I truly believe that a big reason many people are put off cycling is because they believe they need to spend a lot of money on specialist lycra and that everything has to be racing tight. Whilst I've come around to technical clothing, I have been on a mission to find cycling attire that doesn't cost as much as my rent and that is a bit more versatile than just being bike appropriate.
My work commute is approximately 9km each way and it takes me about 25 minutes to do the journey. My work dress code is quite formal, so for me it really is easier to change at work but even if it weren't, I find it difficult to not push myself to cycle quickly so I'm very much in need of that wash and change at the other end. That does not necessitate a full set of pro cycling team kit (personal choice, to each their own and all that....) just something that is comfortable, helps me to regulate my temperature and dries quickly. Some of the best offerings I've found so far have come from.... the high street.
The leggings are both slight different and one pair is a little too large for me as I wrongly assumed H&M sizing would come up on me as it often does, very small. But I still pull them on around the house a lot. The waist band on this pair though, perfection. Grippy without creating rolls where I don't want them and no uncomfortable squeezing of my internal organs. They come up exactly as far as I need them to, so I'm not flashing anything to the world that it wouldn't want to see. I love the print- something a bit more interesting than black- and a bit cooler for brighter days, but if you're not sold, plain black and grey are also available.
The vest tops (I have 2 but only the plain black is pictured) are not life changing but a super useful staple. For warmer days, I wear only these with just a sports bra underneath- they're not see-through, they're not so tight that they roll up when you move, they're long enough to completely cover beyond the waistband of any leggings I own, they wick away sweat reasonably effectively, dry in about 20 minutes flat and are easy to launder. 'Nuff said really. The arm holes aren't as deep as I might usually pick, but that's about my only minor niggle. I certainly can't complain at [£7.99].
Forever 21 are another company that do some great value sportswear- the fit isn't great for me, but my flatmate swears by it- their leggings are between £18 and £25 and they stock oodles of sports bras, vest top base layers and running tops.
I've talked before about Mountain Warehouse and their range of active wear, much of which is aimed at urban sports as opposed to being hyper specific to a particular sport. They have some really good offers on their base layers meaning they price out at £12.50. You can read my reviews of their kit HERE.
Active wear made such a huge difference to my cycling commute enjoyment in that it stopped it being an uncomfortable experience where I was overheating hugely and sweating in a way that made my clothes uncomfortable and made it more difficult to manage my switch over at work each morning.
If your sport/activity of choice is new to your routine, you might find your laundry pile gets bigger quicker than usual, active wear is designed to dry quickly if you get wet out and about, but the same thing happens when you put it through the washing machine and laundry that gets done quicker has to be a good thing.
In particular thinking of cycling, the kit can be super super expensive (yes Rapha, I'm looking at you) but whilst I have a *proper* jersey or too for the weekend rides I've done- the ones where you need the pockets because over 100km with a rucksack would be insane, i'm just not convinced it's all so necessary. I'll continue to advocate for whatever you're happy in, but if cycling is a budget conscious choice, or a commuter choice to introduce some activity into your life, don't be put off by the price tags of things that might actually not be necessary, and when you're thinking of being fitness clothes, do keep the high street in mind. Collaborations ad the market for affordable kit means they're quickly cottoning on to a this sector and there are plenty of good deals to be had.