Essential Guide: Cycling trousers, tights, and three-quarter shorts - Bike Magic

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Essential Guide: Cycling trousers, tights, and three-quarter shorts

Your essential guide to cycling trousers, tights, and three-quarter shorts

With the mercury slowly dipping, it’s important to look after your legs through the winter. After all, they do the work, don’t they?

We’re all quick to protect the rest of our body from the elements, whether that be by throwing on a base layer, waterproof jacket or arm warmers, so below the waist is no different, where it’s particularly important to protect your muscles and joints. Wearing the right clothing will help prevent injury as well as keep you warm.

But, like all mountain bike clothing, there’s an array of options. Here are the pros and cons of each…


Tights needn’t be the preserve of roadies and racers as they provide great protection against both wind and rain. Regular Lycra will provide a limited barrier but there are also tights which are windproof on the outside and fleecy on the inside, keeping your legs toasty through the worst the British winter can throw at us. You can also find water repellent tights.

We prefer bibs (pictured left) because they’re more comfortable, and have braces rather than just stopping at the waist. If full-length tights aren’t your bag, what about three-quarter tights?

You can also find tights without a chamois. This means you can wear your preferred pair of cycling shorts underneath, providing an extra layer of warmth while also reducing the need to wash the tights after each ride.

If you’re still wary about heading out on the trails decked out in Lycra, you can wear baggies over tights, although you may have the style police on your back.


Waterproof trousers provide the ultimate protection against rain and may be the answer if you’re heading out in a torrential downpour. The same principles apply as when buying a winter jacket, and you’ll want trousers that are waterproof, durable, comfortable and breathable. The final point is key, as you generate a lot of heat while riding and your trousers will need to let that moisture escape, otherwise you’ll become a sweaty mess.

Waterproof trousers are also versatile and you needn’t start your ride wearing them. Most will pack down pretty small, so you can throw them in your backpack, ready to put on over your existing clothing when caught in a storm.

Three quarter shorts

Let’s be honest, bar a few days of snow, our winters can be pretty tame compared to many and three-quarter shorts provide a halfway house between regular shorts and trousers or tights.

They protect your knees from the chill in the air and keep most of your legs free of mud and grime, but there’s also an obvious route for heat to escape and you’re unlikely to overheat. They’re also unrestrictive, often with an articulated fit suitable for thrashing it out on the trails.

What’s more, you can also find waterproof and windproof three-quarter shorts, like those from Gore Bike Wear reviewed last month, meaning you can be assured of beating the weather on most average winter days.

What do you wear through winter? Tell us in the comments box below.


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