Though the first big snowfall is behind us now, having the right gear for winter riding is more important than ever as the mercury can still stay below zero for weeks on end. While it’s obvious for many how to dress up properly for such harsh conditions, we thought it might come handy, if we provided you with some guidelines how to stay warm, dry and safe during the cold and dark months of winter. The needs can differ, depending on what kind of riding you do (road, mtb, etc.) and how intense your workout is, so we took that, too, into consideration.
It all starts with a good base layer. Base layers help you to keep you warm and they wick moisture away from your body. However, in order to fulfil this mission, you need to wear them very close to your body, so even if you don’t have a six-pack (like me, for example), do opt for a very tight fit, generally one size smaller than you’d normally go for. The thickness of the material should depend on the temperature: in moderately cold times, a thinner base layer, like the Helly Hansen Stripe Crew Dry Base Layer should be sufficient, however if the temperature drops below 0, you might want to consider something thicker for more warmth.
What comes after the base layer, depends on the weather: if it’s very cold, you’ll need a midlayer, if it’s not that bad (10-15 degree), a soft shell will suffice. Soft shells can differ in how much warmth they provide you with and the riding position it allows you. A lighter jacket, like the Gore Contest or a Gore Phantom can work well on colder spring days whilst a Gore Tool Jacket will help you through really cold winter rides as well. Having a wind-proof soft shell can be invaluable as it prevents the cyclist’s biggest enemy, the wind getting through the fabric, thus keeping you warm longer. For road riding, when you have a more forward-leaning riding position, you’ll need longer arms and more cover on your back, something like the Gore Xenon or the Altura Transformer can be the solution. While hi-viz jackets may not be “chic”, they can help you a lot to be seen during your commute during the evening hours.
Once your upper body is sorted, let’s think about the legs. While many don’t like bib-tights, they elminate the chill at the waist. Also, good windproof bib-tights will keep your leg, and what’s more important, your knees warm. Keeping the knee joints warm is imperative, I often see people riding in shorts in very cold weather and while it is certainly an impressive feat, their knee joints will be wrecked in a couple of years.
While commuters with longer rides might also prefer bib-tights with reflective stripes, like the Altura Night Vision Bib, if you’ve got a shorter commute, you might not want to change into proper cycling gear but a simple pair of jeans might not offer enough protection. If it gets cold, wearing legwarmers underneath a normal pair of trousers could be a good solution.
When it comes to winter riding, most people complain about their extremities – hands and feet can indeed get quickly cold but it’s not that hard to keep them warm. Any summer shoe can be used for winter riding, all you need is a thick water- and windproof overshoe and maybe a pair of Seal Skinz socks and you are ready to go. However, don’t expect your overshoes to last forever. They will, eventually, be destroyed by even a little walking, so don’t expect more than 2 or 3 seasons out of a pair.
Gloves can be a bit trickier. In a good, windproof pair, your hands will remain warm for a long time, but in my experience, once you remove them during the ride, they never really warm up again. If it’s really cold, you can wear a liner inside to help stay warm. Check out all our gloves here >>>
Last, but not least, the head. While there’s a common misconcept, that you loose more heat through your head than through other parts of the body, it’s not true. On the other hand, while your other parts of your body are covered, you might end up loosing a lot of heat through your head. All you need to prevent that is a hat, preferably windproof. Cycling hats are fairly thin, so they fit underneath the helmet and they should cover your ears too, like this Gore Under Helmet Hat
Winter cycling isn’t as hard as it looks, all you need is the proper gear and you’re all sorted. Make riding more during winter your New Year’s resolution and give it a go!