Dummies Guide To Winter Cycling Clothing


As cyclists we love the outdoors period! But just occasionally the feeling is not reciprocated and just sometimes the outdoors can really suck! So here are a few tips on winter cycling clothing to help you beat those days when mother nature really doesn’t want you to play.

Winter Cycling Clothing

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”

Alfred Wainwright

When planning a ride, first thing ask yourself the following: Is it Dry? Is it Wet? Will it be wet? Is it Cold? Is it Warm? Will it get warm? Sounds pretty simple huh? Well, you’ll be amazed how some people overlook these basic questions and throw on the same ol’ thing for the same ride each day but the actuality is it can be a very different day with very different weather conditions.

To start – Understand the weather systems in your area (or where you’re planning to ride)
It doesn’t matter where you live in the world, if it’s near the coast or miles inland, or near mountains or on the plains, there will generally be a prevailing weather pattern in your area. Regular riders will have a good idea, so if you’re new ask around – there are some simple questions to start with; ‘What is the normal prevailing wind direction?’, ‘How dry or wet can i expect it to be here?’, ‘How cold does it get this time of year?’. Understanding the weather of the area you’re in and knowing what to expect will put you in a great position to be fully prepared when you’re out on that long ride. There are also some great weather Apps available that can help you to monitor the weather and give you pretty good forecasts – use them!

The next few minutes could help you to dress correctly so you enjoy riding all year round, wherever you are, whatever the weather!


RULE #1 – Avoid thick heavy clothing!
Apart from making you feel like the Michelin Man – it’s heavy, it will slow you down and you’ll also overheat, sweat quickly followed by the damp pinch of wind chill – not a good day in the saddle!

RULE #2 – Think layers!
Why is layering important? At certain times of the year during a single day ride it’s possible to experience all seasons, so choosing appropriate clothing for a ride can be difficult to choose. Employing a basic system of layering will help make approaching all weather riding much more comfortable and enjoyable rather than something to be endured.

Thin layers of technical fabrics that trap heat before dissipating, while letting your skin breathe is the holy grail!

Winter Cycling layering

Upper body – The three layers
When layering your upper body you just need to remember the three layers; base layer, mid layer and outer shell.
Base layer
The base layer is the staple of any layering system.
A base layer’s main function is to be worn next to your skin (with a close fit) and transfer sweat away.
Mid layer
The mid layer is your defence against the cold when the mercury drops.
Typically a long (or short) sleeve jersey with a fleece lining, a mid layer will trap air to keep you warm.
Look for mid layer with long zips to give you extra venting if needed.
Outer shell
The outer shell is your armour against the elements. Usually a cycling jacket with windproof and/or waterproof fabrics.
If you’re looking for total waterproofing make sure the jacket has taped seams. Fit is everything, too loose and wind will come through the collar, too tight and you’ll restrict circulation.

Of course, you won’t always need to wear three layers. There are many variables to consider. In Autumn and Spring you can get away with a base layer and outer shell. In summer you can get away with just a base layer.
We do recommend you have at least one type of each layer in your wardrobe ready so you’re prepared for anything.

Lower body layering – Tights
With your upper body sorted, now we should look to your legs. Exposing your legs, especially your knees to low temperatures can be painful during and long after your ride. On cool days you can simply wear a pair of lycra or baggy shorts paired with leg warmers (more info below).

However, when the temperatures drop below 10 degrees Celsius, reach for a pair of tights with brushed fleece linings. They’ll keep your muscles supported and supple during cold weather.

Don’t forget your extremities
Keep the warmth in and the windchill out! This is especially true on long descents. Skull caps and Buffs© can slip under your helmet to offer extra warmth and protection over the ears too.
Arm & leg warmers
Warmers are very versatile. They’re ideal for temperamental weather where it starts out cold and heats up. Simply peel off these warmers as the temperature rises. Roll them up and you can stash them in your jersey pocket.
Don’t forget about your poor hands. They’re right up front, exposed and immobile. Choose long finger gloves with wind protection to keep the biting chill off.
Nothing spoils a ride quite like cold and wet feet. Overshoes slip over your cycling shoes to offer protection against the elements. Choose a waterproof and windproof option for the depths of winter.

Changeable weather?
If you live in an area known for unsettled weather, the temperature may differ at the start, middle and end of your ride and at certain times of the year it’s not uncommon to experience four seasons in one ride!

It’s worth testing different layering systems to see which is best for you, and have a look at the weather report for a better idea on the day. Lastly, pay attention to your own internal thermometer. We all run at different temperatures so what may work for someone else may not be best for you.
Base layers, jerseys, jackets and tights all come in different thicknesses for different conditions. Upper body clothing often comes in short or long sleeve versions for differing levels of protection.

Riding in cold/wet/changeable weather doesn’t need to be miserable. With a simple layering system you can stay warm and dry through whatever mother nature throws at you.

We hope this guide helps you to happier cycling experience and look forward to seeing you out there… 👍🚲

Winter Cycling Clothing
Have layers – will ride!

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Jason Director
Unlocking adventure...

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