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The first sports bra was made from two jockstraps sewn together. For real. In 1978, Hinda Miller and Lisa Lindahl invented the “jock bra” when they sewed together two jockstraps as cups. Legend holds that Lindahl’s husband named the bra when he pranced mockingly around the house wearing the dual jockstrap creation on his chest, and said, “Here’s your jock bra, ladies.”
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Miller and Lindhal refined their design and materials and eventually turned their jockstrap bra into the first commercially available sports bra—the Jogbra. It was a shift in thinking elevating the bra from lingerie to technical sports equipment.
Early prototypes are on display at the Smithsonian, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And that’s about the most recognition the athletic supporter for women has ever seen. Though it’s a critical piece of performance gear, sports bras have seen limited innovation, and for some reason, it’s a piece of clothing most cycling brands are afraid to touch. Brad Sheehan, head designer and co-owner of Velocio, acknowledged that cycling brands should step up to the plate and make great bras simultaneously calling the topic of sports bras “radioactive.”
We searched out the best available bras for cycling and handed them over to four testers ranging in size from 32A to 38DD. The bras that survived were favorites of more than one tester, felt good on the skin, wicked sweat, could be worn for more than one day of riding without stinking, had a range of support, and they were good looking. Because when you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good. And when you feel good, you’re a helluva lot more likely to ride good.
When you’re choosing the right cycling bra for yourself, consider the following:
How much support do I need?
The best bra for running or yoga isn’t always the best bra for cycling. The right amount of support often depends on the sport you’re doing, and how you’re built. A flatter-chested roadie might want a bra with light support while a buxom graveleur might want medium or high support. The road is bumpier for gravel riders and mountain bikers—you may want to take your support up a notch if you spend your time on dirt.
Sports bras are somewhere between expensive and absurdly expensive, and manufacturers recommend you rotate through 2-3 in your drawer at the same time. If you ride a lot, you probably need more than that. They also recommend you replace your bras each year, because they break down with wearing and washing. At $50 to $95, that’s a notable investment…and one that’s unavoidable. If you’re serious about sport, when you find a bra that works you’ll likely suck it up and buy the brand and style that fits and feels the best.
If it bothers you if people see yours, definitely choose a bra with cups or a lot of padding. The downside is that more cup material will retain sweat longer. So, comfort or vanity, the choice is yours.
Cotopaxi Mariposa Crop
The Mariposa is the least bra-like of the sports bras we have reviewed. It’s not a top you need to hide under other clothing, but one you’ll wear post-ride with shorts, in yoga class, or to the gym with or without a tee over it.
Brooks Dare Strappy Run Bra
Testers loved how this bra looked as well as how it performed. Lightweight compression paired with highly molded lifted and separated cups to keep testers’ busts attractively in place without too much squeeze. The teardrop strap design and laser cut venting were sophisticated and sexy.
Reebok Pure Move
Reebok’s Pure Move bra is a compressive pullover that doesn’t bind, stays shapely, and smells good even after a week of rides. Among the crop of bras we’ve tested over the last year, the Pure Move has become a favorite, but it doesn’t pull double duty as a piece of casual wear.
We like this seamless V-neck for its good looks and its creative design, which gave testers of all sizes light support sufficient for riding positions.
Lululemon Enlite Bra Weave
Most high support bras, particularly ones made for a wide range of cup sizes, are too tight for cycling. The Enlite has enough support that everyone felt they could run or ride in it and still breathe freely. Though it’s high-support, it not a frumpy bra we were embarrassed to be seen in.
Mons Royale Stella X-Back
The Stella combines comfy Merino wool and all of its benefits like moisture transfer, with X-back elastic straps to create an ideal sports bra for cycling. All of our testers ranked it among their favorite bras.