Recently Total Women’s Cycling was contacted by Tanya Newman – she was struggling to find cycling clothing for her plus sized frame, and feedback on social media suggested she’s far from alone. Our interview with her sparked the interest of Tina McCarthy – who designs kit for women in sizes 6 – 24 under her ‘Wheel Women’ brand.
There are a couple of brands creating plus sized cycling clothing - Fat Lass at the Back is the major UK brand (though they’re still new and a pretty small team)! Of course, people still want choice and so Tina sent Tanya some kit to try out.
Wheel Women is based in Australia – but the kit can be shipped to the UK and Tina is offering free shipping to the first 20 TWC customers to buy, with the code TWC25. Here’s how the kit fared…
Words: Tanya Newman
On first removing this jersey from the packaging I was immediately struck by the softness of the material, which appeared to be incredibly lightweight.
The purple colour was complemented by attractive patterns on the sleeves, which also appeared on the rear pockets. The cuffs had no elastic, which I appreciated and they were comfortable and fitted well.
I was impressed by the care taken to graduate the body colour, attracting the eye upwards and away from the stomach area, up towards the head, neck and shoulders.
One of the key features of a cycling jersey is the three rear pockets, which allow you to carry tools and food as well as of course the essential phone on a ride. This jersey ticked that box, with three rear compartments. I was able to easily fit my iPhone into one of these with no pulling. However, the light fabric meant I was concerned about overloading the pockets, should this cause the back of the jersey to be pulled down. The back pockets did feature reflective stripes, and I thought this was a smart and sensible added touch.
Wheel Women have opted for a full zip in this design, which I liked. I did however find I needed to use both hands to operate the zip – so it’s not that easy to un-do whilst riding should you find you’re overheating. This said, the material was beautifully breathable and as a result I rarely felt I was getting too hot whilst riding.
In terms of overall fit, I did feel a couple of extra inches in length in the body might have improved the jersey – it was shorter than I would have liked. At 5 ft 4, I’m a fairly average height with a 48 inch chest. I chose the 2XL but in hindsight the 3XL may have given me the extra length I sought.
In the past I’ve always worn cycling shorts and tights that are secured at the waist – so this was my first experience wearing bib tights. I really liked the fit – the body was snug and the cut came high on the tummy area making me feel supported.
The chamois was of a good width and I was comfortable when riding a 20-mile loop – I’d anticipate that these would remain comfortable on longer rides and have a 50-mile test planned for the weekend.
The fabric was soft and lightweight - just like the jersey and felt cool on the legs. The three-quarter design meant I had some extra coverage, but plenty of breathability thanks to the fabric used – making these ideal for the shoulder seasons of autumn and winter when there’s a bite in the air but still potential to overheat. Since the fabric is so delicate, I am a little concerned that after a few washes and wear the material will become stretched and see through. But time will only tell on that.
The majority of the material was black, with grey stripes that ran along the leg, and a grey panel across the back, which featured the ‘Wheel Women’ logo proudly sitting over my bottom. I’d really rather this wasn’t there, as I feel it draws more attention to this area.
There were also logos on the leg cuffs, and I’m not a big fan of clothing that carries overt brand names. This said, the leg cuffs were not elastic but felt snug on my calves, and I liked the added colour touches here.
Overall First Impressions
So far, I’ve tried these on, and taken the set for a spin – though I’ve yet to try them over longer distances. I liked the bib tights and found these to be very comfortable, but I wasn’t keen on the extra logos dotted over the deisgn. The jersey was really comfortable, I loved the lightness of the material. Aside from being a little short on my body, it offered a good fit. I think both would be great for wearing when riding on a hot day, and the 3/4ers could be carried through into autumn.
My only real concern when it comes to this kit is the cost. Budgets will vary per rider, but at £88 for the bibs and £82 for the jersey, plus post and packaging, it all adds up and there are less expensive versions out there on the market in the UK.
Looking for advice? Check out our article ‘Plus Size Cycling Clothing: Where and What to Buy’.