First, I'm sorry if this has come up a million times, but all I can find is men's suggestions or expensive bike brand apparel. I don't want to turn this into an argument about expensive specialized clothing vs. affordable but workable clothing.
I'm looking for suggestions for waterproof/windproof jackets for fall, winter and spring riding (I like to layer with hoodies when it gets really cold). I'm not a spandex wearing biker and would prefer not to have a jacket that looks like I am...no offense, it's just not my style and I'd like to feel comfortable in my own clothes, especially when off the bike. Suggestions, ideas, insults? Actually, pass on the insults if you can help it.
Oh, it'd be nice to see some things made just for women...they have armpit zippers, but what about other zippers, for more girly body parts? Boobies need to breathe too.
If your not willing to wear cycling specific gear you will sacrifice some comfort but you can certainly stay warm with other stuff.
Here are some non cycling gear stuff that works well that I have used in the past.
For upper body. If you like hoodies get the kind that are made of polyester and lined with polyester pile. These will work better than cotton ones but look the same. I have seen them at Shopko for 30 dollars. The pile lining will wick moisture out towards the outer fabric and not soak up so much sweat like cotton ones.
Columbia type fleece and nylon shell casual jackets work well in cold temperatures. You can layer anything that wicks underneath. Stay away from cotton.
Just a medium weight long sleeve polyester soft shell jacket worn with only one wicking short or long sleeve shirt works very well for some people because it is very breathable. If you have a tendency to get too hot this is the perfect solution. You can then carry a waterproof jacket with you but not put it one unless you need it.
Just a cheap Nylon windbreaker without a lining worn over a long sleeve microfiber long sleeve shirt will be good for pretty cool temps and can be very useful.
For waterproof breathable jackets you have to go with those made from technical fabrics and they cost more but many are made for causual dress and have a looser more causual fit. Check out companies that make clothing for both cycling and backpacking or mountaineering and casual dress.
Pants. Try layering nylon convertable pants (usually used for hiking or other outdoor activities) over some kind of synthetic or wool tights. Or better yet long riding tights since no one can see them.
Snowboard pants tapered at the bottom make good cold weather pants if they are breathable kind. The cheap kind work the best. More expensive ones are not as breathable but more geared towards waterproof/slightly breathable materials.
For cool but not cold temperatures try synthetic running suits or warm up suits. They are usually made form breathable stretch material but have a more causual look. These can work nearly as well as dedicated cycling clothes.
For cool days in 55-60's you can wear loose fitting mountain bike shorts which have a nylon shell over a biking tight liner with padding. They look like normal shorts but will pad your bottom and keep you warmer than regular bike riding shorts because of the nylon shell.
Also, lined polyester knee length basketball shorts are pretty good and comfortable to ride in.
Any kind of causual clothing that is made of wicking synthetic materials or wool will work. Just stay away from cotton clothes and you can make nearly anything work in some kind of layered or single garment.
The only guidance I can give is to keep clothing layers below the knee from being too baggy as that creates a danger and is unpleasant.
You can make your own cycling clothes in any style you want from technical fabrics and have total control over what you wear. For instance, you can make your own pants out of powershield fleece for great winter riding pants. A jacket made in sany style you want out of powershield would be a really good water resistant wind resistant jacket for fall and spring. They are expensive to buy. But check out REI since they make a lot of casual clothes out of technical materials.
Also, check out L.L. Bean and Lands End. THey have lots of good causal gear that can work on a bike.
I wear guys stuff. My main jacket is a men's waterproof breathable from MEC. It's great ... I love that jacket!! It has all the venting and everything I need.
My main winter jacket is a men's from Nashbar. Unfortunately I don't think they are selling them anymore, but I could live in this jacket in the winter for all my outdoor winter activities. It is very comfortable, keeps me warm, and yet is vented. I got it for $40 on sale.
So I guess my first point is ... check MEC and Nashbar for inexpensive options, and don't overlook the men's stuff. Some of it is great!
As for baselayers and stuff like that, I have picked up several polypro tops from Sierra Trading Post - very inexpensive, very warm. And guess what ... they are men's!! Well, one of them is a women's cut, but the others are men's. It doesn't matter - they fit and they keep me warm. Definitely have a look at what Sierra Trading Post has to offer, their stuff is very reasonably priced.
As for leg coverings, I use cycling tights as my base layer, and then I put a pair of sweatpants (not 100% cotton!!) over top of them. I get these sweatpants from places like ... Walmart!! They are women's ... men's sweatpants don't fit quite right for me. I do make sure these sweatpants have narrow legs so they don't get caught in the chain or cause extra rubbing or whatever.
And on my feet ... Kodiak wool socks (Walmart, men's department) ... these are wonderful. They come up to the knee and are so incredibly warm and toasty.
Thanks for all the excellent ideas - I made do last winter with tights, jeans and leg warmers, but was thinking it might be nice to be a little less sweaty when I get to work this year.
This is a pull-over style smock but you can also get full zip verions.
It is completely weatherproof to expedition standard but very breathable and easy to wear around town. It is quite warm, I cant wear it above 18C but I do feel the cold. Better insulated people find their cutoff temp is a bit lower.
I actually have found some decent stuff at Walmart in the women's sports section. As for a windproof/waterproof jacket with pit zips, that higher end stuff and probably no real way around a higher price....BUT I got a GREAT jacket like that from REI, the REI brand which is just as good and much cheaper that North Face and those brands. I got it from the REI Outlet, go to REI.com and check it out. I have also gotten stuff on Ebay. Now that I think if it, I remember seeing Walmart had some waterproof/windproof jacket which I "*think* had pit zips but they did not seem breathable at all to me.
One of my favorite winter riding clothing is from SportHill.com. I got their 3SP jacket and pants on the clearance and they are really great. Windproof up to like 35 mph and good water resistant and breathable. Well made, I've been wearing them for years.
In general, I'd look at cross-country ski stuff - there's a lot that's designed for women that will work great. The one problem is that sometimes the back and sleeves won't be long enough.
I have a relatively short commute (~20 minutes) in the city, so although I know cotton is not the greatest, I mostly wear jeans (over capilene long underwear in the cold) and it doesn't seem like a huge problem. It's a bigger issue if you've got some long rides in mind, in which case I defer to Machka and the others who do more of that than me.
I've got a lightweight wool base layer top, capilene longies (top and bottom) fleece midlayer thing, and a nylon windbreaker/rain jacket. These are all non-bike-specific designs, but they are women-specific; the brands are Marmot, Patagonia and North Face. Mostly cross country skiing stuff. I also have some great knee-high thick wool Smartwool socks that I like a lot.