Cycling kit for curvy women – the 2015 edition, Part 1, “plus sizes”
Of all the things I’ve blogged about, one of the subjectss that gets most views are my posts from 2013 on cycling clothing for “bigger” and “curvy” women (Part 1, “plus sizes” and Part 2, XL & XXL). I wrote them because at UK size 18 (US 14, Aus 20, Eu 46) I find finding kit really hard, as cycling gear is notoriously weird when it comes to sizing. Things across the board tend to be sized small, so even women who normally wear size L (UK 14/US 10/France 42/Aus 16) can find themselves too big for most brands, and feeling shitty about one’s body, or struggling to find a jersey that fits is never the best way to feel good about cycling.
BUT! There are companies that understand that women who don’t fit the “skinny” stereotype love their bikes too, and even better? There are more about more of them every year. So here’s my updated 2015 “Cycling kits for curvy women”, post taking in clothes that fit “large” and large women, women with big boobs or broad shoulders, and more – anything over UK 18 (XXL/USA 14), with an emphasis on companies that go larger.
I’m planning a second post for companies that do L/XL, and if you want to share more companies you’ve seen, or especially, that you love for any sizes, please do let me know in the comments, on twitter, or by email at prowomenscycling [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’ll make a third post. And if you’re a tall woman, or know one, and have found kit that fits you, please do share it, because I know women like you would love to know!
As always, I don’t get any incentives to include any of these brands, they’re all things I’ve found or have been recommended. And before I start, a word about sizings. There seem to be 2 schools of thought about the conversion between USA & other international sizes, if it’s 1 size below UK (US 16=UK 18) or two (US 14=UK 18, eg), so I strongly recommend that you check out the companies’ actual sizing charts. And while a lot of places might include “European” sizes, this usually means Germany/Netherlands/Scandinavia, as French and Spanish sizes are different, and Italian are different too (basically Italian clothes size very small). I hate measuring myself, personally, but that feeling of getting something new and having the excitement turn sour when things are under-sized is worse. I am assuming that this table is ok, and this table includes the breakdown of those sizes in inches & cm.
And if you’re in the UK, like me, and buying from abroad, just be careful shipping from overseas. I’ve been stung by customs fees on presents, or customs fees that cost more than a t-shirt did, so if you’re in the UK buying from places like the USA or Australia, ask the company to make sure they include customs fees, or if they don’t, to mark it as a gift, and worth about £20, because otherwise you could be cursing. Can’t promise it’ll work, but it’ll make your life easier…. If you’re not in the UK, check how your post service approaches this, because horror stories abound.
But enough of that, let’s go shopping!
When I tweeted asking for recommendations, my timeline was immediately full of people telling me about FLAB, the women’s range from Fat Lad At The Back. It seems like a very British company name to me, and I know some people feel uncomfortable with having that brand all over their body, but those people are in luck, as apparently the range comes with and without the logo (though that could be men only). They also have some clever products, like this reflective jersey, for when you’re riding on a hot night and don’t want to take a coat, or the long-sleeved version.
The range includes short- and long-sleeved jerseys starting at £49.99 for a short-sleeved jersey, things for your legs, and jackets, and the sizing runs from 34 aka UK 8/10 up to 50 aka UK 24/26 (26 is USA 3X/EU 52/France 56/Italy 58/Australia 28). Their sizing guide includes some handy instructions as well as just the stats, and they’ll work out international shipping prices before you need to enter any details. They seem very friendly, so if you have questions (eg if you want to know if they’ll fit tall types) email them and ask.
So what are they like in real life? There’s a review of their pedal pushers, on Road.cc, and their reviewer, Caroline, also has a review of their long-sleeved jersey. I do love that they have actual bigger, happy looking women in some of their product shots too – nice!
When I first asked for recommendations, people pointed out another British brand, based in Somerset. The website is pretty basic, but easy to use, and there are nice, bright colours, including specific cycling jerseys and general exercise tops from £19.99, jackets in fleuro and ‘normal’ colours, and for legs a range from baggy 3/4 trousers to winter tights at £49.99. They also do women’s padded underwear, for commuting or riding when you don’t want to wear gear. The sizes go up to UK 20 (Aus 22, France 50, Italy 52, USA 16/2X) and their sizing chart is here. You need to email them for shipping charges outside the UK, and as it’s not exactly easy to work out what goes up to what size, you might need to ask that too.
I’ll come back to British makes, but maybe you’re in the USA and thinking “what about us?”. Well, you’re in luck, because there are some great companies that ship all over the world. Ready to get excited? I’ll start with a huge shop…
Back in 2013, the fabulous megster sent me details of this company, who’s mission is to provide kit so that every woman can run, bike and swim. Their sizes go from USA 2/XS (UK 4, Fra 34, Aus 8) right up to USA 28/4XL (UK 30, Aus 32 I’m guessing), and they have a handy plus sized cycling shop, which you can search for under your size (they recommend you check each brand’s own sizing, but that’s easy to find on each garment page). They also have sections for long/tall bodies, maternity wear, petite, youth and more – and each section has a great search function down the side so you can easily find what you’re after, whether that’s based on size (including bra size), colour, cost or more.
Their own brand combines clothes for tall AND plus sized women, and includes jerseys that you can convert you can convert between short-and long-sleeved including in steampunk, snake-charmer and spring themes. There are tons of companies that sell these kind of funky designs, but it’s very rare they think of bigger women when they do so.
I can’t find how much delivery outside of the USA costs on their shipping fees page, but there are lots of ways to contact them with any questions, including, for USA people, on a toll-free phone number.
Right now, Team Estrogen have a sale on Shebeest plus sized cycling clothing. This includes a range of vivid coloured jerseys and vibrant patterns, while over on the Shebeest site, they’re selling the more recent range of tops (hover over each product for different colour options if, like me, you’re easily confused) as well as mostly black bottoms and a couple of accessories, including this nifty cycling shrug, for women who tend to lose one armwarmer, that sadly only goes up to XL. In fact, you can’t search the full range by size (though you can on Team Estrogen) but pick each category and you can pick your size down the side, using their size chart for guidance. They go up to USA 3X (possibly USA 22/Aus 26/Ita 56/Fra 54/UK 24) and while you can’t buy directly from them, they have a physical & online suppliers page, and various ways to contact them to ask.
Another USA brand you’ll see on Team Estrogen are Terry, which were recommended to me back in 2013. They have a specific plus size shop on their site, but plenty of the products in the general shop go up to 2XL (US 18/UK 20/Ger 46/Fra 50/Ita 52/Aus 22) AND they show the available sizes for each product on the thumbnails (this shop-by-size thing seems obvious, but it’s amazing how many sites don’t have it as an option). Their biggest size is US 4X (I think that’s US 28, Ita 58, Fra 56, UK 30, Aus 32 at a guess, but each items has specific sizings on the same page, which is very handy).
They have some really interesting products, too, which show they’re thinking about their plus size customers. The sell liners, basically underwear with chamois pads up to XXXL, for when you don’t want to wear lycra, but want the comfort of bike gear, a combination shorts-and-skirt combo, for people who are halfway there but don’t want their backside on display thankyouverymuch (me) up to XXXL, and a wrapper, for women who don’t mind riding in lycra, but once they stop want to pull something out of their bag to go to the cafe etc. I covet this one)… and the product I never knew existed until I came to Terry, SKORTS! a short/skirt combo, which you can find in plus sizes, or with the tunics/bike dresses up to XXL (US 18/UK 20 etc… or maybe US 16, check each item) What else? A bolero up to XXL, for women who are always losing an armwarmer, and…. just check out the site, there’s tons of things you never realised you needed until now!
Like most American sites, customers can leave reviews on all the items, but Caroline on Road.cc has reviewed their cyclobra (which goes up to USA XXL) and their cyclobrief (padded underwear, goes up to USA XXL). You can find their sizing, shipping costs (which admittedly are heavy for internationals), and sale section on their website, and check out your favourite online and local retailers, in case they sell any Terry goods.
Continuing the American theme, but with Dutch inspiration, we’re going boutique now – and if the prices are a bit high, you’ll get 10% off if you sign up to their mailing list.
They came recommended back in 2013, and they’re still recommended now. They go up to US XXXL (which seems to be US 20/UK 24/Ita 56/Aus 26, but definitely check the size guide) they only have 8 women’s products, but sometimes that’s enough, and each comes in a range of colours. The shipping costs are here ($30 outside of North America) and if you want to know what they’re like in real life, Lois May Miller reviewed the Montfoort short-sleeved jersey for Road.cc, and if you have questions, there are contact details here, a pop-up live questions box on their site, and they’re active on twitter.
OK, OK, I hear the hardcore women among you yell, skirts and pretty jerseys and shorts are ok, but I’m a serious cyclist who’s put on weight/had a baby/naturally big boned etc – where can I find plus-size bibs?
I have to admit, I’ve tried and tried, and failed so far, but if anyone can help with women’s specific bib shorts, PLEASE let me know. It’s amazing how many brand names don’t have any sizing on their site. Even finding UK size 18 (US 14, Aus 20, Ita 50, Fra 46) is hard – I think these Northwave Venus bibs/body go up to 18 (check the size guide, but I think they’re the only ones Evans, for example, sell – but it’s hard to tell you can’t search by size. Wiggle have a couple at UK 18, and Team Estrogen have some at XXL but nothing over… and again, check the sizing…
Please do send me more recommendations – I’ll put up a Part 2 soon….