Women have unique needs in sports clothing that few men understand. Male mountain bikers, for instance, figure a trail-side bathroom break takes 20 or 30 seconds, max. Male runners figure it takes about five seconds behind the car door to strip naked and change out of sweaty clothes after a run. And men have no clue at all about what it does to their posture to hike or run with extra pounds of body tissue attached to their chest. That’s why, with women’s participation in marathons and triathlons and obstacle races often exceeding that of men, clothing makers have finally begun to make products suited to the female form. Here are some that stand out.
Pearl Izumi Elite Drop Tail bib short: Unique cycling bib short that allows women to take a quick bathroom break without having to remove jacket and jersey.
Likes: Solves a big problem. Standard bib shorts are more comfortable than regular shorts, because they keep the chamois in place better and don’t bunch up at the waist, but require a momentum-stopping disrobing of upper-body clothing when nature calls. But because Drop Tail connects the bib only to the front and sides of the short, not the back, the woman can simply pull the shorts portion down and squat. Our tester gave a double thumbs-up to the convenience.
Price: $145 pearlizumi.com
Alignmed AlignMe Posture Bra: Sports bra with special one-way stretch panels and a Velcro strap that serve to pull the shoulders and chest back into a classic erect posture, mitigating the forward slump caused by the weight of the breasts and sitting at a desk all day.
Likes: It works. Our tester could feel her scapulae reposition toward the midline of the back and felt that her running became more efficient due to the natural adaptation of a more-vertical arm swing and higher-volume breathing (due to the more wide-open chest). She called it an improvement over regular sports bras, which just “squeeze the breasts and push them up.” It can be used during running, yoga, cycling and daily life.
Dislikes: None, although more expensive than a regular sports bra.
Price: $89. alignmed.com
The Undress: A unique portable “changing room” that allows you to take off a sweaty bra and shorts and put on clean ones in public in under a minute without getting naked — or wear it on its own as a dress.
Likes: Ingenious casual dress that elegantly and quickly solves a problem. Here’s how it works: Step into bottom half of the dress, pull it up to waist, and use the two side access pockets to pull down sweaty shorts and pull up new ones. To change your top and bra, slide a hooked halter top that is part of the dress under them and secure it around your neck. Remove all top layers, leaving the halter in place. Throw a shirt over the halter, unhook it, and let the dress fall to the floor. The dress rolls up into its own compact carry pouch when not in use.
Price: $69. theundress.com. Kickstarter-funded project predicts a delivery in January.
Club Ride Freedom short and Jill Tech Flannel jersey: Technical cycling/athletic clothing designed to look good enough to wear around town after a ride.
Likes: The good street looks got two thumbs up from the testers. “It’s about time someone did this,” said one. “I love riding my bike, but don’t want to look like I’m sitting around in bike clothes. This stuff looks nice enough that no one knows until they see me get back on my bike.” The Jill jersey stays cool due to use of a fast-wicking fabric, and has practical touches like two zippered rear pockets and a zip front pocket. The Freedom short has jeans-like front pockets, a seamless crotch gusset for chafe-free comfort, a zippered side pocket, and night-ride reflectivity.
Price: $79.95 (short), $79.95 (jersey). lubrideapparel.com
Peekaboos Ponytail Hat: Knit cap with a ponytail port.
Likes: Comfortable, convenient and neat. Keeps cap in place, hair out of the way. Includes a 3-inch-wide fleece lining on the inside edge to keep ears warm.
Price: $36.95. ponytailhats.com
Lucy Perfect Core Legging: Body-hugging compression yoga pants with extra-high waistband.
Likes: The high waist keeps your top tucked in and has a slight girdle effect that “reminds you to keep your core engaged,” said our tester. The side, hip and thigh compression panels keep muscles fresh and make for a smooth silhouette. Flat-locked seams eliminate the possibility of chafing.
Price: $108. lucy.com
Wallack is the co-author of Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100. firstname.lastname@example.org