Winter & Cold Weather Cycling Guide
Winter’s just around the corner, and as the weather starts to cool, it’s a good time to make sure that you’re prepared and that you have the right winter cycling clothing & gear to keep riding through the winter months. From your bike, to what you wear, to what you eat, you need to look at your entire kit and routine to make sure that you’re ready for the changing weather and conditions. Here are a few things to think about when looking at winter cycling clothing and winter cycling gear.
The Right Winter Cycling Clothing Begins with a Winter Cycling Jacket
Depending on where you live, temperatures and conditions from fall through spring can be hugely variable, so you’ll need plenty of options available in terms of winter cycling clothing to make sure you dress appropriately for any weather.
In terms of your kit, the most important piece of cold weather cycling gear you can have is a good winter cycling jacket. If it’s really bitter cold where you ride you need a super warm insulated jacket, but it should be Gore-Tex or similar fabric that breathes.
For most riders even in pretty cold areas a light cycling windbreaker is your best bet so you can layer and add or take off layers as the situation demands. Make sure to find a cycling windbreaker that’s water repellent but not waterproof for breathe-ability. You also want one that’s big enough for layering.
And in the winter, as always, the biggest concern is safety; you need to stay visible, so find the brightest winter cycling jacket you can.
Beyond your cycling windbreaker you need short and long sleeve cycling jerseys as base and middle layers. Merino wool or polyester are excellent for that purpose. For your legs, tights or leg warmers are fine. But a simple, inexpensive solution to leg warmth is the humble sweat pants worn over bike shorts. They really work!
You’ll also need thicker socks, possibly wool, full finger gloves, and a helmet cover and/or a thin wool cap to wear under the helmet if it’s really cold.
If you’re cycling regularly, you’ll need multiples of everything; as with your normal street wardrobe, you go through more clothes in winter, so you’ll find yourself doing a bit more laundry. Make sure your winter cycling clothing is durable — with the extra washing and wear-and-tear, you’ll definitely need winter cycling clothing that holds up.
Layer, Layer, Layer Your Winter Cycling Clothing
The whole point of having a range of winter cycling clothing is to give you options for layering. Even the smallest changes in conditions during your ride, combined with your level of exertion, mean that what feels right when you walk out the door probably won’t be right for your whole ride. Along with versatility, layers help insulate, trapping air between each item of clothing that gives you additional protection from the cold.
Generally, when choosing your winter cycling clothing, you should start off with a base layer to move moisture away from the skin, and top that with a jersey, then a cycling windbreaker or winter cycling jacket as the final outside garment.
This is why buying good, lightweight winter cycling clothing as pieces is so important — when you’ve got to carry several options with you on a ride, every ounce counts.
Make Sure Your Bike is Ready to Conquer the Cold
Cycling during the winter months means different conditions on the roads and trails. There are some simple modifications you can make to your bike to adapt to winter cycling. If you’re commuting, or plan on training regularly, look at getting a set of winter tires on sturdy wheels for the wetter or muddier conditions. With more debris on the roads and trails, your summer tires may not be up to the challenge. Depending on where you plan to ride, look for something with more puncture protection, or even spikes if you’re planning for snowy and icy trails. Consider mounting a set of mudguards to keep the spray off your clothes, drink bottle, and backpack.
Bike lights are an important piece of winter cycling gear. Days are short and visibility can be bad even during daytime, so consider if your lights are up to the challenge. Many riders keep their lights on all the time in the winter months, to make sure that they’re always visible regardless of conditions.
Plan Ahead and Get your Winter Cycling Gear Organized
With the more extreme winter weather you need to be prepared for tougher conditions; you may need to run your lights longer, so always have spare batteries or a charging cable. Always carry a spare tube or patch kit for flats.
Keep a closer eye on the weather forecast so that you can plan accurately for your ride. Consider a pre-ride evening routine: check the weather, plan your route, get your kit ready, and pack any gear you’re going to need, so that you’re ready to go as soon as you get out of bed.
Make sure that you keep eating and drinking. The food you pack with your winter cycling gear should be appropriate for the weather. Some energy bars can get rock hard in cold temperatures, so make sure you’ve got soft food or gels ready for the coldest days. And remember that even when it’s cold, you’re still sweating; so be sure to stay hydrated.
And don’t forget maintenance. Winter cycling is about a lot more than just gear. Snow, ice, mud, and rock salt can all do damage to your bike, so do more frequent cleanings and tune-ups to keep your bike in great condition. In extreme conditions, clean and lube the bike after every ride.
Be Prepared and Stay Safe when Cycling in the Winter
The most important thing about getting your winter cycling gear organized is having your bike, equipment and kit in appropriate shape, allowing you to stay focused and stay safe in conditions that present different challenges and hazards from what you face in summer.
And we can’t stress enough that in the winter, high visibility is absolutely essential. It’s why we make See Me Wear in the brightest colors possible, and why these colors are made with true fluorescent dyes that are dyed directly into the fabric instead of printed on. When getting your winter cycling clothing and gear ready, you should take a look at our high visibility cycling windbreaker, a water repellent, breathable, woven polyester shell with plenty of room for layering. It’s probably the brightest bike jacket ever made, and makes for a great winter cycling jacket too.