Bicycles Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people who build and repair bicycles, people who train cycling, or commute on bicycles. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

During the summer, I like to go for rides on trails without a shirt. Is this safe?

Also, related: is it rude to other people on the trail not to wear a shirt?

share|improve this question
Rude? In certain events it seems to be positively encouraged! – PeteH Nov 30 '12 at 16:29
Try riding in a shirt with buttons, all of them undone. While a (cotton) T-shirt only gets wet with sweat, an unbuttoned shirt provides many benefits, such as sun protection, increased air flow, kickass style. – Vorac Nov 20 '13 at 14:22
Having said that, during the hot summers I ride exclusively shirtless. Only places I have had problems with this are banks, large general stores and at work. And the realization about unbuttoned shirts came to me only last summer, while touring with panniers. – Vorac Nov 20 '13 at 14:29
Cycling shirts are light enough to allow venting, and they generally have three pockets on the back. If you go shirtless, how do you carry your stuff ? Visibility is improved with a good colour of top, and down here in New Zealand you'd be sunburnt within a short time, in the height of summer. Instead consider a close-fitting shirt made of coolmax. Will have almost the same cooling effect of nothing, but will have solar protection, and increased visibilty if you choose white or grellow colours. – Criggie Oct 14 '15 at 3:35
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Safe is a relative term in this instance. A shirt might protect you in a fall, but only just. You'll know immediately whether a shirt can protect your skin from sticks, branches, and prickers dangling into the trail. If you were going fast enough flying insects may even make an impact, though I can't imagine it'd be terribly painful.

Shirts do offer some protection from two things: sunburns (and subsequent skin cancer) and bites from insects (potentially carrying disease.) For lightly complexioned people, skin cancer is a huge danger and can develop even without having been sunburned. Insect-borne diseases are also a big deal in most places. Having been treated for Lyme disease, I can attest to the importance of wearing insect repellent and, yes, shirts.

Additionally, that thin layer of material actually keeps you cooler by blocking the sun from reaching your skin - this is the same reason why desert dwelling peoples wear lightweight material all over their bodies. Having a shirt on also keeps you from sweating all over your bike and other gear.

In terms of etiquette: if you're out in the woods and there aren't many people around, go for it. If you're bumping elbows with people on a multi-use trail, maybe consider some modesty.

share|improve this answer
+1 for not getting sweat on your bike. Keep the bike safe. – James Bradbury Nov 24 '12 at 22:21
I'd say you covered the issues. The point about being cooler with a shirt on is important. As for rudeness, it depends on your local norms for behavior (and, to an extent, your physique) -- on a sparsely traveled trail or on the open road I wouldn't find it offensive. On a busy city park trail with kids and old folks and everyone in-between it's a bit more questionable. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 24 '12 at 23:29
Although a shirt won't stop gravel rash etc, it will help stop dirt entering wounds. – mattnz Nov 24 '12 at 23:55


  • If you fall off, I can't see how a shirt would protect you. It might reduce grazes slightly, but it's negligible.
  • A shirt may protect you from sunlight and risks of sunburn and skin cancer, although, unless it states UV protection, most shirts let some sunlight through.
  • Depending on where/when you ride, you may be more at risk of insect bites or simply getting them stuck in your sweat - nice!


Bit of a personal opinion on whether it's rude. Personally I'm not bothered at all. I'm more offended by dry creaky chains. I think legally (in the UK, at least), it legal for anyone to show their bare chest in public, regardless of gender.

share|improve this answer
+1 for offensive creaky chains – BSO rider Oct 14 '15 at 12:23

A typical shirt or bike jersey has no security benefits. Depending on the terrain some special protectors might make sense when thining about security. One might even argue that a shirt might reduce security as it might be caucght by a tree or something Whether iit is "rude" depends on your local environment. In some areas it's absolutely accetable, in others not.

share|improve this answer

You'd have little to no protection against scrapes on trees or bushes close to the trail. A shirt will give some protection from the sun, bugs/insects, and those who share the trail feel being shirtless is best saved for the beach or pool.

share|improve this answer

A sleeveless cycling jersey offers no protection to the arms and might save a scratch or two in a light tumble. It might save some gravel rash on the body. It does offer protection against sunburn - but sunscreen the upper arms!

But for a shorter ride or say doing intervals on a warm day I find riding shirtless feels great so take the risk

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.