The perfect fit
Finding the right riding gear for your body shape can be a challenge—Wheel Women‘s Tina McCarthy looks at the options for riders who need a roomier garment.
Ding-dong! The doorbell rings. It’s that exciting moment when my new cycling gear arrives from the online order. I can’t wait to rip it open—I will look “fabulous” in this new jersey! But wait, something isn’t right—they’ve sent me the wrong size! Surely they’ve made a mistake?
Have you ever made that online order and the gear turns out to be the size and cut of a large garbage bag, or so tiny in all the places that count it is like wearing an external lap band procedure?
For those who fit into the curvier category of body shape like me, finding cycling gear which fits well, looks great and has the technical qualities needed is
a challenge for men and women.
As a cycling coach, I wear cycling gear every day, so I buy lots of it. But finding gear that fits my body shape has been a constant issue—I’m no waif and never will be.
I have a 41” (104cm) bust size, and my hips pretty much follow that too.
Despite what you may think my doctor reckons I’m in great shape. I am also a serious rider—and just because I wear a larger size, doesn’t mean I’m not out on the bike every day—so cycling gear manufacturer’s need to take note.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) the average Australian woman is 161cm tall and weighs in at 72kg. That puts me spot on for height and 3kg over on the weight. I’ve got lumps and bumps where I’d rather not have them, a bust many would feel blessed to own, and a set of hips which challenge any pair of knicks. That’s just the way I am—I actually feel pretty good about my body these days! But finding gear to fit has been an ongoing saga.
I asked my cycling buddy Peter Mathison how he felt about the topic. Peter weighs in at 90kg and is 173cm tall. That means according to the ABS he is 2cm shorter and 4kg heavier than the average Australian male. Peter serves as a member of the Australian Defence Force, so I wouldn’t say he’s unfit…to the
contrary, I’ve cycled many hills with Peter and he does just fine.
Since I’ve known Peter, he’s lost a fair bit of weight, but he has described himself as being on the “larger size of big”.
However, since he too is not far off being “average”, according to the statistics, we decided to experiment. Peter usually wears L or XL, so we looked at what was available in one store in that size range—it was clear that is not Peter’s size in cycling gear! After much ego deflating, we realized that Peter would need a 2XL or 3XL to get anything, which was a reasonable fit, but suddenly the options were limited. Coincidentally, everything left on the sale racks was either marked as S, M, or L… does this indicate the larger sizes are the best sellers?
There are many brands whose largest women’s size fits a bust of 36” or 38”. That counts me as “almost Ms Average” out instantly—by a long way! I refuse to squeeze into gear which makes my legs look like a string of frankfurts and body like a shrink-wrapped walrus! But there are a few brands out there which actually understand larger cyclists’ need to be catered for.
So rejoice ladies and gentlemen of ‘average’ and larger sizes, get out of those shrink-wrap jerseys, put away the baggy shorts and sloppy t-shirts and ride proud with your curves and beautifully fitting lycra!
Our curvy person’s gear guide
Wider is better! Look for wide waist bands and cuffs on the legs – narrow bands create the Frankfurter look. Try to get a little bit of compression in the fabric because it holds escaped curves in a little better.
Personally I think bibs work really well for larger women and men. You won’t be forever hitching them up over the bumps and they feel great… I’m a total convert. Until of course I need to visit the ladies’ room!
Go for jerseys and jackets that are described as ‘club cut’, not race cut, or ones which offer a ‘relaxed’ fit—club cut offers a more gentle shape but isn’t boxy. Longer jerseys are great too and some brands make their women’s lines in larger sizes a little longer, with the sleeves cut longer as well.
I would never fit into their gear… or so I thought! The new Anna Meares signature line has been designed specifically for the ‘average’ Aussie woman (thanks Anna!) Sizes go up to 3XL in that range and the men’s gear goes up to a 5XL! We found the Santini gear looks great, has fabulous technical qualities and is cut to flatter.
For more check out: www.bikesportz.com.au
Both Peter and I wore 2XL. Cut beautifully to flatter, is a little more relaxed than some brands, has fabulous colours, is longer in the hem line and has great technical quality. Really accurate size charts, leggings have generally all got the wider waist and leg bands.
For more check out: www.pearlizumi.com.au
I don’t think you can go wrong. The gear fits well, is priced well and is pretty easy to find at lots of stores. Their new women’s range is cut really well with great colours. The jersey runs a little on the short side in the length, but wasn’t too short. I wore the largest women’s size of XXL, and Peter needed the largest men’s in XXXL.
For more check out: www.bbbcycling.com.au
A Swedish brand with beautiful cut. The jerseys are slightly longer in the body and arm length, and pretty generous in size for an XL, which I needed.
For more check out: www.craftsports.com.au
This women’s specific brand from the USA is a favourite of mine. The website has accurate descriptions of cut and sizing, but the best part is that the sizing goes up to a 3X, which is a 49-50” bust (124-127cm). It’s a great range with really reasonable pricing and technical quality great for recreational cyclists.
For more check out: www.shebeest.com
These brands are available from Australian bike stores.
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