Love it or hate it, there’s one sure-fire way that you can make cycling in winter more enjoyable: dress properly.
If you have the right winter cycling clothing then you’ll be more likely to have the motivation to head out in cold weather, giving you the base fitness to lay the foundations for a successful summer.
However, get it wrong and you’ll soon find yourself wet and cold, and more inclined to spend the weekends in the warmth of your front room than out on the road.
So what should you look for in those crucial few pieces of kit to make sure that you can will keep your riding up as the winter closes in…
On milder days you might be able to get away with bib shorts and leg warmers, but for the middle three months of winter you’re going to need a pair of proper winter bib tights.
Bib tights should offer wind resistance and a little insulation to keep you warm, as well as water-resistance if you’re heading out regularly in wet conditions.
You can get tights either with or without a pad. Those without will usually be cheaper, but you’ll then have to wear bib shorts under or over them, which can be bulky. Extra warmth can be found with tights with a high front panel which will help to protect your core from really cold conditions, while straps that go under your feet can help to prevent the rights from riding up.
Alongside your tights, your jacket is an important piece of winter cycling clothing to get right. The bad news is that you’re not going to be able to buy one jacket for all conditions, with a light windshell or waterproof being a good option for slightly mild and wet conditions.
However for the most part you’re going to be looking for a well-insulated jacket with good windproofing. This will keep you comfortable through most conditions, and even if you do get wet, it should still be able to keep you warm.
Breathability could also come into the equation, but this might only really be a factor if you’re throwing some intensity into your winter training.
The unsung hero of your winter cycling clothing is your baselayer. This will not only keep you warm by providing an extra layer of insulation, but will also wick sweat away from your skin, therefore keeping you dry too.
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For winter you’re clearly going to want a thicker base layer, and merino wool is a great option if you’re budget will stretch that far. For really cold days, it’s also worth having a long sleeve base layer to pluck out of the wardrobe, although if you don’t, then a pair of arm warmers will do just as good a job.
Your fingers are going to get cold much more quickly than other parts of your body, so having a good pair of winter cycling gloves will make cold weather riding all the more bearable.
On the coldest days it can also be worth wearing some cotton inner gloves for extra protection.
However the most important thing is to pick a pair of gloves which are both well-insulated and windproof, making sure you keep feeling in your digits to maintain control of the gear and brake levers.
You can also get waterproof gloves, which are obviously good in wet conditions, but can compromise on breathability – and after all the most important thing is to keep your hands warm.
Keeping your toes warm is just as difficult, maybe even more so seeing as, unlike your fingers, you don’t have the option of moving them around while you ride.
For serious winter riding, it might be worth investing in a pair of winter cycling shoes, but for most of us a pair of heavy duty overshoes will suffice.
Worn over the top of a pair or two of socks and your normal shoes, your overshoes should again prioritise keeping you warm.
If it’s raining hard then your feet are going to get wet however waterproof your overshoes claim to be, so look for a pair of neoprene overshoes which will trap warmth and keep the feeling in your toes.
If you’ve invested in an expensive aero helmet to help you ride fast during summer, then the good news is that it will also come in useful in winter, where the lack of ventilation will prevent cold wind and rain getting in.
For those of you without an aero lid, don’t despair, as a normal skull cap or a cotton cycling cap will do just as good a job. As an added bonus a cotton cap will have the added benefit of keeping rain out of your eyes when you flip the peak down.
Finally, shorter days don’t mean you can forget about your sunglasses. In fact, if you have ones with replaceable lenses then they can really come in useful during the winter months.
Many sunglasses come with clear or yellow lenses which will help to brighten up gloomy conditions, and will also keep water out of your eyes when riding in the rain – particularly useful if you’re wearing contact lenses.
What’s more, on crisp clear days the sun can feel almost as bright as in the summer and is much lower in the sky, so you might get winter use out of your darker lenses too.