.

An ode to the humble towel

The most important accessory for indoor cycling has to be a towel, especially if you have a fan or fans as part of your trainer setup. A towel is essential for wiping your brow and drying sweaty hands, particularly during intense workouts like FTP tests or interval training. It’s always a smart idea to have a towel within reach.

the turbo towel will be your best friend

If you don’t already have water loaded onto your bike, make sure you’ve got a bottle or two close by too. Hydration really is key to getting the most out of your workout.

For the most dedicated indoor cyclists, you can even buy reusable gel ice packs to be placed on your back or wrists to help manage your temperature.

You’ll find a raft of other indoor cycling accessories, from breathable caps to help keep the sweat out of your eyes to sweat guards you can attach to your bike to prevent any sweat corrosion.

That rounds up this edition of our Winter Turbo Trainer series of blogs. We hope you’ve learned a thing or two, and now understand the benefits of specific indoor cycle clothing!