Occasionally, I write here about my frustration with finding appropriate fitting cycling clothing. As someone who does not meet the societal expectations of the typical-bodied cyclist, it's frustrating to look for comfortable, decent looking, well-fitting cycling clothes. For every day riding, I find wearing my regular clothes to be sufficient. Most of my wardrobe consists of wool or cotton, both of which breathe well and are easy to launder. However, when it comes to distance cycling, there are just realities to what is needed to be comfortable. Padded shorts are a necessity to keep from bruising of soft tissue and wearing super loose fitting tops just causes excess flapping of material against the skin. Wearing every day clothing to participate in more sport-type riding has not been horribly successful for me, so I'm always on the hunt for things that work.
There are a few brands/companies out there that stock larger sized women's cycling apparel. However, what is considered "larger" by cycling standards is not what is typically thought of in every day clothing as bigger. In every day clothing, I often fall in the middle of the spectrum between what is considered misses sizes in the U.S. and plus sizes. It is beneficial in that I can shop both sides of the aisle, but when it comes to cycling clothing, most items run snug (to put it nicely), so looking at plus sized options is often my only choice. Therein lies the problem.
|Wearing a wool Ibex jersey and Terry cycling knickers in 2012 at the start of Venus de Miles|
My biggest beef with all of this is that no one should be punished for trying to work out - regardless of his/her size - and not being able to find appropriate clothing is punishment in my eyes (sometimes physically in that it can be painful to ride in ill-fitting/inappropriate clothes, and definitely emotionally when frustration sinks in from too many searches and not enough results). Clothing that can be found is sparse at best. Instead of having endless options for chamois thickness, materials, or lengths, there is often 1 to (if lucky) 3 choices to be found. The gap gets worse the larger a person's size too.
|*Image from Road Holland|
Pearl Izumi stocks up to size XXL in women's cycling clothing and seems to run more true to size (generally speaking) than most cycling apparel, but they do not offer any extended options beyond.
Team Estrogen has sizes up to 4X in their "plus size" specialty shop from a variety of manufacturers, but fit has been very iffy for me on most of the brands they stock (from being far too baggy and/or too long to being too small to simply not sitting right on the body) including Terry, Canari, SheBeest, Moving Comfort (though the items I've found with M.C. have no padding and are more basic workout type clothes). Additionally, much of what is stocked is non-cycling specific gear, and the items that are cycling-specific tend to be unappealing aesthetically and/or ill-fitting.
When visiting Terry's plus size specific pages, the options are all-too-often few and far between. I have found the larger sizes in the regular sizes can have an acceptable fit for me personally (but this varies quite a bit and is always a gamble), but why isn't there a cross over to include the same options in larger sizes?
Aerotech offers a few items for both men and women who require larger sizes, but for women, much like Team Estrogen's site, the same brands are available (from Terry, Canari, etc) and are limited.
I was happy to learn from one of the owners himself that Road Holland offers shorts and jerseys up to size 3XL in women's (and I even wrote a bit about them - women's and men's, if you're interested). I do love these jerseys, but am still hoping they'll make bibs for women again and even branch out into possibly a sleeveless version of the full-zip jerseys.
My understanding is that at one point Icebreaker offered women's sizes up to 2XL, but I have not seen anything over an XL size on their website for some time now, and cycling jerseys and shorts seem to have completely disappeared.
Many of the women on cycling forums who run into sizing issues seem to head straight to men's clothing as an option, but clothing is definitely cut differently for men and women, not to mention that larger men have a difficult time finding options, which is to say that there is still often a limit in sizes for men's cycling gear as well.
Although I could rant on about the injustice and difficulty of finding the right items, I'm actually pondering the idea of making some sample items myself. I am by no means a seamstress and about the best I can usually manage is a half-way decent hem on a pair of pants, but I figure it's worth a shot - even if it's just a test for myself. In fact, I even have a couple yards of merino wool on its way to me to experiment with (since that is my preferred fabric). While I realize nothing will likely come from it, I feel as though I have to do something to ease the frustration.
If you've been on a hunt for larger women's cycling clothing, what has been your experience? Do you have brands to add to the list above? If so, please feel free to comment. When I wrote a few years ago, I had been in contact with a few different cycling gear manufacturers who had spoke about the possibility of extended sizing, but that doesn't seem to have happened (and goodness knows if history is an indicator, there won't be much variety available). Has anyone else had better luck?
**I'm editing this post to add SprintDesign to the list. When I made the original list I'd completely forgot about them, but I appreciate that they offer sizes from youth all the way up through size 6XL (both men's and women's). To be fair, I have never ordered from them, and they are in Australia, but they have an extensive collection and lots of options, so it is possibly something to check out as well. If anyone has ordered through them, please feel free to chime in. I'd be interested in hearing your experiences.