We review a whole lot of cycle clothing and shoes on road.cc and here’s the very best of it from 2016.
How have we come up with this top 25?
First, we went through each of the various categories of clothing and made a shortlist of the highest scorers. Then we set about the huge task of deciding which of these deserved to be included among the best of the best. That’s no easy job, and many products that scored 9 out of 10 haven’t made it onto out list.
We decided to include only items that are still available. There’s not a lot of point us telling you about a great product you can no longer buy. We’ve also tried to include products from across the price ranges from entry level to top end.
We've listed the recommended retail prices but it's worth shopping around because many of these products are available cheaper. We've linked to shops selling each of the products: just click the heading and you’ll be taken right there.
These stylish shoes offer long ride comfort at a competitive price. The fit is slightly generous but not overly so while the straps and Boa dial system tighten and adjust easily and effectively. They’re light and stiff, giving good power transfer, and they’re comfortable enough for the longest of sportives.
These are expensive, but they’re also lightweight and comfortable, and the novel closure system – a hybrid lace and Velcro strap, plus a Boa dial – makes it easy to adjust the fit on the fly.
The upper strap is controlled by a Boa IP1 dial that allows you to adjust the fit in both directions in 1mm increments. Below the Boa dials you get the hybrid lace/Velcro strap Techlace system – you alter the lace tension via Velcro straps.
You get a stiff Easton EC90 SLX2 carbon fibre outsole while the upper is made from Premium Evofiber SL breathable Teijin microfibre. It's one piece – so there are no seams to annoy you – and very supple. It's also simple to clean with a damp cloth.
You can’t get around the fact that the price is pretty damn large, but in terms of function these are superb.
The X-Bionic Energy Accumulator V2.1 is fantastic, our man Dave Atkinson describing it as the best winter base layer he’s ever used. This is a fully woven synthetic first layer, and X-Bionic uses a big range of different weaves and constructions to regulate temperature and moisture.
Under heavy outer layers the Energy Accumulator V2.1 never gets swamped with sweat, and at the end of hard rides it's still been dry to the touch.
Yes, it’s expensive, but the performance is good enough to warrant the price.
The Ekoi Morpho Senza Unisize is an excellent base layer, shifting sweat really well to keep you dry and comfortable.
This top is made from Dryarn – 80% polypropylene and 20% polyester. Polypropylene makes excellent base layers because it's very lightweight and doesn't absorb sweat. That's exactly the performance you get here, the fabric moving moisture away from your body quickly and effectively without getting waterlogged itself.
The body is seamless so there are no ridges to cause discomfort, and the stretchiness of the fabric means there's no resistance to movement. There are no internal labels to irritate you either – the washing instructions and so on are woven into the hem.
Available in sleeveless and long sleeve versions too.
This base layer is an example of form and function in perfect harmony. Its body-hugging fit manages to be fairly flattering, helped by the contrast stitching on the seams, and it does a great job of keeping you warm and dry thanks to the wicking properties of the fabric.
The material is very lightweight, with no restriction whatsoever to your movement, and feels gossamer-soft against your skin. All the seams are flatlocked so there's no chafing, and mesh inserts beneath the armpits aid ventilation.
This is a fantastic, simple but effective base layer.
These high performance waist shorts are superbly comfortable, extremely well made and reasonably – for Rapha quality and design – priced.
The fabric is a good blend of supportive and stretchy, and will especially appeal to those who prefer a denser weave.
They stay put without the migration that can happen with some waist shorts and the legs are are the long side. The Cytech female-specific pad is superbly comfortable for a variety of ride distances, from commuting to a 100km sportive, but always unobtrusive. It's just a touch on the low profile side at the rear for use with a firm saddle, which may prove to be an issue for racers.
It really is hard to find fault with the Core Shorts at this price and level of quality. These are premium shorts at a mid-range price.
These excellent bib shorts offer superb comfort and performance. The legs are two-thirds traditional style Lycra, with gripper at the bottom, but the final third is made up of a more expansive material to allow some give without feeling restrictive.
The Arcus pad is part of Bontrager’s Inform Biodynamics range. It's saddle shaped with the tiniest of channels running down through the middle, and it is very effective. None of it bunches or rucks between you and the saddle no matter what position you're riding in.
The fit and comfort are top notch, the quality of construction feels great and durability isn't going to be an issue. All of that justifies the price tag.
These are warm, comfortable roubaix bib shorts that are suitable for pairing up with leg warmers for hard and fast riding. We used them in temperatures as low as 3-5°C and never felt cold. The multi-density seatpad was comfortable and didn't move around.
Lusso has treated the fabric at the yarn stage with its Repel finish, prior to it being woven. While not waterproof, there is a strong resistance to absorbing water and performance in adverse conditions is excellent.
The finishing is excellent too, with flatlocked stitching where it counts and breathable back/shoulder material.
Endura's Pro SL Biblongs are excellent: they're windproof, fit superbly, and the pad comes in three widths.
At their core is a four-way stretch windproof, breathable fabric with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish for the front and seat panels.
The windproofing is very effective, keeping you nice and toasty down below zero. The density of the fabric is brilliant and results in no cold spots where the material is stretched.
The 700 Series pad is cut with a continuously variable profile, features an antibacterial finish and is available in three widths.
These perform superbly, even in the nastiest conditions. If you can afford them, they're worth it.
These are well designed, good looking bib tights that perform superbly. They’re great value for money especially as we spotted them for £55 on Wiggle recently. There are four different Roubaix fabrics sewn into a multitude of panels, giving a very snug, athletic fit.
The insulation of the ASVs comes up mid-tum and certainly keeps the core warm. Hitting a flooded lane had our reviewer soaked to the thigh, but the water mostly beaded up and rolled off. The Elastic Interface pad went unnoticed, which is always a good sign.
Overall, these are great winter bib tights that offer stunning value.
These mid-weight bibs – reduced to £43.99 when we checked recently – are ideal for most milder winter days and cool spring or autumn rides.
The fleecy-backed polyamide/elastane tights reach well over the kidneys; above that, it's a mesh backing panel for better ventilation.
The fit is snug, leg length is good, and the ankles stay securely in place thanks to silicone grips. Our reviewer found the seatpad comfortable until around the 50-mile mark.
They’re well made and warm, and they offer exceptional value for money.
It can be difficult to find a pair of jeans or trousers that both look good off the bike and perform well on it, but that's what these Fox Wilsons do.
These use Dry Schoeller Denim, designed to be both water and stain resistant. They work find in light rain although heavier rain will get through. They are treated with ActiveSilver to prevent odour, and despite our reviewer wearing them on and off the bike for five days straight, they didn't smell at all.
You get reinforcement in key areas, including the pockets and crotch, meaning less chance of splits and tears. There are also some reflective elements on the pockets and the back of the right leg.
The waistband is raised at the rear, helping to reduce the chance of revealing too much to the person behind you, and there is also a loop on the belt line for a D-lock, which works effectively too.
Fox Wilson also offers cycling jeans in a women’s cut.
The Alé PRR Arcobaleno is a close-fitting, highly breathable jersey that's ideal for racing/training/sports riding in summer conditions.
It is made from lightweight polyester and elastane fabrics that are very stretchy, so it'll accommodate a range of shapes and sizes comfortably.
The front and shoulder panels are micro-perforated so plenty of cool air can get inside and damp, sweaty air can escape easily, and the full-length front zipper allows you to go for maximum ventilation if things get really hot. The side and rear panels are made from a 'carbon fabric' – still mainly polyester – which shifts sweat well too.
The jersey sits flat to the body without any riding up or flapping, and not much bunching around the middle when you lean all the way down to the drops.
You get a fleece-lined fabric here that's warm enough down to 5-6°C with a simple base layer beneath, and if things drop towards freezing this jersey is thin enough that you can layer it up under a jacket.
The material is soft and feels comfortable against the skin, and there are mesh fabric sections under the arms and up the central back to remove some of the heat you generate. You'll get warm if you really push things, but you never feel sweaty or clammy thanks to some pretty decent breathability.
The cut is flattering without being super skinny, and the dropped tail and high neck avoid draughts. As for the price, you get excellent value here.
This is a brilliant piece of kit that adds a well-fitting layer to any winter ensemble. The Thermosuede fabric is super-soft, breathable and keeps you warm, the fit is close but comfortable with a shorter front section and lower rear, and the sleeves are long enough to keep your wrists toasty.
You can use the Peloton jersey from autumn through to the end of spring for many different rides. The fabric isn't windproof but it does take the sting out of chills, and below about 5°C you can pair it with a gilet or jacket.
This is a great value jersey that you’ll wear loads.
This is a top notch, close-fitting gilet that keeps the wind out and breathes, and last time we checked the price had been reduced to £37.50. The front panel uses dhb's Windslam fabric, a windproof material that does exactly what it is designed to do. The Aeron doesn't let any windchill through and it's the perfect layer to add over the top of a long-sleeved jersey.
The rear has a large mesh panel to transfer warm air away from your body. You never feel overwhelmed or clammy even when you are pushing things really hard.
Alé's Women's Crossover Gilet is light, easy to store, and highly windproof. Alé says it's "specifically designed with the female racing cyclist in mind" and I'd say it's succeeded well – not many get this right in my experience, but Alé has got the cut spot on.
There are plenty of gilets on the market, so any manufacturer wanting to stand out and get rave reviews is going to have to produce something seriously special. To my mind, Alé has created an excellent product that will more than satisfy the gilet needs of any avid female cyclist.
Yes, it’s pricey but this is a wonderfully warm winter jacket, the excellent Polartec Alpha insulation keeping you comfortable even when the temperature plunges below zero.
Alpha is a very light and low-bulk synthetic down and is startlingly good at protecting you from the cold without restricting breathability or freedom of movement. It's combined with Sportful's WindWick LT outer face fabric for wind and water resistance, and NoRain Thermal inserts on the sleeves and back panel.
It's well constructed with an exceptionally good fit and some neat details, which are all factors that go some way to justifying that price. It's definitely an investment, but it'll reward you with ample insulation and decent breathability for deep winter rides.
This jacket offers excellent wet weather protection – it's very packable, and capable of shedding even torrential downpours for a short period of time. The cut is slim without being restrictive, which means water has a hard job sneaking down your neck and up your wrists, and it features a long tapered back to help protect your rear from spray. It’s well worth the asking price
Gore’s new One Active jacket isn’t cheap but the performance is superb. It sets a new benchmark for lightweight waterproof jackets.
For a start, it's incredibly breathable, even coping with the amount of sweat you generate when working hard on a warm day.
Then there is its lightness and packability. When rolled it takes up barely any space in a jersey pocket. And our review jacket weighs just 103g – about the same as a lightweight gilet.
But is it waterproof? Yes it is. It’ll keep you dry in the heaviest rain
The only drawback is the price, but this really is a stunning piece of kit.
At just £25, the BTwin 500 Women's Waterproof Jacket is a real bargain. The jacket has a good cut, feels comfortable and has some good features such as the mesh-lined ventilation gussets at the front of the shoulders and on the back. It's a great lightweight, high-vis waterproof to stuff in a jersey pocket or wear on your commute from spring through to autumn.
The polyester fabric keeps the wind off and is remarkably breathable and the jacket is highly waterproof. You get a storm flap behind the off-centre zip and a garage at the neck to prevent it rubbing your skin. As well as ventilation gussets there are perforations on the sides below each armhole to let moisture out.
All in all, this is a truly great jacket for the money.
The Endura FS260-Pro SL Shell is an exceptionally breathable, fully fledged miserable weather jacket with a host of features but no excess faff. It's a cracker.
Endura has used a very thin three-layer Exoshell40 waterproof fabric here, with fully taped seams. Despite repeated drenchings, working hard on the bike over up to four hours in low single-digit temperatures, I never once noticed rain getting through.
With a fleecy inner layer on half the panels, these arm warmers are well up to the task of insulating you from the cold.
The rain resistance they offer is very impressive too. They stand up impressively to showers and light prolonged rainfall and the thickness of the fabric provides insulation even if water does manage to seep through in a deluge.
The £22 price is very reasonable as long as you like a slightly compressive feel.
When the temperature reaches freezing the Gore Universal Gore-Tex Thermo Gloves keep on going, keeping out the best that Mother Nature can throw at them. Truly awesome!
Gore-Tex has long been renowned for its wind and rain stopping properties and it's a great first defence against the cold. These Thermo versions go a step further, offering an extra lining. The downside is that they aren't the most breathable – especially at temperatures above 5°C – but until you take them off you don't really notice it.
Even if you remove these gloves for a quick bike repair and the dampness turns to cold, as soon as you put them back on they are warm within seconds. Another highlight is that the lining stays put, unlike with so many gloves. No trying to push everything back into position at the side of the road here.
Available in both men’s and women’s versions.
These Bodyfit Pro gloves pack a great fit with a padded palm for extra cushioning.
The synthetic suede material on the palm is extremely durable and the slimline padding provides a bit of extra cushioning without ramping up the bulk too much. A silicone dot pattern on the palm boosts grip on the handlebar.
The stretchy Lycra back is breathable and performs well in hot conditions while the towel-covered thumb is ideal for wiping sweat from your face or snot from your nose.
Overall, it's a simple design that works extremely well, at a good price.
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.