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Best gravel bike clothing: what to wear for your off-road excursions

Three gravel cyclists - two male, one female - resting at the top of a gravel climb and looking into the distance
(Image credit: Rapha)

The best gravel bike clothing has developed an aesthetic of its own that's distinct from other types of riding. Roadies have typically gone skin-tight, with brands boasting of the watts saved by their gear's features like dimpled surfaces and flat seams. At the extreme are pocket-less skinsuits for that extra turn of speed. On the other hand, the typical mountain biker will be out in a loose t-shirt and baggy shorts or pants, even if there are padded Spandex liner shorts underneath.

Gravel bike clothing falls somewhere in between. There's a range of options for gravel biking from slightly more relaxed and more rugged Spandex through to loose-fitting shorts and tops that are still a bit more fitted than mountain bike clothing.

All the big clothing brands have jumped on the gravel bike clothing bandwagon, with each having its own take on what the gravel rider needs. Sometimes it's just a tweak to the road kit range, but often there are unique features that you might find a useful addition for your off-road drop bar riding. 

We've rounded up our pick of the best gravel bike clothing below, but if you want more advice on what to look for, head to our buyer's guide at the bottom of the page.

Best gravel bike clothing: our picks

Sportful Supergiara jacket

(Image credit: Sportful)

Sportful Supergiara jacket

Best for carrying capacity

Reasons to buy

+
Nine pockets
+
Quality insulation
+
Water resistant fabric

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive at full price

The Sportful Giara and Supergiara ranges are the brand's gravel clothing offering. The Supergiara jacket is designed to keep you warm on colder days, with Polartec Alpha insulation and water repellent outer fabric. With no less than nine pockets - two on the side, one on the chest and a doubled up set of rear pockets - there's plenty of carrying capacity for snacks and other essentials, so there's no excuse for hitting the wall on your off-grid rides.

Castelli Puffy

(Image credit: Castelli)

Castelli Unlimited Puffy Jacket

Best for on/off bike use

Reasons to buy

+
Plenty of insulation
+
Nanoflex windproof/water resistant outer fabric
+
Four pockets

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as compressive as some padded jackets

Castelli labels its gravel range "Unlimited" and this puffy jacket looks to mix up insulation for cold rides with protection from the elements. The puff comes from Polartec Alpha insulation and the rain and wind proofing is courtesy of Castelli's Nanoflex outer fabric and a DWR coating.

You get a total of four pockets for your extras, including two zippered ones out front so that your valuables stay put and two open ones out back for on-ride nutrition.

7mesh Skypilot Jacket

(Image credit: 7mesh)

7Mesh Skypilot Jacket

Best for when the rain keeps coming

Reasons to buy

+
Great rain protection
+
Packable
+
Full hood and dropped tail

Reasons to avoid

-
Not insulated so you'll need to carry another layer if it's cold

7Mesh is one of the original brands that developed a broad range of gravel clothing. If you're looking for a go-to waterproof shell jacket for the bulk of your gravel riding, its Skypilot is made of seam sealed Gore Tex Paclite Plus, so it packs down real small and, as you'd expect, it's highly efficient at keeping the rain out without you getting damp inside from condensation.

Other features like a full hood, dropped tail and elasticated cuffs make the 7Mesh Skypilot the ideal companion for a wet day in the saddle.

Endura Reiver jersey

(Image credit: Endura)

Endura GV500 Reiver jersey

Best for tech features with a relaxed fit

Reasons to buy

+
Six pockets
+
Lightweight knit fabric for durability

Reasons to avoid

-
Polyester can get whiffy

Endura's less casual top (we've covered its Foyle t-shirt below), the Reiver jersey is made of a recycled knit polyester with mesh side panels for added ventilation. There's a breast pocket in addition to the three open rear pockets and the side mesh stash pockets, so there's loads of carrying room.

Sportful Giara jersey

(Image credit: Sportful )

Sportful Giara jersey

Best for functionality with style

Reasons to buy

+
Quality construction without pocket sag
+
Stylish looks

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite a close fit

From Sportful's lower-priced Giara gravel range, this jersey still doesn't skimp on features, with four pockets and a looser cut for on-bike comfort, but without sag when loaded up. There's a brushed finish and a subtle marled look that's stylish as well as functional. It does have a close fit overall which might not appeal to all.

Endura Foyle jersey

(Image credit: Endura)

Endura GV500 Foyle Jersey

Best for a relaxed look

Reasons to buy

+
Merino blend fabric
+
Gravel-specific cut

Reasons to avoid

-
Fewer pockets than more roadie-style tops

If you want a more relaxed style technical t-shirt, the Endura GV500 Foyle jersey avoids the road-going look. It's designed to work better on a drop bar bike than an MTB jersey though, with a longer, closer cut and sleeves set a bit more forward. 

There's also a zipped rear pocket and the Foyle jersey is made of merino blend fabric to up its odor resistance.

Castelli Unlimited shorts

(Image credit: Castelli)

Castelli Unlimited bib shorts

Best for protection in a fall

Reasons to buy

+
Large thigh pockets plus two pockets in the straps
+
Designed for abrasion resistance in a fall

Reasons to avoid

-
Kiss pad isn't Castelli's most technical

Castelli uses its road-going Kiss2 Air seat pad in its Unlimited gravel bib shorts, but backs this up with a load of gravel-specific features. That includes double layer heavy duty abrasion resistant fabric on the legs, so if you take a tumble you've got some extra protection. 

The double layer also lets you store extra kit on the legs, with a flap at the top to keep things in place. For even more storage there are two pockets built into the rear of the bib straps.

Sportful Supergiara bibshorts

(Image credit: Sportful)

Sportful Supergiara bib shorts

Best for robustness

Reasons to buy

+
Gravel specific seat pad
+
Three pockets
+
Cut for a more upright position

Reasons to avoid

-
A bit heavy for hotter weather rides

Another piece from Sportful's Supergiara range, the Supergiara bib shorts have the pockets that are typical of the best gravel clothing, but which you won't find on road-oriented bibshorts. There are two pockets in the rear of the shorts and a mesh pocket on the left leg, upping your carrying capacity. 

There's a gravel-specific DMS seat pad and the Supergiara shorts are made of extra-tough fabric, while the cut is designed for the more upright riding position that gravel riding typically involves than Sportful's road-going shorts.  

Specialized RBX ADV shorts

(Image credit: Specialized)

Specialized RBX ADV Bib Shorts

Best for bibs' carrying capacity

Reasons to buy

+
Three pockets in bibs plus two mesh thigh pockets
+
UPF 50+ sun protection

Reasons to avoid

-
Rear pockets can get sweaty

Specialized is another brand with a gravel focused line, which it calls ADV. Its RBX ADV bib shorts come with its SWAT system, which includes three pockets in the rear of the bibs and mesh leg pockets.

There's the quality pad you'd expect, to keep you comfortable on long rides, plus UPF 50+ sun protection and reflectives so you're safe to finish your ride once the sun goes down.

Rapha Cargo bib shorts

(Image credit: Rapha)

Rapha Cargo Bib Shorts

Best for rides when it's warm and damp

Reasons to buy

+
DWR treated lightweight fabric
+
Four pockets

Reasons to avoid

-
A bit lightweight if it's cold out

Another pair of shorts with extra carrying capacity, the Rapha Cargo bib shorts include two leg pockets and two in the rear. The lightweight fabric is DWR treated, so it will cope with light rain or wheel spray but will still be comfortable on hot days.

There's Rapha's dual density seat pad to keep you comfortable on long outings and the low front cut helps with comfort breaks too.

PI womens expedition bibs

(Image credit: Pearl Izumi)

Pearl Izumi Women's Expedition Bib Shorts

Best for women's comfort stops

Reasons to buy

+
Women's specific pad
+
Three pockets with enough room for a shell jacket at the rear
+
Drop tail design makes nature breaks easy

Reasons to avoid

-
Drop tail adds extra fabric at rear

It's not just men's kit that comes in gravel/bikepacking designs, there's usually a women's equivalent too, like these Pearl Izumi Women's Expedition bibs. Again you get a pocket in each thigh, but at the back there's a single pocket that's large enough to fit a shell jacket for when the weather takes a turn for the worse. 

There's a women's specific pad and a compressive fit to help keep your muscles working over a long haul trek. Plus there's PI's drop tail design for easy comfort breaks.

Endura Foyle shorts

(Image credit: Endura)

Endura GV500 Foyle shorts

Best shorts for on/off bike use

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight fabric
+
Designed for compatibility with Endura's bibs and liner shorts

Reasons to avoid

-
May get a bit hot when worn over bibs

Endura's semi-fitted shorts are unpadded, so you can either use them as is or over a pair of bib shorts. They're also compatible with Endura's Clickfast padded liner.

They're made of stretchy DWR fabric with plenty of laser cut venting and thigh zips designed to line up with the pockets on the legs of Endura's GV500 Reiver bib shorts. There's an olive green or a black color option. 

Best gravel bike clothing: a buyer's guide

What sort of aesthetic do you want?

As mentioned above, the best gravel cycling clothing tends to look less baggy and relaxed than MTB kit. On the other hand, it's often not quite as tight and streamlined as road cycling clothing. Colors tend to be more muted, with rusts and olives rather than the brights with black bibs you'll often find in clothing designed for road riders.

How much carrying capacity do you need?

Gravel bike clothing typically comes with loads of pockets. That's because there's potentially a lot more to carry than if you're riding on the road, if you need to keep fed and watered out in the wilderness. Whereas an MTBer would carry everything in a backpack, that's less common among the gravel bike tribe. 

So bib shorts will often come with pockets in the thighs to slip a gel into, as well as sometimes in the rear. Pockets will show up in unexpected places like baselayer tops too.

Jerseys will often have additional pockets beyond the three that are standard in road bike numbers, stretching around the sides of the jersey, not just in the back. You'll sometimes find a breast pocket too. 

In contrast, some gravel bike jerseys will be tee shirt style, not quite as loose-fitting as many MTB jerseys and made of technical fabrics. The assumption here is that any extra kit will go in a set of bikepacking bags

Which are the best fabrics?

Gravel cycling clothing tends to be made of fabrics that are a little more rugged than those used in road bike lycra, so that they can cope better with scrapes and bashes and with washing by hand during rides.

For long rides, you'll want to stay as comfortable as possible, while if you are on a multiday ride, your kit might need to be worn for several days. So gravel cycling clothing often includes merino wool content for the top half, to help avoid the odor problems that synthetics can have. Shorts will often have a seat pad that promotes quick drying, so they can be washed once you get to your destination and dried ready for the next day's ride.

Does it need to be versatile?

If a piece of gravel bike kit can be used for multiple reasons, that's a plus. So you'll find jackets with hoods and with enough insulation that you're not going to freeze while setting up camp if you're bikepacking. Kit that packs away small when it's not in use is handy too.

Oftentimes, outer layers will have a durable water resistant (DWR) coating, so they won't wet out if it's damp while you're riding.

What about when you're off the bike?

A lot of gravel gear is designed so that you can use it off the bike as well as on. That's a nod to the option of going long that's a feature of gravel riding. So you can always shed your bibs once you get to your stop and wear your outer shorts on their own to slope around camp or a lodge.

If you're bikepacking you probably don't want to be locked into tight, sweaty lycra when you're setting up camp or resting at the end of a long day. It means you won't look out of place at a coffee shop or wandering around a grocery store to stock up on provisions either.

Paul Norman
Freelance writer

After a spell riding XC mountain bikes Paul discovered gravel, or in fact riding a cyclocross bike across the South Downs and through the Chiltern Hills as gravel bikes didn’t exist at the time. He’s since mixed gravel and road riding, reviewing bikes and gear for Cycling Weekly for five years and also more recently writing for Cyclingnews, Bike Radar, T3 and of course Bike Perfect.