The Best Flannel Shirts for Cyclists
For mountain bikers and commuters, and sometimes even gravel riders, flannel shirts are the ultimate in cozy, comfortable gear. You can do your weekly mountain bike ride with your buddies, then head to the bar without stopping to change.
Simply put, flannel shirts have become a staple in many of our wardrobes as cyclists on the go—especially for Bikerumor staff who spend half their time at expos and demo days, going between bike rides, meeting rooms, and coffee shops (or, again, bars). So when we say we’ve got closets full of flannel, we’re not kidding.
Here, we’re sharing a few of our top favorites for riding and apres-riding in style.
BEST OVERALL FLANNEL: Kitsbow Icon Shirt Signature Fit
The Kitsbow Icon has been grabbing headlines this season, and for good reason. Despite the high price tag, the shirt—made to order in small batches—is worth the spend. It’s made from a soft but durable Pendleton wool that wicks sweat, with reinforced Schoeller-Shape 3XDry elbow panels and shoulder yokes to protect it from falls and abrasion. Their crash repair program will get it fixed should you wreck a little too hard.
It’s ideal for bikepackers who only can bring one top, but better for cooler temps thanks to the cozy, premium wool material. With six sizes, plus a choice of both a slimmer Signature fit and looser Relaxed Athletic fit, there’s something for almost everyone.
- Available: Men’s/Women’s
- Material: Pendleton wool
- Color: Men’s: 6 plaid options plus saguaro heather /Women’s: 5 plaid options plus saguaro heather
- Sizes: XS-2XL
- MSRP: $235
PROS: Sweat-wicking; premium fit, finish & materials
BEST FOR SUMMER RIDES: Club Ride Go Long & Gracie
For hot weather riding, the thinner, not-technically-flannel material of the Club Ride Go Long and Gracie make them the perfect choice for blocking sun… and the occasional branch or scuff. It offers just enough stretch without feeling like spandex, and with UPF 50 protection, it’s a great shirt 3-season shirt that works from spring to summer to fall.
The lightweight wicking material handles blazing summer heat well, with a fit that’s just loose enough (but not too baggy) to keep it feeling breezy. There are plenty of cyclist-friendly features too: reflective accents, underarm vents, and a pocket for your sunglasses make it a great choice.
- Available: Men’s as shown, Women’s Gracie L/S Shirt
- Material: 95/5 Poly/Spandex technical stretch fabric
- Color: Plaids in Blue, Brown, Brown/Blue, Red
- Sizes: S-2XL
- MSRP: $90-$100
PROS: Comfortable, lightweight, looks good, blocks the sun, often on sale.
CONS: None, really.
BEST FOR PARTY RIDES: California Cowboy High Sierra Shirt
Looking for a flannel that’s ready to party when the temperature drops? We love the California Cowboy High Sierra’s Portuguese Flannel, and not just because it’s lined with a poly-Tencel-Spandex thermal material. It’s thick and warm – this is not a summer flannel. But for a cold commute, after a cyclocross race, or just, um, chillin’ after a ride, it’s darn near perfect.
It’s admittedly a little boozy: It has a reinforced bottle pocket built into the shirt, and it ships with a beer koozie and bottle opener, too. There’s even a water-resistant zippered rear pocket for your phone. One caveat: If you’re between sizes, order up, especially if you throw everything in the dryer – the High Sierra has a slimmer fit that’s great for cyclists, but the sleeves are a bit on the short side for taller riders.
- Available: Men’s/Women’s
- Material: Portuguese Flannel lined with a poly-Tencel-Spandex thermal
- Color: 10 plaid and patterned options plus dark navy for men, 3 plaid options for women
- Sizes: Men’s XS-3XL / Women’s XS-XL
- MSRP: $148
PROS: Very cozy in cold weather, lots of pockets & fun features, tons of colors
CONS: Fewer women’s colors, sleeves could be longer
BEST FOR WORK COMMUTES: Mission Workshop The Sansom
When you need to look a little dressier, the Mission Workshop Sansom mixes a truly athletic cut with extra-long sleeves and articulated shoulders to keep your wrists covered while riding…or just reaching out to fist bump and cheers beers. The torso’s cut looks perfect left untucked, and snap closures keep it casual enough to go from work to ride to hanging out.
Two chest pockets, one with sunglasses sleeve, add a touch of detail. It’s mostly cotton, so not exactly a performance fabric, but the fit just keeps us coming back to it. Fair warning: When Mission Workshop drops a new color, it tends to sell out fast. Get on their email list, then be ready to pounce. (We mean it…when we started this post, they had a plaid…now they don’t.)
- Available: Men’s
- Material: 98% Cotton / 2% Spandex
- Color: Black, Dark Blue
- Sizes: S-XL
- MSRP: $195
PROS: Killer athletic fit, sharp looks, perfect sleeve length
CONS: Cotton can get a bit soaked on spirited rides or under a backpack
BEST BUDGET FLANNEL: Handup Flextop Flannel
For the most budget-friendly of the bunch, the FlexTop Flannel from Handup doesn’t look or feel out of place in the lineup. We love this top for cycling, largely due to the namesake FlexTop addition in the shoulder area and upper back that allows for a much wider range of motion…and protects against hydration pack strap abrasion.
It’s a relaxed fit that’s clearly cut for riders…not too baggy, and great sleeve length. It has one front pocket, and a slightly dropped back for wearing with jeans on your commute while keeping your crack covered. It’s so soft that it feels worn in the first time you put it on, and the material’s light enough for all but the hottest days.
Check the size charts, you may want to size down on this one. Our tallest tester almost always wears XL, but the Large fits him fine in this shirt.
- Available: Unisex
- Material: Cotton/polyester blend
- Color: 5 plaid options
- Sizes: XS-XXL
- MSRP: $54
PROS: Budget-friendly, great fit, super soft
CONS: Cotton’s not the best technical fabric
BEST WINTER PERFORMANCE: Pearl Izumi Canyon Alpha Long Sleeve
For chilly fall riding, Pearl Izumi has you covered with the Canyon Alpha long sleeve with Polartec Alpha insulation. This lightweight but cozy top is great for normal wear, but it’s arguably best used while out on adventures like camping, bikepacking, and of course, any offroad riding.
While it’s warm, don’t panic: It also is great for wicking sweat. We appreciate the zippered chest pocket (no other brands offer zip pockets!) as well as reinforced elbows.
- Available: Men’s
- Material: Recycled polyester with 3 percent spandex
- Color: Olive and black
- Sizes: S-XXL
- MSRP: $145
PROS: Keeps you warm, most technical performance fabrics of the cold-weather options
CONS: Looks more cycling-oriented
BEST RACING FLANNEL: Overland Backcountry
The Overland does limited runs of shirts, so you have to keep an eye on their site for launches like this Backcountry flannel, but it’s worth the effort. We love this one because unlike other flannels on the list, this shirt is treated with a water repellent, is both windproof, and boasts four-way stretch.
It’s easily the most racey of the shirts on this list, so if your friends like to look casual but ride hard, this is the pick for you. It even has both chest and side pockets, making it a better layering piece than most, since you can actually keep snacks and your phone in it.
- Available: Unisex
- Material: Polyester with 8 percent lycra and DWR (water repellent) coating
- Color: Orange plaid
- Sizes: XS-XXL
- MSRP: Unlisted
PROS: Great for serious riders who want to look casual
CONS: Limited runs, not easy to order
BEST STEALTH FLANNEL: Swrve Cordura Combat Wool
For the rider who likes the idea of flannel but just can’t buy into the pattern, we like Swrve’s Cordura Combat Wool Button-Up. Made with Cordura Combat Wool and just a hint of stretch, this shirt may take a few wears to break in, but it’s worth it—and it looks great going from riding to work meetings.
You don’t have to worry about busting seams as you ride, since it’s been built to last with a double-layer shoulder panel for durability, plus triple-needle stitching at stress points. Two front chest pockets button shut, and a drop tail hem makes riding less revealing.
- Available: Men’s
- Material: 49% CORDURA Combat Wool ripstop fabric, 48% nylon, 3% spandex.
- Color: Blue, Green
- Sizes: XS-XL
- MSRP: $150
PROS: Looks great in work settings but is built for riding
CONS: No women’s option
BEST OVERALL WOMEN’S: Sombrio Silhouette Riding Shirt
There aren’t as many women-friendly flannel options in cycling as there are for men, but we love Sombrio’s Silhouette Riding Shirt for both on and off the bike. Off the bike, this shirt fits in fine at the bar or even in a casual office setting (we’ve tried).
On the bike, it’s just stretchy enough: It doesn’t give off spandex vibes or feel like it’ll be super stretchy, but it has plenty of flex where you need it, making it easy to ride in and comfortable to wear all day. We also appreciate cycling-friendly details like a secret interior pocket, underarm vents, and a loop in the back for a bike light. Note: There is a similar men’s option available from Sombrio—the Vagabond.
- Available: Women’s
- Material: Dura Tek custom tech stretch fabric
- Color: 2 plaid options
- Sizes: XS-XL
- MSRP: $121
PROS: Super stretchy for added comfort (without losing style points)
CONS: Not huge size range
BEST BUDGET WOMEN’S: Pearl Izumi Women’s Rove
The Rove from Pearl Izumi is less cozy than the Canyon Alpha but equally feature-rich. It’s ideal for fall riding, and with a long-sleeve base layer, it can transition to even chillier temps. The brushed polyester wicks sweat while still feeling ultra-soft, especially after a few wears.
We appreciate that it’s well-designed for staying in the cycling position, especially in the shoulder area, and we love the slight drop-tail to cover our butts while riding around town. And at $80, it’s another great budget option.
- Available: Women’s
- Material: Brushed polyester
- Color: 5 plaid options plus plain black
- Sizes: XS-XL
- MSRP: $80
PROS: Budget-friendly, warm and soft
CONS: Not a huge size range
Buyer’s Guide for Flannel Shirts for Cycling
Check the features.
We like cycling brands’ long sleeve shirts rather than shopping at your local big box store. Cycling-specific flannels tend to have features made for riding, like underarm vents, stronger buttons and snaps, hidden pockets, shoulder yoke gussets that allow more movement while riding, and elbow pads to avoid wrecking your shirt if you bounce off a tree.
Check the material.
For “performance” riding, avoid cotton (which is what most typical, non-sporting flannel shirts will be made with) because it tends to get sweat-soaked and smelly in a hurry. In this case, polyester is your sporty friend, and a material that has a bit of stretch (a few percent lycra or spandex) will add a lot of comforts. Wool is also a great option.
Check size charts.
While some of these shirts have a bit of stretch, it’s not much compared to your average cycling jersey, so you’ll want to measure your waist and chest (and possibly even arm length!) to compare it to the sizing charts for each shirt. Don’t assume your normal cycling size will be accurate here.
Consider what you’ll wear over or under.
If you’re planning to wear a long-sleeved baselayer or something thicker underneath your shirt for cold weather riding, you may need to size up.
Try it on in the riding position.
Remember, the shoulder yoke will feel different when you lean over and reach for the handlebars, so you’ll want to check how the fit feels on the bike before removing the tags!
Determine if you want a women-specific option.
While many of the shirts listed above can be considered unisex, women’s sizes will have more room in the chest with a more tapered waist, and will take ‘average’ women’s heights and arm lengths into consideration.
If you opt for a men’s fit, expect it to be boxier, or potentially difficult to button up over a large bust, especially since many of these are ‘athletic cut’ and won’t leave much space for bigger chests. Depending on how you like shirts to fit and the brand you’re looking at, you may need to size down, stick with your normal size, or size up in the men’s flannel cut. If you’re unsure, check the size chart against your chest and waist measurements, or message the brand to ask which size they’d recommend.
Check return policies.
Some of these flannels can be a bit pricey, so it’s worth making sure you’ll be able to easily return or exchange them if it doesn’t fit the way you hoped.
Frequently Asked Questions about Flannels for Cycling
Why go for a cycling-specific flannel shirt?
We like the cycling brands’ versions of flannel shirts because they’re more tailored for a fit cyclist’s body, and the sleeves are usually a bit longer to stay where they should when reaching for the bars. Shoulder yoke gussets or articulating construction so they move with you when riding helps, especially for MTB.
Elbow “pads” to keep them from getting shredded the first time you wipe out are great, too. They also are typically made with more stretch thanks to small amounts of lycra and spandex woven into the material and use polyester or wool versus cotton, which gets sweaty and wet much faster.
Why are cycling flannels more expensive?
Cycling-specific flannels (or athlete-friendly flannels) typically are made with better materials designed for wicking sweat. They also are much more feature-rich than a flannel from Walmart: Things like pockets, special gussets, and tougher buttons/snaps, added ventilation, and stretch panels make these shirts much more cycling-specific, and pricier as a result.
And lastly, they tend to be sized and cut for athletes, which is a much more niche market—and that drives the price up.
Should I get a lined flannel?
Depends on how you plan to use it. Many of us here at Bikerumor wear our flannels almost year-round, so prefer an unlined option, but if you plan to ride in more winter weather, a lined flannel and a wool base layer can get you through most winter weather conditions that you’d be mountain biking in.
What do I wear under a cycling flannel?
You can opt for nothing, just like a regular flannel, but we would generally recommend at least a sleeveless/short sleeve base layer, especially if you’re wearing a hydration pack whose straps could press the buttons or snaps of the shirt into your chest and cause some chafing. For colder rides, a merino wool long sleeve baselayer under flannel is cozy as heck. A vest over top completes the hipster/lumber-sexual aesthetic, too…
How should a cycling flannel fit?
Athletic fit tends to be the goal: Not a lot of material flapping around, but plenty of room to breathe deeply, and to move your arms in all directions. If you can’t swing your arms in circles comfortably, the shirt isn’t going to be ideal for cycling/life.
What do I wear with a cycling flannel?
May we recommend a pair of cycling jorts? About half our crew would rock jean shorts, AKA jorts, which go hand in hand with a flannel top. This pair from Handup is a comfy, rider-friendly favorite.
The other half of our crew prefer more performance-oriented shorts or pants. Most of the cycling brands listed here, like Club Ride and Kitsbow in particular, make a wide variety of shorts and pants tailored for riding. We also like Duer’s jeans, which have cyclist-friendly fit and features.