Winter cycling clothing: everything you need to stay warm

Prepare for the winter blues with hand picked winter cycling clothing to make those chilly rides a little bit easier to bear

Winter cycling clothing

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 pennies, there are always a few deals and bargains out there to be had.

So what should you look for in those crucial few pieces of kit to make sure that you will keep your riding up as the winter closes in? Here are the key pieces you shouldn't be without...

Winter cycling clothing: the essentials

Winter cycling bib tights

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 leg ends from riding up.

Castelli Nanoflex Pro bib tights

Reasons to buy
+Nanoflex material shrugs off water+The Progetto X2 seatpad is one of the most comfortable tested+Comfortable articulated cut
Reasons to avoid
-Waterproof inner calf material can be a little baggy on skinny ankles-Weight is quite high

A heavyweight option, with waterproof reinforcements at the thighs, knees and rear.

Castelli Sorpasso RoS women's bib tights

(Image credit: Future)

Reasons to buy
+Warm+Breathable+Water resistant+Reasonable price
Reasons to avoid
-No comfort break solution-Not a fan of zipped ankles

Flexible and soft Nano Flex 3G material is breathable and warm, with a Progetto X2 Air seamless seat pad offering plenty of in-saddle protection for long base miles.  

Winter cycling jacket

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 overheat. 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.

Castelli-Women-s-Gabba-Jersey-Short-Sleeve-Jerseys-Red-AW15-CS155740231

Reasons to buy
+Superb fit+Excellent breathability+Good water resistance+Perfect length tail+Range of colours+Looks great+Good size pockets+Women's version too
Reasons to avoid
-Not quite warm enough for slower winter ride

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.

Winter cycling baselayer

The unsung hero of your winter cycling clothing is your base layer. 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

Reasons to buy
+Thumb loops+Great fit+Anti odour+Comfortable+Great wicking
Reasons to avoid
-None

A winter ready base layer, with a cycling specific cut, anti-odour treatment, and cool thumb loops to keep the sleeves in place.

Winter cycling gloves

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 lightweight 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

(Image credit: Endura)

Reasons to buy
+Competitive price+Keep your hands warm+Supple and flexible
Reasons to avoid
-Lack of breathability-Extra padding would be ideal

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.

Winter cycling footwear

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.

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 that will trap warmth and keep the feeling in your toes.

Endura Road II overshoes

Reasons to buy
+Good quality+Good durability+Very well priced+Warm
Reasons to avoid
-None

Before you splash out on full-on winter cycling shoes, try some heavy duty overshoes, like these from Endura. They're made from 90 per cent neoprene and 10 per cent nylon - so they'll keep the rain water out, and the fabric is incredibly durable.

Winter cycling eye protection

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.

Rudy Project Defender

(Image credit: Future)

Reasons to buy
+Excellent photochromatic performance+Versatile design+Good coverage
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

Rudy Project's shatterproof photochromatic lenses are among the best, with really high light transmission in darker conditions. There's plenty of protection from sunlight when it brightens up too and the large lenses help keep out road debris. The modular frame means that you can remove the lower bumpers if you prefer.