The best gravel biking apparel is designed for comfort. Choosing what to wear when gravel biking should also be made by selecting comfortable clothing. There is one line of cycling apparel that is guaranteed to keep you comfortable. We’ll dive into that, and more, in this guide to all things gravel biking apparel.
What you wear cycling is often referred to as a ‘kit’ rather than an outfit. Those that ride multiple disciplines own multiple kits; one for mountain biking, one for road cycling and one for gravel biking. Depending on when and wear you ride you may have a winter gravel kit and a summer gravel kit. There is no shortage of ways to spend your money on cycling apparel.
Your kit will need to include a jersey, jacket, shorts or bibs, and the obvious items like shoes and a helmet. In Colorado the morning temperature and afternoon temperature can vary by 30 degrees or more. That means preparing a kit for a ride that starts at 35 degrees and ends in temperatures over 70 degrees.
In addition to comfort, gravel bike apparel also needs to be durable. Most gravel rides are endurance rides, meaning a lot of time on the saddle putting wear and tear on your clothing. Gravel is a ‘dirty’ cycling discipline, so choose your colors wisely.
Best Gravel Biking Jersey
The best gravel biking jersey must be comfortable. That’s why the 60 day fit guarantee from Pearl iZUMi is a must have. You can find more information on the guarantee here, but if you’re not satisfied for any reason you can return the item for a refund. Not an exchange, a REFUND.
The best gravel biking jersey for me is the Pearl iZUMi Quest Jersey. (Check Current Price on Amazon). The limited lifetime warranty also guarantees I don’t have to worry about durability. In regard to fit, you won’t race in a Quest jersey. They are comfortable, but only semi-fitted. These jerseys are great for endurance cycling for both road and gravel disciplines. For racing you need a full-fitted jersey for maximum aerodynamic advantage.
I have both a long-sleeved and short-sleeved gravel kit. The long sleeved jersey is still lightweight, but it provides additional sun protection. I wear a base-layer underneath when temperatures are chilly. Supporting your local bike shop is important, but It is also okay to purchase some items online. My long sleeved jersey (pictured below) was less than $25, and I haven’t found another long sleeved jersey for less than $100 in a bike shop.
Admittedly, the fit and feel of the Dooy jersey are not quite as nice as my Pearl iZUMi clothing, but I wear a base-layer underneath which improves comfort. There is some unspoken thing about this jersey. Maybe its the fact that I feel so thrifty wearing it. This thing was only $23 on Amazon. (Check Current Price Here).
Best Gravel Biking Shorts
The most durable and comfortable gravel biking shorts I’ve found are the Escape Quest shorts from Pearl iZUMi. They are extremely affordable with a price tag right around $50 most places. (Check Current Price on Amazon Here). In addition to being affordable, the Escape Quest shorts are extremely durable. I use all my shorts in a rotation, and these shorts have lasted longer than some of my higher priced shorts.
The Escape Quest shorts are a road cycling style. I do occasionally wear mountain biking shorts while on my gravel bike too. On those occasions I am usually looking for shorts with pockets so I can take extra nutrition or zip my keys into a pocket.
When choosing the best gravel biking shorts make your decision based on the riding you will do that day. There are times when a MTB jersey might make more sense over a road jersey. For example, anytime I will be stopping for lunch during my ride I prefer a mountain biking jersey. I’ve never cared what others think, but that doesn’t mean I like to be stared at while standing in line for a bite to eat. MTB clothing blends in with everyday casual wear better than fitted road bike clothing.
Gravel Biking Bibs
For the bib fanatics, I love Bontrager Velocis bib shorts and pants. I don’t have a blind loyalty to many Trek products outside of their bikes, but after a season wearing Bontrager Velocis bibs I’ll never wear anything else. They really are that comfortable.
Key features on these bibs are the wide straps that spread the pressure point out to a wider area. It gives less of a pulling feeling up high on your shoulders compared to bibs with narrow shoulder straps. The Velocis bib shorts also have pinchless leg design making them comfortable down low, too. Finally, the chamois is durable and provides support in all the right places.
I’d recommend buying Bontrager apparel direct from Trek. You can find the Velocis Bib Shorts here. When items are unavailable online through Trek, they give you the closest dealer that has your item in stock.
Road Bike vs Gravel Bike vs MTB Apparel
Road biking apparel is designed for aerodynamic benefit. Think of your road cycling apparel as a second layer of skin. Mountain biking apparel on the other hand is very loose allowing you to move freely. Gravel biking apparel is a combination of the two, determined by the trail you are riding.
Gravel bikers have the luxury of crossing between both road and mountain biking apparel. It’s not uncommon to see road jerseys and mountain bike shorts. When choosing a jersey I like to go with earth tone colors, and save the high visibility colors for riding road. I cross countless cyclists wearing high-vis yellow on their gravel rides. The point is, you should wear the jersey you feel most comfortable in.
In conclusion, wear the apparel that is comfortable and most durable to get the most out of your gravel biking experience. When I go on shorter rides I always dress in MTB clothes. In fact, I prefer mountain bike clothing anytime I am not riding to train for something.
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