With gravel bikes filling the void between road riding and mountain biking, so must gravel bike clothing. It’s unsurprising that the kit used for gravel riding is heavily influenced by both disciplines. On one side of the spectrum, the sleek efficiency of road kit which adheres to a strict set of 'rules' regarding sock length and colour coordination. On the other side, the relaxed style and durability of mountain biking kit offers a more casual approach to technical clothing.
In the same way that a mountain bike can happily trundle down a tarmac road but a road bike will do it faster, your road or mountain bike kit will likely suffice for a gravel ride. However, gravel bike clothing is designed for the task at hand and will invariably perform better.
The versatility of the niche opens up a broad range of requirements on gravel bike clothing. A day out on the gravel bike can range from forest tracks interspersed with singletrack to endurance epics like the DK200. With a leaning towards clothing that is both comfortable and practical, gravel welcomes all styles into its fold equally. Gravel riders have the freedom to pick from both sides to curate a perfect outfit for their own gravel adventure. However, there is one style rule that should always be followed: peaked mountain bike helmets should never be worn with lycra.
Gravel routes often take riders further afield and away from civilisation which has created a need for versatile clothing that can handle a range of weather conditions and be comfortable for many hours. They also provide additional storage to help with packing those extra tools in the name of self-sufficiency - which happens to be one of Alex Howes' top gravel tips. For an idea on what you should be packing into those extra pockets, check out our gravel ride essentials checklist.
The popularity of gravel has seen many brands looking to introduce specific clothing and innovations. Tailoring clothing with a gravel fit, additional features and to develop products such as the emergence of gravel bike shoes.
Scroll down for Cyclingnews' choice of the best gravel riding kit or if you're after buying advice, you can skip to our guide on how to choose the best gravel bike clothing.
Alternatively, women can head over to our guide to the best women's gravel kit.
Endura Singletrack Bib Liner II
Lightweight breathable bib liners to bolster baggie shorts comfort
Weather resistant: No | Sizes: S-XXL | Colours: 1
Endura’s Singletrack bib liner II is a liner designed specifically to be worn under baggy shorts. A lightweight mesh fabric reduces heat build-up and helps move moisture away from the skin to keep you cool in warm weather.
The pad is Endura’s 500 series mountain pad, made from water dispersing foam which is quick-drying and has anti-bacterial properties and Endura has added three rear pockets for storage as well as a handy access flap to make toilet breaks easier. When paired with Endura’s baggy shorts, such as the Singletrack Lite, the Clickfast system can be used to keep your shorts in position.
Castelli Free Protect Race bib shorts
Bib shorts with added protection for when gravel bites back
Weather resistant: No | Sizes: S-XXXL | Colours: 1
Bib shorts are not known for offering much in the way of protection should you take a tumble. Castelli has looked to address this, by combining their Vortex fabric with an internal layer of stretch woven fabric reinforced with a ripstop grid made from Dyneema which, in the event of a crash, slip against each other to reduce road rash.
The rest of the standard you would expect from Castelli; dialled fit, flatlock stitching and the popular Progetto X2 Air Seamless seat pad, assures that these shorts will still be going strong after many miles.
Morvelo Adapt Overland waterproof shorts
Technical riding shorts that are casual enough for post-ride relaxing
Weather resistant: Yes | Sizes: 28-38 | Colours: 1
Overland is the carefree vagabond wing of clothing company Morvelo, specialising in bikepacking and gravel, their ethos is more vibes than VO2 Max. That’s not to say they don’t produce some well-designed performance clothing.
The Element shorts are a casual baggy riding short suited for everything in between trail riding and summer evening pub cruise. The 4-way stretch fabric means there is enough movement for vigorous pedalling or spontaneous jump sessions and is quick-drying should the weather turn. A neat zipped valuables pocket on the rear offers a safe space for keys and change.
Rapha Cargo bib shorts
Lightweight, weather-resistant bib shorts with added storage
Weather resistant: Yes | Sizes: XS - XXL | Colours: 3
Rapha’s Cargo bib shorts take the fit and chamois from their popular endurance-focused Brevet bib short and have added a mesh pocket on each thigh and two rear mesh pockets. These pockets not only offer easy to reach storage while on the move but offer the flexibility to be worn alone or combined with casual clothing without sacrificing jersey pocket storage.
Rapha uses a water-resistant lightweight material to shrug off light showers and quickly dry if caught in heavier rainfall. The chamois has been designed for comfort over long distances or multi-day adventures and is perforated so that it dries quickly.
The Cargo bib shorts are expensive, however, for those on a modest budget, Rapha also offers its Core bib shorts in a cargo version.
Mavic Allroad Fitted baggy shorts
Well shaped “fitted baggy” shorts for gravel riding
Weather resistant: Yes | Sizes: S-XXL | Colours: 1
Mavic has released a range of gravel apparel to complement their Allroad wheel range and the adventures that are possible beyond the tarmac. Mavic’s Allroad shorts use light and stretchy DWR treated material to assure a close fit and avoid unnecessary flapping without bunching or binding when pedalling.
The shorts use a preshaped construction that has been designed to work in conjunction with your current bib shorts and add another layer for protection. Two front pockets, a rear pocket and cargo pocket offer a range of storage on or off the bike.
Sportful Supergiara jersey
High performance jersey without a race aesthetic
Pockets: 4 | Sizes: S-XXXL | Colours: 5
Sportful has a full gravel range for those that seek dirty dropbar days out and the Supergiara is the jersey for high tempo riding. It brings more than enough performance for pushing hard but still be comfortable enough to last all day. Sportful’s Supergiara jersey is perfect for a hard days gravel riding in hot tempertures, thin materials around the sleeves and a ventilated back panel help cooling and moisture management.
Gore Pro zip-off jersey
Transforming windproof layer with on the fly long and short sleeve options
Pockets: 4 | Sizes: S-XXL | Colours: 3
Gore makes some of the best technical fabrics available and its Windstopper material is no exception. Shielding the body from the blast of cold air makes a remarkable difference to overall warmth.
Gore’s Pro Zip-off jersey has another trick though, the sleeves zip off to reveal short sleeves hidden underneath. It's not a new concept, but this transformation gives it the perfect versatility for heading out on early chilly mornings in the knowledge that when the temperatures rise, the sleeves can be easily removed and stowed in a pocket.
Fox Racing Flexair short sleeve Moth jersey
Super breathable mountain bike jersey
Pockets: 0 | Sizes: S-XXL | Colours: 5
Fox Racing is a company with its routes well established in the world of mountain bikes, however, its lightweight technical clothing know-how translates to those looking for a casual gravel look without sacrificing performance.
Perforated vents and TruDri fabrics manage sweat and heat build-up to keep you dry and comfortable. The bike-specific cut features a dropped tail for a better fit while riding.
Rapha Classic Jersey II
Versatile and durable best selling jersey from Rapha
Pockets: 4 | Sizes: XS-XXL | Colours: 6
Rapha’s Classic Jersey II is their first and best selling road jersey, over the years it’s fit and design has been improved on as construction methods have developed. The relaxed road fit translates well to gravel riding, minimising flapping material without feeling too racy.
The proprietary merino-based fabric, RPM150 (Rapha Performance Merino) mixes merino wool with polyester for a jersey that insulates when it's chilly yet wicks moisture and cools when warm. Merino resistance to body odour also means that if your gravel ride is a multi-day affair you're not going to repulse anyone in the latter part of the ride.
dhb Merino M_150 base layer
No nonsense base layer that doesn't cost the earth
Pockets: 0 | Sizes: XS-XXL | Colours: 2
A dependable base layer is well worth the investment and dhb’s merino offering keeps the outlay at a minimum. A slim yet close fit lets it slip underneath a jersey when riding but can also be worn as a warm layer for after a ride.
dhb sells its base layers in 2 different thicknesses as well as in sleeveless, short sleeve and long sleeve options. The thicker M_200 also comes in a zipped version with a higher coller to add extra draft exclusion.
Morvelo Overland Back Country shirt
As suited to riding the bike as it is chopping firewood
Pockets: 4 | Sizes: XS-XXL | Colours: 4
A plaid shirt is about as casual as a gravel adventure aesthetic can be. Morvelo Overland have built all the features that you would expect in a performance jersey into a classic looking plaid shirt. Nice to ride in and you don't look like a road racer lost in the woods when chilling around a fire after a days ride.
Quick-drying four-way stretch material is DWR treated and windproof and there are two pockets on the front as well as two handy stash pockets on the side. Morvelo makes the Back Country LS shirt in three different plaid colours and a subtle camo version too.
Castelli Elemento Lite
Mountineering tech molded into high performance cycling gear
Pockets: 3 | Sizes: S-XXXL | Colours: 3
Castelli has taken jacket technology used in ski mountaineering and brought it to a cycling application. The Elemento uses polypropylene insulation sandwiched between two layers that resist moisture. The inner and outer layers are windproof but have been designed to let some air through to help with breathability and the removal of moisture.
The jacket features a standard three rear pockets and has an inner waist closure that gives adjustment to stop grim sneaking up your jacket.
Endura Pro SL Primaloft
A surprisingly warm gilet perfect over a jersey or for extra warmth under a jacket
Pockets: 4 | Sizes: XS-XXL | Colours: 3
We are a big fan of Endura’s Pro SL Primaloft gilet and in conditions with changeable temperatures or the odd shower its been invaluable. The thin layer of Primaloft Gold synthetic padded insulation on the front and even thinner Silver at the back does an impressive job of keeping the core warm. Despite getting caught in some very unpleasant showers, the Pro SL Primaloft gilet manages to keep the warmth in.
The gilet packs down reasonably small although the double-ended zip allows faff free adjustment on the fly when transitioning between warm climb to chilly descent. If the weather is looking particularly awful it can be slipped under a light waterproof to add extra warmth.
7Mesh Oro Shakedry Jacket
About as waterproof as a jacket gets, about as small as they go
Pockets: 0 | Sizes: XS-XXL | Colours: 1
Like many brands, 7Mesh has licenced Gore’s game-changing Shakedry fabric, however, it has taken lightweight and packable to the extreme. Shakedry fabric brings unparalleled levels of waterproofness, breathability and pocketability but 7Mesh has taken it one step further to produce one of the lightest jackets available. Weighing in at a scant 94g for a size medium and with a tiny pack size means that it is barely noticeable when in a pocket for that just-in-case shower.
To make such a compact jacket does mean that some luxuries need to be cut back on. The jacket doesn't have any pockets although there is a port in the rear allowing access to jersey pockets underneath. Shakedry isn't perfect either, the material isn't particularly stretchy or durable, so considering the price tag, you will want to take care of it, and avoid wearing it in the woods, it'll tear like tissue paper if it comes into contact with rogue tree branches.
Keeping necks, faces and heads warm for over 30 years
Sizes: 1 | Colours: 18+
Buff needs little in the way of introduction and it's likely that this is a piece of kit that you already own. If you haven't tried a Buff, the simple neck tube has a surprising amount of functionality in all weathers. Rated UPF 50 for protecting necks from sun or absorbing sweat when it's hot. Come winter, a Buff can be used as a draft excluder around the neck, to cover the head or folded into a balaclava.
Sportful No Rain warmers
Warmers that keep your arms and legs dry and cosy
Sizes: S-XL | Colours: 1
Arm and leg warmers add that extra bit of coverage on rides where tights and a long sleeve jacket would leave you in a sweaty mess. Sportful takes their fleece lined ThermoDrytex Plus warmers and gives them some weather treatment to help keep you warm when its raining.
Giro D’Wool gloves
Classy looking glove for general riding
Sizes: S-XXL | Colours: 3
Devoid of in-your-face logos and patterns, Giro has created a timeless looking glove made from a synthetic suede palm and combined with a comfortable merino wool upper. The gloves are touch screen compatible for quick and easy Instagram snapping mid-ride.
Sealskinz Waterproof warm weather mid-length socks
Nobody likes wet feet and Sealskinz are the best socks for keeping feet dry
Sizes: S-XL | Colours: 3
Waterproof socks offer another barrier to fight against cold wet toes. Sealskinz socks stop that poorly executed river fording attempt or repeated splashing through puddles from ruining an otherwise perfectly good bike ride.
dhb Trail Socks
Black socks for any occasion
Sizes: S-L | Colours: 2
It’s surprising how hard it is to buy a nice plain pair of cycling socks, what with all the colourful #sockdoping attempts. The dhb Trail socks are no-nonsense socks that use a medium weight material that works in all but the extreme temperatures. Light compression is built around the foot and the cuff height is perfect as well.
How to choose gravel bike clothing
1. Intended usage
The primary consideration when choosing gravel riding kit is the type of gravel ride you are going on. For short distances, there is more freedom to ride in what you find comfortable, if lycra is your thing then that will work great but if the ride is more casual, the likelihood of poor weather or increased chances of crashing then baggy shorts (with a liner or bib shorts underneath) and loose-fitting jersey may be preferred. For long distances, lycra is favoured as it’s quicker to dry and offers unrestricted freedom of movement. Dedicated road or adventure bib shorts generally have a better quality chamois than mountain bike liners and will improve comfort in the saddle for a longer period of time.
If you choose to ride in baggies it’s important to look for a pair of shorts that aren’t too baggy. While most mountain bike shorts will be comfortable to ride in, a lot of them have legs cut to accommodate the added bulk of knee pads. This extra material can flap which adds drag or becomes irritating and will take longer to dry if wet. For gravel, we recommend pairing your baggies over a bib short or liner for increased comfort.
The best cycling shorts will work well for gravel riding, although we recommend choosing bib shorts aimed at endurance riding. They are usually made from more durable materials, feature weather resistance and will have a pad that will is designed for longer durations. Bib shorts with additional storage is becoming more and more common and as gravel rides often require to be more self-sufficient, having that extra storage can make be a huge convenience.
What is worn on top is usually based on your choice of shorts. The classic style road cycling jersey will pair best with bib shorts and offer a full front zip with rear pockets. A slim-fitting mountain biking jersey will add to the more casual look of baggy shorts.
A more important consideration is the material your jersey is made from. Man-made fibres offer excellent hot weather comfort with superb ventilation which helps keep you dry and cool. For colder or changeable rides, merino wool is extremely versatile, it will keep you warm even when wet and doesn’t get as smelly post-ride.
With gravel routes often taking you beyond the reaches of civilisation, being prepared for unexpected weather conditions is vital. Unlike road rides, there are no handy cafes or bus stops to shelter in halfway up a mountain should the weather take a turn for the worst.
Having a jacket that has a high waterproof rating and packs up small will make a big difference to a ride whether you’re wearing it or not. It is also worth considering how easy a jacket is to wash as when the rain starts, a gravel road will coat everything in dirt very quickly.
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