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.
Winter cycling clothing can be pricey – but high quality kit can keep you going for several seasons. If you’re looking to save the pennies, there are always a few deals and bargains out there to be had.
Winter cycling clothing: what to wear to cycle through winter
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? Here are the key pieces you shouldn’t be without…
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.
Castelli Nanoflex Pro bib tights
A heavy weight option, with waterproof reinforcements at the thighs, knees and rear.
dhb women’s classic bib tights
Warm and breathable Roubaix lycra with a high front, and CyTech Elastic Interface Giro Air chamois to maintain comfort.
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.
If you just need a light additional layer, a cycling gilet is a piece of kit which acts as a barrier against the worst of the wind without causing you to overhear. A light windshell or waterproof is a good option for slightly mild and wet conditions – most are packable, so if the weather turns out to be better than expected you can stash it in your back pocket.
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.
Available in men’s and women’s fit, with long and short sleeves (to be worn with arm warmers), the Castelli Gabba is quite an institution in wet weather cycling clothing.
Constructed from a wind and water resistant material, it’s highly breathable. It’s not warm enough for slow miles on very cold days, but if the intensity is fairly high it’s a tremendously versatile piece of kit.
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.
For winter you’re clearly going to want a thicker base layer, and merino wool is a great option if your 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.
Pearl Izumi Transfer Wool base layer
A winter ready base layer, with a cycling specific cut, anti-odour treatment, and cool thumb loops to keep the sleeves in place.
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.
Endura FS260-Pro Nemo Gloves (pictured above)
These gloves are constructed from Neoprene – they keep rain water out, and aren’t breathable – so moisture produced by your body stays in and warms your hands. As long as you’re ok with sweaty hands, the fabric choice maintains dexterity and good contact with the handlebars.
Overshoes, warm socks and winter cycling shoes
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.
Overshoes are designed to be pulled over your normal cycling shoes, and have holes in the bottom to allow for your cleats to connect to the pedals. Ideally the area around this will be reinforced to prevent it from splitting.
It’s also a good idea to pair it all with a pair of good winter socks. Don’t be tempted to fill your shoes with bulky socks, as this can reduce blood supply and result in numbness.
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.
Endura Road II overshoes
Before you crack out the full on winter cycling shoes, try some heavy duty overshoes, like these from Endura. They’re made from 90 Neoprene and 10 per cent Nylon – so they’ll keep the rain water out, and the fabric is incredibly durable.
If you’ve invested in an expensive aero cycling 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.
Bontrager Ballista helmet
An aero road helmet worn by the Trek-Segafredo team, we found this lid breathable enough for summer racing – but it’s still less ventilated than your average lid so will keep some warmth in. Pair with a cap if you’re feeling the chill.
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.
Uvex Sportstyle 810 V cycling sunglasses
Photochromatic lenses that will grow darker in the sun, remaining clear in the low lights of winter.