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Winter Cycling Clothing - How To Look Good While Staying Warm And Dry

Updated on February 9, 2014
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Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. A keen cyclist, runner, and obstacle racer, he ran his first ultra-marathon in 2016.

The cold weather is on it's way but there's no need to stay indoors if you wear the right clothing for winter cycling

While it may be tempting to stay indoors and head to the gym or go on the turbo trainer instead- you can actually do some great riding in the winter months. The simple key is to make sure you dress appropriately for winter cycling training.

This guide will take you through your cold weather cycling training essentials for road and mountain bike riding with the emphasis on keeping you warm, dry and enjoying your rides.

The first error most cyclists make when it comes to winter cycling clothing is ask themselves

"what jacket should i buy for winter cycling?"

and subsequently purchase a heavy duty waterproof cycling jacket. The author made this mistake. You will simply get too warm and sweat profusely which will make you uncomfortable. You don't necessarily need a heavyweight winter jacket for cycling and you can find out why if you keep reading.

Dress right for winter cycling enjoyment

Winter cycling can be great fun if you're dressed right.
Winter cycling can be great fun if you're dressed right.

Start as you mean to go on- invest in a quality base layer

Winter Cycling Tip- Buy a good quality base layer

Cyclists who spend a lot of time outside during the winter tend to make investments in the base layers they wear. A simple thermal vest simply is not ideal to keep you warm and wick away sweat from your body. Therefore look for a thermal yet wicking long sleeve base layer for winter cycling to provide the building block of your winter cycling outfits. Your base layers do not necessarily need to be cycling specific as a great wicking baselayer can be used for many other activities like running, skiing or even simply lounging around the house in comfort.

A good base layer will be close fitting without restricting your movement

Brands to look for include Craft, Endura, Assos and my personal favourite Falke who make some fantastic high quality ergonomic sports base layers and socks.

Merino wool- like wearing your own fleece!

If you have the budget a merino wool base layer is great for cold weather bicycling. Merino wool has great thermal properties and is able to wick sweat away from the body well. The benefit of merino wool is that it stays odourless as well. Look out for brands like Icebreaker who make exceptionally good base layers.

Get yourself a neck gaitor/ buff

Neck gaitors and buffs are a great addition the a cyclists winter waredrobe. The neck is one of the most exposed parts of a cyclists body during winter so it makes sense to give it some protection. A nexk gaitor also protects against cold winter winds travelling down the neck which can lead to the cyclist picking up chills which can compromise their immune system.

A Buff is a very versatile garment that can act as a nexk gaitor or transform into a simple winter hat or even a balaclava. Giving great waredrobe possibilities. Definitely worthwhile for winter cycling.

Get yourself a warm windproof cycling jacket

A windproof cycling jacket helps to provide warmth and protection from the wind while cycling. While cycling you create a good amount of heat which helps keep you warm despite the lightweight appearance of many windproof jackets. Often road riders might only wear a good quality long sleeve base layer and windproof jacket such as an Assos 851 jacket or similar to the Santini jacket prictured below despite the temperature being close to freezing. For extra warmth a cyclist could wear additional thin base layers.

Winter Cycling Waterproof Jacket in the back of a jersey pocket

Waterproof jacket rolled tight in the back pocket of a cycling jersey for transport
Waterproof jacket rolled tight in the back pocket of a cycling jersey for transport

You need to own a lightweight packable waterproof jacket for winter

A lightweight, easily packable waterproof jacket should travel with you during the winter months to provide both a waterproof rain barrier in times of bad weather and an additional insulating layer when it gets extremely cold.

Most cycling jackets like the windproof jacket pictured above have rear packets to allow you to stow away items of kit while cycling and these make a great point of storage for a lightweight waterproof jacket. Always choose a waterproof jacket you can pack or roll up and slide into a pocket and carry.

Keep those hands warm for winter cycling

Cycling in the cold weather can be harsh on your hands so you need to take action. It can actually take up to thirty minutes for your hands to reach optimum temperatures while cycling however if you don't wear the right gloves they'll never get warm so you need the best winter cycling gloves possible.

Most cycling gloves are either designed to be waterproof or windproof for warmth. If it rains plenty where you live prioritise a waterproof pair of gloves as their waterproof properties will likely be required at some point. Choose the best winter cycling gloves for you to see you warm and dry in bad weather.

Tip from a winter cyclist- Buy some liner gloves for cold weather bicycling

Do you suffer with cold hands?

Buy yourself some inexpensive silk liner gloves which are non bulky and give you a couple of degrees of extra warmth for cycling, skiing or any other activity in cold weather.

Wear a warm hat under your helmet for warmth

There are plenty of winter cycling hats available on the market which are designed to be close fitting. A large amount of heat is dissipated through the head while exercising so this needs to be kept warm at all times.

Winter training clothing for cycling- make sure you wear a hat and keep your head warm

Winter Cycling
Winter Cycling

Get yourself some waterproof overshoes for winter cycling

Winter weather can cover the roads in rainwater and silt which your tyres can kick up all over your feet. Therefore it is a good idea to protect your feet and shoes from this occurrence. A pair of waterproof cycling overshoes will also provide an insulating layer for when the mercury drops.

Photo credits

Winter cycling from Jeff Moser / BikeCarson.com on Flickr

Winter training clothing for cycling from hr.icio on Flickr

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