A guide to choosing & sizing technical sports clothing

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We supply technical sports clothing for cycling, rock climbing, running and winter sports.  The following information is however appropriate to all technical sports clothing.

Overview

Staying cool, or warm whilst actively involved in a sporting activity, is a question of wearing the correct type of clothing. Many think that less heat - more clothes is the answer, yet the wrong clothing is always counterproductive in your quest for comfort.

Below we explain much of what you need to know regarding the three layers of clothing that are designed to keep you warm or cool.

Layering

The secret to warmth, or coolness, is layering and the maximum warmth is gained if you use all three layers as described below.

Even in the Summer, and whilst racing, I personally would always wear two layers; a wicking base layer and a top.  This combination also has the benefit of providing some "slide" if you happen to fall off your bike.

Wicking base layers
 


These are the "next to the skin layers" which play a major part in your comfort. They keep your skin dry and free from perspiration. To do this they have to be made of fabrics that "wick" - pull moisture away from your skin by capillary action so that it can evaporate on the outside of the fabric or pass through other layers. This action is usually referred to as breathability.  Base layers can also provide insulation.

Sometimes, whilst wearing a base layer, you will notice that the garment appears wet, yet your skin is dry.  The item is therefore working correctly but maybe question your second layer which may not be wicking the moisture away as it should.

Base layers should always be figure hugging otherwise they can't work properly.


Insulating mid layers




The traditional role of mid layers is to keep us warm by trapping our own heat and using it for insulation. Fleece is a very effective insulator with a high warmth to weight ratio. Different thickness of fleece provide different levels of insulation with thicker being warmer. By using fleece with different characteristics - stretch, windproofing, wicking and water resistance you can create a micro climate around your body to suit every type of sporting activity.

Weatherproof shell layers



This layer defends us from the elements allowing the other layers to work effectively. These garments provide the ideal balance of weatherproofing and breathability, they are also exceptionally durable and often totally windproof and/or waterproof.

These are the sports garments that will cost anything from £20 to £290 and the more you pay, usually, the more comfortable and effective the garment is.

We constantly search out garments that fit the criteria for hardworking or leisure sports people and most of the items we list have been tested or are owned personally by us.

Breathability

This term is the most misunderstood word in technical clothing jargon.  Just because you may be damp underneath your breathable garment doesn't necessarily mean the garment isn't being effective.

The materials used to produce all technical sports clothing have had to pass various tests before they can be described as either waterproof, or windproof, or breathable.

All weatherproof, breathable garments work best if you use a suitable base, or base and mid layer.  I'm afraid everyday shirts and pullovers do not fit into these categories!

Styling

Many people forget about this important aspect of sports clothing and will therefore complain that items are too big or too small when infact they are not.  The fact is they will be the correct size but the wearer has not understood the purpose, therefore the styling, of the item.  For example, an item for cycling that is intended to be windproof is usually going to be a "snug to the body fit", not skin tight but certainly not flapping everywhere.

Trying on sports clothing

People also need to bear in mind when trying items of sports clothing what was intended to be worn underneath.  For example, a waterproof jacket for winter use, which would normally be worn with at least two layers of reasonable thickness, should not be tried on with an everyday shirt.

Finally, a special note about sizing based on our experiences.

"I always take a medium, therefore.......".  Sorry folks, it doesn't work that way with Sports clothing.

What is medium?
To one manufacturer we deal with a medium waist is 35.5", whereas from another, it is 31".  To manufacturers of everday clothes medium can be anywhere between 30" and 34".

You should also be very aware, that an item which is marked as Large (and let's assume large is a chest size of 41")  if you actually measure from arm pit to arm pit the measurement would possibly equate to 44" or higher.

This apparent variation is due to the styling and purpose of the item and will be subject to manufacturers specifications e.g. if it is intended as a tight fit ap to ap will be closer to 41".  If designed to be relaxed, it will be closer to 44" or even higher.

Most sellers will supply sizing information on their items which are based upon the manufacturers specifications.

Our recommendation

We therefore recommend that if you are new to buying sports clothing you first measure yourself and then check the sizing of the item you are interested in.  Also bear in mind the purpose and use of the garment AND your fit preferences.
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