Gear – Dressing for Winter Riding
Clothing is an important aspect of cold-weather riding. It’s easy to overdress. Cycling generates a lot of body heat. By wearing well-ventilated outerwear that allows body heat to escape you will avoid overheating and sweating. It is a good idea to pack an extra layer to have on hand if needed. If you need to stop for any reason, you will cool down quickly.
Keeping you dry is the goal of a base clothing layer. Consider using a synthetic wicking fiber, or merino wool. Cotton tends to soak up and retain sweat, and does not make a good base layer.
If your ride is not very long or strenuous, you may be most comfortable in your regular winter clothing. Wearing what you would wear to walk is sometimes all you need!
Cycling jackets have a longer cut in the back and the sleeves. This helps to break the wind and protect you from debris. Some cycling jackets have additional zippers to provide venting which helps to easily regulate your temperature.
In cold and dry conditions, consider a soft-shell jacket as an outer layer. It will keep you warm and dry, as it is breathable but won’t allow too much wind to penetrate.
In cool and wet conditions, a waterproof (or at least water-resistant) shell is ideal. Be sure to hang your jacket to dry between rides.
In mild conditions, headbands provide warmth and ear protection while allowing air to flow. When the weather is colder, use a helmet liner or wool stocking cap that fits underneath your helmet. In even colder or windier conditions, a balaclava will provide thermal protection for your head and face, as well as cutting down exposure to wind.
When raining or during heavy, wet snow, a cap with a visor helps with warmth and protects your eyes or glasses from the elements.
The helmet that fits you so well in the summer may feel too tight with extra winter gear on your head. Dials or sliders at the back make adjusting the helmet easy. Some cyclists prefer to use a larger helmet in the winter for a more comfortable fit.
Glasses help protect your eyes from the cold, snow and wind. Sunglasses or a pair of clear glasses are effective. Some cyclists prefer insulated ski goggles. Scarves or balaclavas often need to be adjusted to be below your nose (when possible) to prevent glasses or goggles from fogging up and reducing visibility.
Bike gloves with full finger coverage can suffice in milder temperatures, and allow maximum agility to reach gears and brakes. In colder temperatures, weather-resistant insulated gloves will work better. Many companies make “lobster” gloves specifically for cyclists’ needs, with the first and second finger separated to allow for gearing and braking. For very cold conditions, choose loose fitting mitts that allow for flexibility while keeping fingers warm. Whichever hand protection you choose, be sure you can safely operate your brakes and gears before heading out.
Keep your “power” protected. Wind and wet against your thighs is cold and uncomfortable. Choose pants that provide warmth without limiting range of motion. An over layer of wind and water-resistant pants protect clothing on wet or slushy days.
Sometimes good old fashioned long underwear are all you need to keep your legs warm. Long underwear made from wool or synthetic blends are better for active wear because they wick away perspiration.
Snow pants are convenient and cozy on very cold days.
It’s important to keep your feet warm and dry. Your feet will get exposed to a lot of cold, snow, slush and other debris. Thick socks and winter or hiking boots with some traction and moisture resistance work very well.
If you use clipless shoes and pedals regularly, it is a good idea to remove these for the winter and stick to basic flat pedals with good traction. The slippery conditions that sneak up on winter cyclists mean that a quick response of putting your foot down is essential. Clipless shoes offer little protection from the elements and winter salt and dirt will cause them damage.
TIP: Cotton socks trap moisture. Wool or synthetic blends allow moisture to be wicked away while riding and will keep you much more comfortable.
Wear just enough clothes to be slightly cold when you start pedaling. Within a few minutes you’ll warm up quickly.