A bike service from a professional bike mechanic can ensure your cycling equipment is ready for winter, but having the correct clothing is also essential for an enjoyable ride during the colder months.
The secret to all-year-round cycle clothing success, both on or off road, is layering. It might be tempting to go and buy the most all-singing-and-dancing cycling jacket but that alone won’t provide enough performance to keep you truly comfortable in all weathers. What every cyclist needs to do is dress in a way that can deal with changing external conditions and even changing levels of personal exertion.
Firstly, let’s start with what you will put on first – your base layer. Base layers offer a highly beneficial layer at the fraction of the cost of a multi-seasonal jacket. Base layers are made from man-made fibres or merino wool and wick sweat away from your skin while also keeping you warm. So, a good base layer will help you stay cool and dry in summer, but warm and insulated in winter. Short or long-sleeve versions are available — we suggest having at least one of each type, and wear whichever suits the outside temperature best.
Bib tights and shorts
Over your base layer will then sit your bib tights or shorts. We recommend getting a bib style garment with shoulder straps because these offer a far more secure fit than waist style garments, which can dig into your waist and cause dis-comfort. Again, at least one pair of each length is good during winter — bib tights are great at keeping legs warm but might feel a bit too much on a mild day. As always with shorts and tights, buy versions with high quality padded inserts for comfortable riding. If you’re a mountain biker who might not want the full Lycra look, you can wear baggy shorts over bib tights which will allow you to reap all the comfort benefits without suffering from road cyclist styling issues.
It can be difficult to find a waterproof jacket that offers full waterproofing capabilities. The packable rain jacket or rain cape has long been a staple of cyclists everywhere and modern waterproof jackets are better than ever. Their ability to pack up tightly makes them a very versatile option to keep in your jersey back pocket encase you find your getting cold. Also, with their long tail flaps, they stop the back of your tights or shorts getting uncomfortably wet from wheel spray. Again, because the rain jacket will form your outermost layer, don’t forget visibility and reflectivity for riding in dark conditions.
Your summer cycling jerseys may offer as a good additional layer during the winter months. But we would recommend selecting a long sleeve option during those very cold winter months to make sure your insulated correctly to avoid the chill.
Gloves and feet warmers
There’s nothing quite as painful as getting cold extremities. Keeping them protected should be at the top of your list because if you find yourself up the south downs unable to feel your feet, you will wish you had never left the house! For the gloves: full-finger gloves, preferably with sticky silicone grip sections for secure contact with the bike’s controls. Then, on the feet, use overshoes or over socks to help keep toes warm and prevent any water getting into your shoe. If you ever find yourself in a situation wishing you’d fitted overshoes, you’ll realise why they’re worth every penny!
Soft Shell jacket
For additional warmth, a soft-shell jacket can’t be beaten. With wind-stopping material to protect the front, a good selection of rear pockets, and often some element of rain-resistance, a good soft shell is often your first line of defence against true winter riding elements. Don’t forget high-visibility and reflectivity, not only for riding at night but also for times when you might be cycling under trees or in heavily overcast conditions.
Modern day helmets are often made with one thing in mind, breathability. This is great in the summer to release heat but in the winter, this is no help at all! We recommend getting yourself a thermal skull cap. Some you can find with ear protectors as well which are great for fending off the wind chill.
Arm and leg warmers
There is nothing as versatile as an arm or leg warmer. These are simple tubes of insulating Lycra material that can be worn on the arms and legs, but which are easily removed when the sun appears. Arm and leg warmers are inexpensive, they can be easily rolled up and carried in a jersey pocket and are a very handy option for changeable temperatures. They can also save you money – buy turning your short sleeve jerseys into long sleeve ones, saving you the need to buy new long sleeve jerseys for winter, if you don’t want to.
A good neck warmer or snood will mean only your face is exposed to the cold, wet elements. In fact, a stretchy, lightweight thermal snood can help protect your face, too, and can turned into a scarf, lower face mask, balaclava, headband, beanie hat or bandana.
The final option is a gilet. A gilet is a jacket without arms, which aim to keep the torso warm and protect it particularly from wind chill. They are often made from windproof material and can be easily rolled and stored in a jersey when not needed. In situations where you aren’t worried about arm warmth or complete waterproofing, gilets offer a very convenient added layer.
The right clothing for winter cycling depends on various factors, but investing in quality garments now will allow you to enjoy your rides all year round. Don't forget to also schedule a bike service with a reliable bike mechanic to keep your equipment in top condition.