2014 has been another successful year in women’s cycling and we’re pretty chuffed to have been a part of it all. And after releasing our favourite mountain biking and road cycling kit of 2014, it's time to focus on commuting.
Although a lot of cyclists chose to commute in every day clothes, getting the right kit for your commute is essential- that's if you want a pleasant, dry and comfortable ride! And it's great knowing that there's so much more kit on offer for female commuters and ladies making the transition to cycling to work.
We've selected our top pieces of reviewed kit, to give you a good idea on what's worth investing in for your commute, and there are certainly a few special pieces that we believe have completely nailed it.
And when you’ve found a product you love, you know you’re in good hands and after having had a good long think, here are our best reviewed (and in no order) peices of commuter kit from 2014…
Endura Womens Photon Packable Jacket
Perhaps I am a little biased here given the close resemblance to the iconic Total Women’s Cycling colourway but I immediately fell in love with the Endura Women’s Photon jacket; And this sudden love affair didn’t end here, in fact it was only just the beginning.
From the offset the Photon Packable Jacket was gaining brownie-points. The fit stood out in my mind immediately and complimented the female figure whilst also being very practical; I simply love how this jacket looks. I am quite tall and so have quite long arms also, and can often find it difficult to find sleeves that are long enough, meaning I usually have to succumb to cold arms during my commute.
Yet, when trying the jacket on I was immediately impressed and was somewhat surprised that the sleeves were also a perfect length. The cuffs on the sleeves are elasticated too, which for most would help keep the jacket in place, but with my skinny little wrists these were still a little big and meant that it could be drafty at times, on the plus side however, the extra ventilation came as quite a welcome relief.
Where the Photon Packable Jacket claims to be breathable on their website, these benefits were not noticeable and I would worry that with a longer ride it may become uncomfortable with sweating as there are no features, such as side zips, to provide any extra ventilation. That said the comfortable fit is perfect for shorter rides in the autumn and spring, and the jacket boasts a nice high collar to allow for extra layers to be worn underneath where required, making it great for chillier days.
In very light rain the jacket proved to be waterproof and given the mild conditions was windproof also as the inner storm flap and zip guard stops any other unwanted drafts! With just a base-layer on underneath I remained warm throughout my commute home.
The jacket is super lightweight, folds up small and even comes with its own little stuff sack to carry it in once it is folded. This little bag is brilliant when making space in pockets and keeping things tidy, and is perfect should you need to carry the jacket if and when it is already wet.
In terms of practicality my favourite element is just how easy it is to clean – cycling through London on a wet day can be dirty business at the best of times; yet the Photon Packable Jacket stood up to this test head on as the shower proof material allows for a quick wipe to get rid of any excess dirt or wet.
The jacket is second to none when it comes to reflectivity; another reason it is perfect for your commute to and from work! Unlike the garish high vis yellow jacket, the celeste colour is stylish enough to wear off the bike but extremely reflective under street and car lights especially with the additional reflective features on the sleeves, neckline and zipline.
The rear zip-up pocket adds to the practicality of the Photon Packable Jacket, allowing you to carry a few bits and bobs along with you in confidence that none of these items will be lost en-route. The pocket is made of the same showerproof material and has a small flap covering the zipline to protect further your belongings from the rain. As a single pocket however, it may become a bit weighted should you carry very much.
That said, I am given the impression that Endura have thought of this also as the rear of the jacket allows for a little extra space underneath so that you can use your jersey pockets without any problem whilst still protecting your items from the showers of course!
Despite the lack of ventilation and the associated tendency to sweat when wearing the jacket, the beneficial features far outweigh any negativity, and at times the lack of ventilation can itself become a positive depending on the temperature.
Price: £66.21 (RRP £69.99), available from ChainReactionCycles.
Urbanist Bettie Chamois Panties
What’s a girl to wear ‘down there’ when cycling in non-padded shorts or her best fashionista frock? Lets face it, ordinary pants soon wipe the smile off your face, especially as it’s impossible to adjust wayward elastic at a red light when surrounded by commuters. And no one wants to ride with bulky cycling shorts beneath their J-Brands or Whistles work skirt.
Delve deeper into this dilemma and imagine you have secured yourself a cycling date with the man of your dreams. A couple of circuits of the park and a few beers later, then its back to yours and the realisation that it’s impossible to remove a pair of cycling shorts in a seductive fashion (this applies to both genders, by the way), especially when they leave a non-too fetching imprint of a gripper band on your thighs.
And then there’s Christmas. Your other half secretly wants to surprise you with something a little bit ‘Kim Kardashian’ – but needs the security man-blanket of knowing that he’s also getting you something practical for the bike. Surely there is an alternative to receiving a fluffy red g-string and a bottle of Muc Off on Christmas morning?
Or what if you just like wearing nice pants and riding your bike? Or want something discreet but effective to wear beneath workout gear for your spin class?
Hurrah! Here comes Bettie to solve every one of these pressing women’s cycling issues!
Created in Texas, Bettie is, basically, a really nice pair of pants with a slim (think panty liner) but proper cycling chamois inside. The Urbanist Bettie pad is flexible, breathable, quick drying and moisture wicking. It’s also invisible beneath clothes and bulk-free to wear. I wouldn’t recommend these pants for a day on your road bike but for any other type of riding they’re perfect.
They’re also beautifully made: silky fabric with mesh side panels and a ruched detail mid-back gives them a lingerie look and feel. You can also get your hands on The Brigitte, a hooped black and white style, which I think I can safely say was not designed with the shy and retiring wearer in mind.
I really enjoy wearing my Urbanist Bettie. My only real issue is the colour of the pad: I’d prefer it to be black as its not exactly part of the garment that you want to draw attention to. I’m afraid red just made me think ‘periods’.
On the plus side, the pants are low cut so they wont pop out above your jeans (but don’t expect them to keep your lower back warm either!) and have a lot of stretch around the leg openings to avoid chaffing.
At £42 (like I said, Christmas present!) Bettie is, price wise, a world away from an M&S pack of five. But if you’re a lingerie lover and a cyclist, then they’re a bit of a must have.
I’m a little bit disappointed that Bettie didn’t make my bum look like the one on in the picture. What’s more, the model in the picture appears to be about to ride in just her pants. I really wouldn’t recommend this although I’m sure it would be a very effective way of stopping the traffic (‘you know what, no one over took me on the way to work this morning. Weird, huh?’)
- Well made.
- Bright red pad.
Price: £42.00, available from Velovixen.
Osprey Momentum 22
The first thing that you notice when handling the Osprey Momentum 22 is the quality build, constructed of a really tough fabric, robust enough to give structure without feeling overbuilt and heavy.
The pack is wide and flat to accommodate a 17" laptop, and remains a very stable bag even with a fair bit of weight in it. The pack is well padded which prevents any discomfort from bulky items within the bag. The shoulder straps are exceptionally well-padded which helps offset those heavy laptops. The pack itself is surprisingly light for such a robust construction
Whilst using the Osprey Momentum 22 I found it easy to pack, with one big compartment for spare clothes, a laptop sleeve, a small front pocket for phone, money pens and other treasures. Additional internal mesh pockets keep other small items nice and safe. Secure external compression straps take up any slack keeping your load stable. There are also external stuff pockets for snacks or a water bottle, all deep, elasticated and relatively secure.
There’s also a really substantial grab handle on top of the Osprey Momentum 22. The big zip pulls and quality zips making getting in and out easy especially with numb hands and big gloves.
It is worth noting that the laptop sleeve zip is also a waterproof zip providing even more confidence that your precious hardwear will arrive safe and secure. Adding to the weatherproofing, there is a raincover and stowage pocket which is great to keep the pack protected, clean and dry.
I’ve had no need yet to use the whistle on the chest strap buckle in anger but it’s pretty loud should you ever need it! The pack is smart enough to use on non-biking days and doesn’t look like a laptop bag (big bonus). The orange version I have is bright enough to be visible but not too bright to scream ‘cycling bag’ on non-biking days.
It does feel quite large when initially carrying the backpack, but as it is designed around a 17" laptop getting a smaller ‘backprint’ will be a challenge. This may be a challenge for smaller riders. It is something I have got used to, having commuted with laptops for a number of years now.
The Osprey Momentum 22 pack is an excellent well designed quality pack for all your daily commuting needs either on the bike, train, run or car.
- Really well thought out technical features to suit almost any commuter.
- Looks great on and off the bike.
- The backpack would benefit from more reflective strips on the rear. Two patches on the straps are not enough for a pack designed for commuting.
- The size may feel large for smaller backed riders.
- There’s no space for a water reservoir.
Price: £80, available from Osprey.
Proviz Reflect360 Women's Cycling Jacket
Upon first receipt of the Proviz Reflect360 Cycling Jacket the material and colour cannot fail to make you notice it. Described as a matt grey colour in daylight, it does light up in contact with any direct light whether sunlight or artificial light, so always has an element of being ‘lit up’.
The jacket is constructed from a robust waterproof outer shell with a mesh liner inside. This works well in terms of sliding on and off over fleeces, or other winter layers you may be wearing to keep warm as the weather closes in. With that in mind it becomes clear that this is not a lightweight, packable, ‘just in case’ jacket. This is robust, well-built and warm; designed to be worn and not carried.
In term of features there are two handy sized chest pockets (ideal for train tickets, work security pass, phone etc.), plus it has a robust full length front zip and two pit zips which allow a reasonable airflow. There is also a rear zipped pockets, internal pocket, fleecy collar, rear ventilation flap and Velcro adjustable cuffs, so you do get a lot of features for your money.
I tried a size 10, and found it very generous in size. This works fine if you are wearing layers underneath the jacket to keep warm while waiting for trains, or on slow commutes, but you may want to size down if you want a more snug fit.
So does the Reflect360 visibility thing work? Oh my goodness yes it does! It’s the brightest item of clothing I have ever seen! Any light triggers the reflective material, so even cycling in daylight hours will create a visible flash of light, but when it is hit by any lights in the night-time you really see the benefit of the 100% reflective outer-shell. It may even be too much for some people!
My only concern would be using this on a dull foggy morning or damp dusk. Without car headlights to lighten it up there is a risk that you could merge into the greyness that permeates our country at this time of year. But wearing it after dark and you will definitely not be missed!
The Proviz Reflect360 Cycling Jacket is ideal for any night-time winter commuter who is worried about visibility.
- 100% night-time visibility – no question.
- Lots of technical jacket features for your money.
- Heavyweight and warm so not suitable as a packable jacket, or for a high intensity commute.
Price: £74.99, available from Proviz.
dhb Flashlight Tights
I first came across these tights cycling to work. Riding along embankment on a dark autumnal morning, my eye caught a shining beacon of light 50 metres ahead of me.
Cycling up to a red light, I realised the beacon of light was actually the reflective detailing of the dhb Flashlight Tights. Sitting at the lights, I took a good look at the tights, they really looked fantastic. Super flattering and when out of a direct beam of light, the hexagonal reflective detailing was actually a nice touch to the appearance of the tights. I knew then and there that I needed to put these tights to the test.
As any hardened commuter knows, finding a pair of flattering, attractive high-viz tights can be a challenge. While effective on the bike, off it they look dowdy and personally I feel less inclined to hop off the bike and run errands in my gear on the way home which means my poor boyfriend and I are forced to endure eggs on toast for the fourth time that week!
Popping on the Size 10 dhb Flashlight Tights, the first thing I noticed was the fit. I am a very standard UK Size 10 and the sizing proved perfect. At 5′ 10" I am tall and am happy to report that they also didn’t end somewhere on my mid-calf.
Unlike other winter tights, the lycra used on these is relatively light, quite similar to a standard running tight which might prove a little chilly for those bone-aching mid-winter days. Although we have been informed that a warmer version will be available from the 1 November.
Elsewhere the Flashlight Tights have a zip at the ankles and silicone grippers. The reflective detailing is plentiful with hexagonal detailing on the thighs and back of the knee, on the ankle zips and just above the bum. dhb has used 3M Scotchlite reflective prints so when you have these on, you literally POP!
As much as I wanted to love every aspect of these tights, I did have one minor gripe. The stitching around the chamois comes down a little low on my upper thigh which caused a little bit of discomfort. The chamois itself is great – not too bulky.
While the stitching issue is not quite enough to prevent me from wearing them on my five mile commute, I know it would become an issue if my commute was any longer.
- A super flattering tight that looks as good on the bike as off it. And boy does that reflective detailing pop.
- The stitching issue on the chamois makes this tight a good choice as opposed to a great one. It might also be a little on the light side for those super chilly winter days.
Vulpine Cotton Rain Trousers
As I am sure all you readers know, waterproof trousers are an ugly necessity of being a British Cyclist – especially at this time of year when you can be guaranteed a good few soakings! And thankfully, Vulpine have delivered their usual stylish touch to the necessities in their EpicTM Cotton Rain Trousers.
The trousers come in a smart grey colour which will go nicely with any cycling jacket and have smart tailored seams which give them that expensive edge over other waterproof trousers. The seams and tailoring mean they cut into a slim line ankle, perfect for those who are more used to skinny jeans than waterproof sacks. Although I love the tailored fit they give, I tried an XS at first which I could barely get over my leg. The small ended up being the perfect fit for me size wise, however I feel they are a little too baggy in the mid leg area!
Unlike the standard types of waterproof trousers (the unflattering, unfashionable type) you find in the cycling market, they don’t have elastic bottoms. In one aspect this is great as they feel more feminine, on the other hand, it does mean they offer a little less protection from the splash off the road. Something you compromise for added style here.
The Vulpine Cotton Rain Trousers have high cut pockets on the front which are slightly impractical for storing anything in but do add to the style. On the back they have two more pockets, one with a magnetic clasp which you can use for storage.
Again, this is another nice touch Vulpine garments often offer – the ease of a magnetic clasp makes the pocket a great place to store your lock key as you can easily grab it out (perfect if the heavens have truly opened!).
The bottom of the trouser leg can be turned up to reveal three reflective strips. As the grey colour does prevent you from being seen in the dark, this is a nice touch. On the flipside, turning up the bottom does allow even more splash back from the surface water on the road.
At £139 the Vulpine Cotton Rain Trousers are priced significantly higher than other waterproofs available. This said, you can feel where you extra money is going with the cotton and style of the product. And, last but by no means least, the material isn’t called Epic for no reason!
As with their Soft Shelled jacket, the waterproofing is outstanding! The rain does quite literally run off of them, leaving the material almost dry behind it. So, for once, when you arrive, you don’t look like a total drowned rat!
- Tailored fit.
- Sleek grey colour.
- Incredible waterproofing.
- The price.
- Non-elasticated bottoms – remember to pack a spare pair of socks!
Price: £139, available from Vulpine.
Rapha Bomber Jacket
There is something special about Rapha products that I can’t quite put my finger on. For some reason when I pop on a Rapha product, I instantly feel good in it.
Rapha’s new commuter range for Spring 2014, has had me drooling and to be honest I am touch ashamed of myself. Put to the test though, I have to say that some of the items in the range have definitely favoured style over substance. Here are my thoughts on the Rapha Bomber Jacket.
With a silky finish, this jacket screams premium when you pick it up. Made from a water-resistant, breathable fabric, this has become my commuting jacket over the past couple of weeks.
The bomber style and colour (I opted for the bright orange but there is a more subdued navy one too) are right up my alley and despite the bike specific features within the jacket, I feel completely comfortable going from bike too bar in it.
I took a size medium which was just about big enough for my size UK10 frame, although I do have a very long body so a little extra length wouldn’t have gone astray.
On the bike, the jacket performs well. It is breathable but beware this jacket will not see you through a typical British downpour unscathed. I was extremely grateful of the drop-down storm guard which saved me from a wet bottom post downpour on my way home the other evening though. This is so discreetly stashed away, nobody will ever even know it exists!
In addition to the drop-down the jacket also features windstopper cuffs, and discreet high vis trims. The jacket also has two concealed zipped pockets in the front and a button-down patch pocket on the back.
Lastly and probably most important for me, the jacket washes really well. I managed to spill gravy the whole way down the front of the jacket (don’t ask!). A quick handwash later and the jacket was as good as new – PHEW!
There is no denying that this jacket is a delightful luxury if you have the cash to spare. It will take you from Spring commuting through to autumn and looks as good off the bike as it does on it.
- This jacket is perfect for fair weather commuting. It looks fantastic and feels great to wear.
- It has a hefty price tag and could do with a slightly longer length. It would have been great if the jacket was fully waterproof due to our unpredictable weather but I realise this would take away from the look and feel of the jacket.
Sizes: XXS – XL
The Pendleton Somerby Bicycle
If you are in the market for a sit up and beg or Dutch style bike, it is likely that you have come across the Pendleton Somerby hybrid bike. It is after all one of the top selling bikes in the ever-popular Pendleton Range.
Set up in 2012 by Victoria Pendleton after her success at the London Olympics, the range is sold exclusively in Halfords. Although if you are in the market for a second hand example, you can now find plenty on Gumtree and eBay.
The Pendleton Somerby is an upright traditional bicycle, otherwise know as a sit and beg or Dutch style bike. It is designed for slow, leisurely rides on good surfaces. In fact it is the perfect choice if you are a fan of cycling’s latest craze – The Slow Cycling Revolution.
Aesthetically the bike is really nice. Of course we may be biased, it comes in TWC green in addition to red, white and blue options which is complemented with a tan saddle and tan handlebar grips. Although it has to be said these were my two least favourite features of the bike.
While the stitching on the handlebars looks great, it is definitely an irritant and if you have sensitive hands like me will be the cause of the odd blister.
The saddle was another moot point for me. Saddles are very individual things and choosing the right saddle can be a bit of a minefield. On this particular occasion I think the saddle was just a little on the wide side for my frame. It does however feature springs for additional comfort which takes away the discomfort of a few of the bumps along the road.
Elsewhere though, the Pendleton Somerby performed pretty well. And is definitely set up for those who want to commute or cycle in regular clothes. A chain guard will save your clothes any damage from the chain while the step through frame is skirt friendly. Although it may be worth trying the Penny in Yo’ Pants trick to ensure there is no loss of dignity on a windy day.
The high riding position affords you good vision so you can keep an eye on road users around you and a luggage rack is already in place ready and waiting for a couple of stylish panniers.
In addition to that the bike also comes with mudguards as standard.
The bike has 7 gears, which is more than enough for tackling a relatively flat city like London.
Proviz REFLECT360 Rucksack
It really only takes a moment of searching online for a reflective rucksack to immediately realise there is not a lot on offer for cyclists. I mean, there’s plenty available to buy, but are there any that scream out on the page? No, not until I found this little gem of a backpack anyway.
The Proviz Reflect360 range has been a pretty exciting release in my books. It really has been developed with the city commuter in mind and is a very practical and affordable solution to staying safer on the bike.
First things first, the Reflect360 fulfilled its main duties as a commuter rucksack, by having more than enough space for all my belongings and feeling very secure and comfortable on my back. The padded fabric on the shoulders didn’t dig into my arms at all (even on the heavier backpack days) and the two front straps on the waist and chest ensured that it stayed in the right position throughout my journey.
The soft material with mesh lining on the back is really nice against your back, however it did make me a lot sweatier than normal. There are enough pockets on the outside, with two on each side that are large enough for an umbrella and a large water bottle.
There’s another nice zipped pocket on the front of the bag but no zipped pockets in the inside- something I personally like a lot in a rucksack as it makes it so much easier to know where anything is in your bag!
To my surprise, the Reflect360 fits a lot inside- seriously, I’m talking Mary Poppins style. However I always feel the problem with this means that I overpack, because if there’s space, I always end up filling it with pointless things.
The bag’s soft material also lets you cram more in than you should be able to, so I often get the feeling that I look like I have a large turtle’s shell on my back, because it literally will form the shape of whatever you have inside of it.
I honestly did not believe how bright a material could be. Reflective wise, the bag excels itself. It’s so bright, that I have often freaked myself out, as when any type of light hits it, it lights up immediately like a light in my room!
Wearing this backpack honestly gives you such an added relief on the bike, as you know that you’re doing everything you in your power, to stay visible. I also really like the futuristic sparkly look about the bag, it’s very up my street.
I do feel like the material of the bag is quite weak and not durable enough for a commuter rucksack. I’m quite scared that if anything heavier goes inside (and with my obsession with over packing) it will start to break. However with a reasonable price tag, the Proviz Reflect360 rucksack is a great purchase, just as long as it lasts!
- Very effective reflective qualities.
- Large amount of space inside.
- An attractive style.
- Material on the back makes me too hot.
- Doesn’t feel durable enough for a commuter rucksack that is going to last long.
Price: £69.99, available from Proviz.
Altura Night Vision Evo Jacket
I would rather ride my bike twice a day to and from work, driving through rain and icy wind than get on a packed train with someone’s smelly armpit in my face. And for that sort of commitment to commuting, good quality gear is required.
A staple of the cycling commuter, the classic Altura Night Vision Evo Jacket is a great piece of kit for days where anything could be thrown at you during those dark winter mornings and evenings. This jacket is certainly aimed at the commuter. It’s not something I would wear on long weekend training ride, it is too chunky to fold up and stash away in a back pocket.
The Altura Night Vision Evo Jacket is advertised as having 360 degree visibility, and I can honestly say that it excels in this department. Highly reflective panels feature on the front and back of the jacket along with around the zips, arms and tough wearing cuff fasteners. It also comes with the integrated i-Lumi™ light system which can flash at two different levels or remain constant. The i-Lumi™ simply pops out of its keeper if you want to take it off, and if you happen to lose it, replacements are available. The Altura Night Vision Evo Jacket comes in a range of colours, but I was particularly smitten with the vivid blue version I tested, and not just because it matched my bike!
The jacket has two zips are top notch. As someone that spends a lot of time outdoors up mountains and on bikes, I’m always wary of a garment sold as waterproof, but with potential weak points. These zippers are really well sealed on the front and the back zip pocket has an extra waterproof flap. The bonus is that the zips are super easy to open and close with gloves on as the zip tag is really long. A must for winter.
The material is fully mesh lined, and it is pretty breathable. I commuted in this for a few weeks, and I don’t hang about. I didn’t need many layers underneath. The top waterproof layer does a great job of keeping the wind out, which is brilliant for cold mornings. Pit and rear vents give options for extra ventilation.
The Altura Night Vision Evo Jacket gives an option to add on a hood, but this is sold separately at around £10. I wouldn’t recommend this for riding due to vision being blocked, but handy to have if you want to use this jacket off the bike as well.
A few weak design points have let the Altura Night Vision Evo jacket down however. Firstly, wearing this jacket with a backpack creates an uncomfortable problem. For starters, the i-Lume™ system becomes redundant. Even more of an issue is the back pocket zip tag, great for easy opening and closing but it really digs in when you’ve got a backpack on. No issue if you use panniers.
The second problem is that when riding, the sleeves are simply too short and the dreaded wrist ‘gap’ appears, never nice, especially in winter. The jacket body size fitted me ok, but I would drown in a size up just to get the sleeve length.
I can see why this jacket remains a solid choice for the commuting market, it’s a great piece of kit and does come highly recommended. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite work for all- back pack wearers with long arms, to be precise!
- Excellent reflective detail.
- Great colour choices.
- Good waterproofing.
- Uncomfortable with a back pack.
- Short sleeve length.
Price: £79.99 (RRP £99.99), available from Evans Cycles.