7 Tips - A Guide to Cold Weather Cycling Clothing

The temperature is falling, and winter storms push wind-chill factors to subzero levels. Bike riding does not have to cease in cold conditions though; with the right clothing, there is no reason to not enjoy your cycling, even in cold winter weather.

In this blog post, I offer my tips and advice for the right clothing to wear for winter cycling.

1 - Long sleeve base layers

Cold hands when cycling in low temperatures? Long sleeve base layers are the key to comfort here.

Your hands are an 'extremity' - they are one of the furthest points from the central boiler pump that is your heart. Therefore, in order to keep them warm, you need to keep the blood that is flowing to them warm.

Protecting your lower arms from wind-chill, and providing them with better insulation using a long sleeve base layer, will help to keep warm blood flowing down your arteries all the way to your hands.

One of the best value and warmest winter base layers I use, is the dhb Merino M200 Long Sleeve Base Layer.

2 - Winter cycling bib tights

Just like your hands, your feet are a vulnerable extremity in the cold. Keeping warm blood flowing down the length of your legs will help to keep your feet warm.

Proper winter cycling bib tights are fleece lined, and often have a windproof outer coating. This helps to keep the elements at bay, and insulate you from the cold.

Winter bib tights also have an advantage over a bib shorts and leg warmers combination, because they tend to be higher cut and thicker than bib shorts; this helps to keep your core warm, which significantly aids comfort.

For the most comfortable and warmest winter tights, I turn to the Sportful RandD Bib Tights.

3 - Windproof winter cycling jackets

Windchill is the real enemy in the cold months. A windproof jacket, which utilises fabric technology such as GORE Windstopper, will help to keep the wind off your vulnerable torso.

A good winter jacket also tends to have a high neck, to keep out the chill. It may also feature extras, such as deep pockets for extra ride snacks, or larger zip pulls to make adjustments easier with full finger winter gloves.

One of my favourite winter jackets is the GORE Oxygen Windstopper Jacket - it features all of the above named attributes, as well as some further additions like adjustable zipper vents, and a super visible colour scheme.

4 - Windproof and waterproof cycling gloves

Most cycling gloves are not fully waterproof, and many make little attempt at even being windproof. The fabric technology required to make a glove waterproof and breathable are complex and detailed; this means that proper winter cycling gloves are expensive; but, they are a worthwhile investment.

Fully windproof and waterproof gloves will help to provide a protective shield for the length of your arms and your hands, when combined with a proper winter jacket. This means you can keep maximum dexterity in your fingers; something that is crucial when you are trying to feather the brakes on slippery road surfaces.

My recommendation, for a real belt-and-braces approach to winter gloves, is the GripGrab Optimus Winter Cycling Gloves. They provide better protection from the cold than anything else that I have tested.

5 - Fleece-lined overshoes

If you haven't used overshoes before, then you are missing out. These shoe covers help to keep spray and wind-chill off your vulnerable feet.

Overshoes come in a variety of thicknesses and materials, and when things get really cold, I recommend going fleece-lined...

The GripGrab Artic Overshoes are made from 4mm windproof and waterproof neoprene, and are super protective. The latest 2018 model (not the one pictured below), also uses IntelliSeal technology, which is a zipless design that helps to create an even more waterproof seal around your ankle.

Partner your fleece-lined overshoes with merino wool socks, to provide the ultimate comfort for your toes.

6 - Winter cycling boots

For cyclocross and mountain biking in the winter months, I still find overshoes problematic. They tend to slip off, or water leaks in around the edges when you have to dismount and walk through mud or water. This is where proper winter cycling boots are invaluable.

Winter boots are fully waterproof, and don't feature the vent holes and lightweight fabrics found on summer cycling shoes.

I am currently using the Vaude Termatic RCII Winter Boots, which I reviewed here on the blog. Many brands are now producing high quality winter specific footwear though, and you can find examples from the likes of Sidi, Shimano, Mavic and Northwave.

7 - Winter headwear

Finally, to top things off... don't forget your head.

Wearing a balaclava or a fleecy helmet cap will help to insulate your head from the cold. I choose the GripGrab Aviator Cap in the winter, because the long ear flaps and windproof backing help to really aid comfort.

Another factor to consider, is your helmet choice in the winter. Most cycling helmets are designed to maximise ventilation, but in the winter you are looking for the opposite. Wearing a helmet like the POC Octal Aero Helmet or MET Manta Helmet, will help to keep the rain and wind off your head.

Avoid brain freeze, and layer up smart this winter...


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