The best and only sensible approach to winter cycling wear is layering, you don’t have to go crazy and wrap yourself in dozens of layers but, with a few thought items of clothing and you will be more than comfortable on a cold day. In this feature, we will detail out some of the core items you will need, and explain a few options on top of that.
It might be wise to think, all you need is some wooly gloves and a hat to keep the cold at bay. But, most cycling clothing is thin and designed for summer, so you are going lose a lot of body heat in this manner, gloves or not, ideally you need thicker (but not too thick) clothing with better thermal properties to keep the entire body warm – not just covering the head or hands myth…
“The body responds to cold temperatures in at least two ways. One is the constriction of blood vessels in the arms and legs, reducing blood flow to the extremities. This protects the brain and vital organs in the trunk but leaves the fingers and toes susceptible to frostbite, in effect sacrificing them. Another response to cold is shivering, which generates heat.
The face, head and upper chest are up to five times as sensitive to changes in temperature as other areas. This creates the illusion that covering up those areas traps in more heat, but clothing another part of the body does just as much to reduce overall heat loss.”
For winter, merino socks are the best choice and a higher cut is perfect. It seems like such an insignificant item but, your feet don’t get much circulation on the bike so tend to be the area you will feel the cold first. The Breton socks shown here are just perfect, they are also made with a anti-blister yarn, if your not familiar with merino it’s an incredible material and being non-synthetic, it doesn’t get smelly. It is also thermoregulating. When dressing for a cold ride start with your socks and build your layers up from here.
My preferred option for anything that isn’t sub-zero is leg warmers. It gives you the option to roll them down if you start to overheat, they also come in handy in spring and autumn. These Loulou RAIN leg warmers are the ultimate versions. Made from Italian ThermoRoubaix Fabric with DWR waterproofing. Not only will you stay warm they will keep any rain off you. These should be the second item on, after the socks. They are easy to get on with zippered ankles. They also have reflective detailing too.
I consider the long sleeve base layer to be the core of your warmth, and choosing the best is paramount to having a comfy ride. In winter I pair a base layer with a warm jersey/jacket and that is just right down to freezing (along with the other items here). The Cosette Ceramic Base layer is exceptional, not only does it look stylish, it’s packed with technical features. Made from a 49% Merino, 23% Polyamide, 28% Polypropylene material with dual fabric construction, bio-ceramic fibres and flat locked seams for supreme comfort and great moisture and wicking ability. The cut is called race fit, which as a base layer, just means it’s body hugging, the neck is nice and high to help keep you snug. This is by far one of the best base layers out there for cycling. And before you get your shorts on, put the base layer on…
Shorts matched with Leg warmers is ideal for winter if those shorts are also made with ThermoRoubaix DWR Rain Fabric like the Jeanne bib shorts. Whilst the base layer is the core of your warmth, your shorts need to not only keep your legs warm, they also need to be comfy for long winter rides. The Jeanne has a chamois constructed with a mix of three different density foams to ensure extra comfort and movement. Without shorts with great padding and panelling construction, all the warmth will mean nothing, if you’re not comfy. As mentioned before, using leg warmers with bib shorts gives greater versatility in all but the worst weather. The construction of the shorts also means more movement and you will feel less bulky. These bibs also have nice wide bib straps which also add to the comfort. Now these are on over your base layer, time for a jacket.
Too many layers can be a bad thing, restricting movement and generally ending up feeling bulky and taking ages to get dressed and go. For this reason I tend to pair a good long sleeve base layer with a decent jacket or jersey, and if things are wet – and cold – add a waterproof shell, like the Regine. But other than that, a base layer and jacket are perfect. Providing that jacket is fit for purpose. Cafe du Cycliste’s Heidi does this in oodles with true panache. Just because you’re on your bike in winter, there is no need to look like a scuba diver! The Heidi is the ultimate winter jacket and more than capable of handling cold windy days. The front is windproof with it’s quilted body and discreet zippered air vents on each shoulder, and an audio cabling system so you can use your ear phones if needed. It’s highly breathable and wicks well. Pockets on the rear and an offset zip make this soft lined jacket the most suitable and stylish jacket out there for winter.
So thats the main requirements for winter cycling but, you need to cover the extremities too, so heat isn’t lost from one area of the body or another. Whilst the items below may seem like sundry items they are vital for comfort, and in all seriousness, stopping you getting hyperthermia if things go wrong with the weather. It’s also why merino is a great choice of fabric as it’s thermal properties still work when it gets wet.
I swear by neck warmers and this one is the coolest, sorry warmest around. Looking every part the Breton sailor (no bad thing) this small item can make all the difference. The Loulou neck warmer is made from merino and produced in Europe (as are all the items mentioned). You won’t be able to live without one once you get it. It really does stop the cold wind getting inside your jacket, along with protecting the neck from the elements. You will also look very dandy.
An absolute must on cold days and something every winter cyclist should have. Modern cycling shoes are not made for winter, with plenty of venting for hot summer riding, your feet will feel like blocks of ice in minutes and ruin your ride. They need to be easy to get on and off and hard wearing. The Cafe du Cycliste winter shoe covers are that and some. Your feet will thank you for wearing these and they will also protect your cycling shoes from winter debris.
You probably wear gloves in the summer, you probably wear glove in the winter. If you haven’t got winter cycling gloves you should as they’re much better than just a pair of wooly gloves – Giving you the padding of summer gloves and the warmth of your fave winter mittens. They should have longer cuffs than normal winter gloves to allow for the reach on a bicycle, and not expose your skin to the cold. The so called midseason glove pictured, is such a glove a capable of handling pretty cold days, despite the name. These gloves are windproof and I would always look for this in winter cycling gloves, as windchill factors can soon make your hands frozen to the core and you need dexterity to change gear and brake!
The clothing I recommend here will see you through most of the winter but, when the cold snaps come and the thermometer goes way below freezing and you still want to ride you will need to add some more layers and full winter tights. Whilst it can be fun to ride in very cold and icy conditions, we would ask you all to consider your safety and check the weather reports for ice. If all is good I suggest adding following items of clothing to the mix for ‘deep winter’ riding. A Belgium hat, that covers your ears and head. Full length thermal tights like the Martine. Another layer for your body to wear between the base layer and jacket. The stylish Claudette fits the bill nicely. It goes without saying that all these items are available for men and women too.