We’ve all probably purchased inexpensive cycling clothes online to save money. But after a couple of months of wearing and washing, they seem to break down and stretch out. Is this our penalty for being cheap, or do all cycling clothes stretch over time, no matter their quality?
We’ll answer that question in this article. We’ll also talk about how you can stretch your cycling clothes if they’re just a bit too small when you bought them.
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Do Cycling Bibs Stretch?
Over time and with regular washing and use, your cycling bibs will eventually stretch out a bit. For example, you might find the elastic gripper bands on the legs are not gripping as tightly, or the overall fit isn’t as snug when the Lycra starts to break down. But this depends on a number of factors.
High-quality bibs will be less prone to stretching than bibs made with cheaper materials. However, any clothing item made with elastic or Lycra will eventually lose its stretchiness. Bibs especially get a lot of wear and tear because of the stress placed on them: no matter how you move on the bike, you’re either stretching out the legs or the shoulder straps.
If the garment is improperly cared for, it will lose its shape much quicker. Cheaply made bibs also lose their shape much sooner in general. You may want to keep this in mind when shopping for your next pair of bibs. Cheaper bibs may save you money upfront, but high-quality bibs will last longer, even through plenty of washing.
How to Wash Bibs
According to biycling.com, you should put bibs in the washing machine on a gentle cycle to properly wash your garment. If you have one, place bibs in a garment bag so the bib straps don’t get twisted up with your other clothes and get damaged. Don’t use hot water and don’t put them in the dryer; bibs will last longer if allowed to air dry. No special detergent is needed: in fact, Pearl Izumi tests their cycling clothing with regular old Tide.
However, skip the fabric softener. Fabric softener can break down the fabric’s stretchiness, making it wear out faster. Fabric softener can ruin even high quality bibs.
How to Stretch Out Your Bibs
What if you purchased an expensive pair of bib shorts and you find they are just a little bit too tight? There are a few things you can do to stretch them out. Keep in mind, the chamois won’t stretch, but the rest of the bibs probably will.
For a Slight Stretch
First, heat and humidity help fabric stretch. So if you place them in the bathroom while you’re taking a hot shower and then throw them on, the heat and moisture from the shower may help them stretch out just enough.
For More Stretch
If you need your bibs to stretch out even more, soak them in hot water and wear them while they are wet (I don’t recommend you ride in wet bibs however; just wear them around the house). Once the bibs are completely dry, you can remove them, and they’ll be more comfortable for your next wearing.
Of course, if you would prefer not to wear wet bibs, another way to do this is to soak your bibs in hot water and then lay them on a flat surface. Next, stretch the bibs out by hand and secure them with heavy objects, just like you’re trying to flatten out a poster that’s been rolled up. Once the bibs are dry, they’ll have stretched out a bit.
It can be tricky getting them to just the right size though, so a little trial and error may be necessary.
How Tight Cycling Bibs Should Be
How tight your cycling bibs should be really comes down to personal preference. They should fit snug enough to stay in place and keep your chamois in the right spot, as well as create a smooth surface to reduce friction. However, they shouldn’t be so tight that they cause your skin to bulge out, irritate you or cut off circulation.
Some bibs are meant to be compression garments to help reduce muscle soreness and may fit a little bit more snugly. But even these shouldn’t be so snug as to be uncomfortable.
Do Cycling Jerseys Stretch?
Cycling jerseys do have some stretch to them, but many jerseys won’t stretch as much as bibs do. That being said, just like with bibs, the Lycra and elastic fibers in a jersey will break down over time, causing it to lose its stretchiness. But if your jersey is too tight, you can stretch the fabric just like bibs.
How Tight Cycling Jerseys Should Be
There are several different jersey fits, and many companies will divide these fits up into categories. Generally, though, jerseys fall into two styles of fit: race fit and club fit.
Race fit, sometimes called aero fit, is tighter and more form-fitting. These jerseys tend to have a very slim cut or be so tight that it is like a second skin. Race fit is also a little bit shorter in the front so the zipper doesn’t bunch up when you’re in an aggressive forward-leaning riding position.
Club fit gives you a little more room in the arms and waist. Club fit is a little more comfortable but a little less aerodynamic.
Both types of jerseys should be relatively form-fitting and be slim enough that the fabric doesn’t flap in the wind. Elastic or silicone grippers on the sleeves and waist should be snug, but not so tight that they cut off circulation.
How to Wash Your Cycling Jersey
Your cycling jersey can be washed on a gentle cycle in your washing machine. I prefer to hang mine to dry, although some jerseys can be tumble dried on low…just check the tag to make sure!
How to Stretch Your Cycling Jersey
You can stretch your cycling jersey in a similar manner to stretching your cycling bibs. For example, a jersey placed in the bathroom during a hot shower will stretch slightly.
If you need to stretch it some more, you can soak it in hot water and then wear it until it dries. You can also lay it flat to dry, then stretch the jersey and weight it down with some heavy objects. Alternatively, you might want to fit it over the back of a chair, though this may cause it to stretch out too much, and also wouldn’t help it form to the shape of your body…since you’re likely not built like a chair!
Some jerseys might not stretch. For example, if the jersey is made of polyester rather than cotton or Lycra, it might not stretch. Silicone grippers will probably not stretch, either. So if these are too tight, you might just need to purchase a larger jersey.
Do Cycling Shorts Stretch?
Cycling shorts are very similar to bibs. They’ll be made of the same stretchy material that will lose its stretch over time. The difference between cycling shorts and bibs is that shorts will have an elastic waistband while bibs will have shoulder straps instead.
It is pretty common for shorts to feel a bit too snug around the waist, which is why many cyclists prefer to ride in bibs.
How Tight Cycling Shorts Should Be
Cycling shorts should be very form-fitting. The shorts should be tight enough to hold the chamois in place. However, you shouldn’t have any skin bulging out at the seams or edges: this could mean the shorts are too tight, which could lead to irritation and discomfort, especially when you begin to sweat.
How to Stretch Your Cycling Shorts
Unfortunately, you might not be able to stretch out the elastic waistband without doing damage to the shorts because the elastic in the waist will stretch differently than the rest of the shorts. To stretch cycling shorts, you can soak them in hot water and then stretch the waist gently, holding them down with weights until they dry completely.
There really is no substitute for finding the perfect fitting pair of cycling shorts, bibs, or jersey. But it can be tricky to find something that fits just right…especially since so many of us fall in between sizes (so frustrating!) But don’t give up: if your cycling kit is a little too small, you can break them in over time or work at stretching them until you get that perfect fit.