I’ve seen it said that people who ride a recumbent don’t need to be protected from their bike like upright riders do, so they don’t need cycling-specific clothing. I think that’s an unfair categorization of uprights and an oversimplification of why you’d choose specialist clothing.
The only part of regular cycle clothing that I think could be construed as ‘protection’ is the chamois pad in shorts. That point might be true, the pad is there to address the pressure and impact of a regular seat. But all of the other aspects of regular cycle clothing – the shape of the jerseys, the materials chosen, the structure, the length or the amount of compression – have nothing to do with protection from the style of bike. They address shortcomings in general clothing when cycling (such as wrong shape, UV protection or wicking properties) or improve fit or performance for the rider (such as muscle compression or to avoid flapping fabric).
Cycle clothing isn’t required for every ride, but by choosing specific clothing, you can be more comfortable. Our shorts might not have or need a traditional chamois but they do have a different kind of liner to absorb sweat and prevent chafing. This isn’t just a slim chamois either, it’s entirely different in structure and position – consider that when riding a recumbent, you don’t have a saddle keeping your thighs apart. Our ‘bent linerTM (available in our shorts and now short liners, too) makes everything that little bit more comfortable ‘downstairs’.
Sure, you might find unpadded shorts in running stores and they might work fine (and truth be told, the shorter your ride, the less it’ll probably matter), but keep in mind they would have been designed for running, not cycling. While they might be fine, they won’t work as well as our shorts. If you don’t want to wear cycling shorts all the time, you can even choose our short liners to wear under regular shorts – you benefit from some of our design but still get to wear cargo shorts or any other style.
We all know that rear jersey pockets rarely work on a recumbent. Depending on your particular seat, you may be able to get some use from the rear sides without discomfort but that seems to be rare. Since you’re resting on your back, anything in those pockets will likely get hot and sweaty. Often the pockets themselves are uncomfortable even empty and I’ve heard of folks physically removing them. Our pockets are mostly on the front (with a couple designs incorporating them into the sides), carefully integrated into the structure of the jerseys so that they are comfortable in use as well as very convenient and accessible. They are not an afterthought or compromise in the design of our jerseys and zips make the pockets secure.
You could ride in a regular t-shirt for sure, but then you don’t have any pockets available to you. No problem, you could carry everything in a pannier or frame bag, but that’s not quite as convenient if you stop somewhere since you’d likely prefer to bring your wallet/purse/keys/phone with you. T-shirts are often cotton, which doesn’t offer wicking and other properties available from specialized sportswear.
It’s possible to find technical wicking t-shirts, but they still don’t typically have zippered collars or full zips, likely no pockets either. So it’s a series of compromises and you could pick and choose which ones to accept. Or you can consider recumbent specific cycling clothing that is designed to address these compromises and shortcomings. All of our recumbent clothing is made from technical sports fabrics with a fit specifically intended for recumbent riding. Some designs use body-mapping with mesh or special non-absorbent technical fabrics. Flapping fabric is avoided in the Ride and Race styles. When you work up a sweat these fabrics will either wick it away or allow it to evaporate more easily. This leaves you more comfortable for longer. Typically, our products are also very durable and last well – they certainly wash well.
You don’t need a tail on your jersey when riding recumbent because you’re not hunched forwards. Wearing a jersey with a tail, such as a regular cycling jersey, can restrict your movement and feel tight on your throat as you sit on the tail. Our jerseys have no tail to sit on and we’ve also cut the neck and shoulders differently so that they simply fit better when reclined in your recumbent seat.
Riders come in all shapes and sizes so we offer a variety of styles, cuts and fits from classic body-hugging jerseys to loose fitting casual tops, from XS to 4XL in some styles. Our Leisure range is deliberately intended to look like casual wear, also suitable for walking and other pursuits – except that they still incorporate pockets conveniently on the front and are made of technical fabrics.
You can certainly buy cheap clothing and sometimes even cheap sports clothing that might work well enough for some of your recumbent cycling. But just like regular cycling, there are distinct advantages to choosing recumbent specific cycle clothing – and the more you ride (whether further or faster, longer or more often), the more likely you are to really appreciate and value the differences that our premium products offer.
But even short rides will feel good in reverse gear…