Cycling outfits have evolved enormously over the years. The transition from traditional to synthetic materials, in particular, caused a major breakthrough in terms of cycling comfort.
Still, cyclists always prefer to fall back on the same basic gear, be it for traditional cycling, mountain biking or other disciplines.
Firstly, there is the shirt. For a long time people rode in woollen jerseys, until as recently as the beginning of the 80s, when the first synthetic cycling shirts appeared on the market. Not only were they revolutionary because of their ability to absorb perspiration and insulate heat or cold but they were also made much closer-fitting, which makes them significantly more aerodynamic.
For a very long time, people also rode in woollen shorts, which were particularly uncomfortable in rainy weather. These, too, were replaced by synthetic legwear at the beginning of the 80s, for the same reasons as shirts and jerseys.
The padding in cycling shorts and trousers has also evolved significantly. The chamois in the cycling shorts of yesteryear was much thinner. As synthetic legwear became more popular, padding became thicker and, therefore, more comfortable.
Currently, there is a great variety of synthetic fabrics for shirts, legwear and jackets on the market, which are specially designed for cold, hot or wet weather. Examples include Gore-Tex, Lycra, Lycra Power, Super Roubaix, Tactel and Windstopper.
There has also been a substantial evolution in sock design. Whereas cycling socks used to be made of cotton, they are now also synthetic, moisture absorbent and left and right specific.
Most modern cycling shoes are no longer made of leather, but of rigid synthetic materials. Clip-in pedals were introduced in the mid-80s and were particularly revolutionary, since they enabled riders to use all their power without running the risk of slipping off the pedals.
Cycling helmets used to consist of a series of leather straps that were held together by a number of straps arranged crosswise, hence the name “hairnet”. This model gradually evolved into synthetic straps. The first plastic helmets appeared in the 80s. To this day, bicycle helmets are made of hard plastic with vents.
There is a broad range of cycling accessories, which are constantly improved to make them as comfortable and light as possible. The many types of cycling glasses and watches, protective gear, arm and leg warmers, packing systems, etc. are but a few of the myriad of examples.