Winter cycling can be outstanding. Typically roads and trails are quieter, new routes and adventures can be discovered and it’s every bit as beautiful as riding at other times of the year.
The most obvious and arguably most important factor in winter weather riding is, of course, clothing. The right windproof, thermal and waterproof gear can keep you dry and warm on rides so that the cold is no longer a reason for not getting out on your bike. Here are some tips on how to appropriately choose winter cycling gear for the colder months:
Each layer has a function, so instead of being restricted by the elements, you can easily adapt to the environment by adding or subtracting layers as needed. The “base layer” (against your skin) protects you from the cold while the “outer-layer” or shell, shields you from the wind and rain.
Staying dry in cold weather environments is the first step in ensuring all day comfort. The first layer, in direct contact with the skin, regulates your body temperature and keeps you dry. Any synthetic wicking fiber (such as polyester or nylon/spandex) works well. Cotton soaks up sweat and holds it next to your skin, so avoid that.
The most important layer is worn on the skin: the faster moisture is transported away from the skin, the better body temperature regulation works.
Our favorite base layer is with Gore Windstopper fabric on the front and shoulders to keep you dry and comfortable along the way:
The midlayer, or insulating layer, provides the warmth you need to stay out in the cold. The insulating layer helps retain the heat you produce by trapping air closely to your body. It also helps to facilitate the transfer of moisture wicked by the baselayer on to the outer layer.
There are natural and synthetic insulation materials which allow you to stay at a comfortable temperature level, one similar to “fleece” fabrics. These fabrics are tightly woven meshes, usually consisting of microfibers that trap air as well as have wicking and high insulation properties while remaining lightweight.
The mid layer is the layer with which you can play with the most: you can add or remove this layer as much as you deem necessary.
Find your perfect Mid and Insulating Layers for the perfect amount of warmth.
The outer-layer is there to protect you from the elements; you will usually get a balance of water resistance, wind resistance and breathability.
What does this mean? The outer layer should have breathable qualities that allow moisture to escape while providing protection from incoming water or wind elements.
When layering, a looser fit is the perfect fit for a jacket: it enables optimal air and moisture circulation for all-around comfort. Make sure to choose a fit with a longer cut for your back to protect you while riding. Also, choose a jacket with a full front zipper and a windproof inner flap in order to be able to easily adjust to the temperature.
For the passionate road cyclists we recommend our jacket with a windproof front, sleeves and upper back. It's a must have for staying comfortable in any kind of weather:
For our mountain bikers the ideal jackets for low temperature winter rides, thanks to the Primaloft insulation feature:
The layering principle is customizable according to your insulation needs. Since not all people are created equal in terms of body size, temperature, and chosen activity, perfecting your layering technique may require several trials. However, a balance between keeping you warm and dry while allowing air to circulate must be met.
Don’t forget to protect your extremities from the cooler temperatures with appropriate accessories: gloves, beanie, balaclava, toe cover, shoe cover, etc. Your head, hands and feet are prone to getting cold and losing large amounts of body heat. It’s nearly impossible to warm up again depending only on physical activity.
The cold-weather cycling season is upon us, which means that it's essential to develop a warm, comfortable clothing system for your face, head, and ears. A headband worn under your helmet is sufficient for most days. In case it's much colder, you might need to go for better protection with a balaclava that protects your head, ears, neck, chin, and mouth, yet still leaves your nose exposed. Even though it is thinner than a fleece hat, the wind resistance — plus the additional coverage — actually makes it a warmer garment.
During very cold temperatures you can replace the balaclava with a lightweight wind-resistant fleece hat and neoprene facemask.
Make sure the beanie you wear is thin enough to fit under your helmet.
Find your hat, balaclava or headband here:
Your fingers are going to get cold much more quickly than other parts of your body, so having a good pair of gloves will make cold weather riding all the more bearable.
Temperature can be deceiving when choosing a pair of gloves. It's important to check the windchill factor to figure out how cold it will actually feel during your ride. If you live in a breezy area, look for winter gloves that have wind-blocking material on the front. And if you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, opt for a waterproof glove, since the warmest glove in the world won't keep your hand cozy if it’s soaked.
If your gloves are too tight this will cut off circulation, so make sure they fit properly. You can also wear disposable surgical gloves underneath your regular ones to keep your hands warm on a ride; they create an extra vapor layer between your skin and the cold.
Check out our winter gloves to wear in cold weather:
Keeping your toes warm is just as difficult, maybe even more so seeing as, unlike your fingers, you don’t have the option of moving them around while you ride.
Shoe covers are easy to put on and are very efficient in the wet and cold. Insulated shoes are also a good choice in dry and chilly conditions.
You have two options:
Again, fit is essential: in both cases, if it’s too loose around the cleat or at the top of your ankle, then this will provide an easy entry point for water.
If you prefer to keep your actual shoes, check out all of our shoe protection for winter. If you are looking for specific shoes, don’t forget to choose a pair with a Gore-Tex Membrane:
It’s that time of year where visibility is poor: the days are shorter and darker. The risk of injuries is increasing during the months of December and January. Take care to ride safe and maximize your visibility to see and be seen.
Colder days don't mean you can forget about your sunglasses. In fact, if you have ones with replaceable lenses then they can really come in handy during the winter months.
Many sunglasses come with clear or yellow lenses which will help to brighten up gloomy conditions, and will also keep water out of your eyes when riding in the rain which is particularly useful if you wear contact lenses.
A pair of clear lenses blocks the wind and protects your eyes and vision. They also help keep the skin around your eyes from becoming uncomfortably chilled.
What's more, on crisp clear days the sun can feel almost as bright as in the summer and is much lower in the sky, so you might get winter use out of your darker lenses too.
With shorter days, being seen is very important. Making sure you and your bike are visible to other road users should take precedence over any other piece of cycling equipment. Color is an obvious element to introduce into a cycling outfit.
Add even more color by accessorizing, lights, and reflection via gloves, helmet and shoes. If you’re wearing a rucksack, choose a brightly colored one with reflective elements.
Check out our All Season Cycling Apparel:
Now you have everything you need to know to be well dressed with the right winter cycling gear and to enjoy your favorite trails or roads even during the colder months.