Essential Gear for Cold-Weather Cycling
Jack Frost can derail even the best-laid ride plans. No matter how committed you are to your cycling routine, a harsh winter will make it tough to stick to it. Equipping yourself with the essential winter cycling gear for those long, cold rides will help you stay strong all winter long.
Once again, we asked Coach Darryl, long-time rider, mentor and veteran of many Canadian winters, for his input. We paired his general recommendations with some of the best product reviews of the year to put together an essential list of cold-weather cycling gear for you.
A warm base layer is a critical piece of winter cycling gear for rides below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure it’s long enough to connect to your gloves so you don’t have any gaps where winter can bite through. Be sure your base breathes well, as the last thing you want is to trap moisture against your skin on a cold ride. Castelli’s 2018 Prosecco for men or Alpha Ros model for women are both great options.
Winter Bib Tights
Keeping your legs, and especially your knees, warm, is critical to maintaining body heat and flexibility. Ventilation is still critical, and you’ll want a bib that’s easy to work with for pit stops, too. For a full-length bib tight, check out Shimano’s S-Phyre Wind Bib Long Tights for men and the Gore Wear C3 Thermo Bib Tights+ for women. If you do go with a bib short/leg warmer combo, a pointer Coach Darryl offers for men: avoid the bad habit of pulling your bib shorts down to meet your leg warmers; pull the warmers up, instead. This will keep your man parts well supported and prevent soreness from constant rubbing.
Planning footwear for winter rides is an art. In especially cold conditions, it’s good to wear thin socks underneath thicker ones, which means you may want to have a pair of slightly larger shoes on hand. Then you’ll need your overshoes or heavy-duty winter shoes for frigid rides. Keep those toes warm with the Gore Wear C5 Windstopper Thermo Overshoes or — for the most hardcore extremes — the Specialized Defroster Trail Mountain Bike Shoes.
The best winter jerseys will provide that essential extra insulation without adding bulk or necessary weight. Try Pearl Izumi’s Pro Merino Thermal models for men and women. These are blended with nylon for strength and durability, and boosted with BioViz accents to keep you visible on dark winter rides.
Winter Cycling Gloves
You’ll want to keep pairs of long- and short-fingered gloves handy for winter, as you’ll really feel temperature changes at the extremities. For this reason, it’s crucial that you add gloves to your collection of cold-weather cycling gear. A pro hack that Coach Darryl recommends is to wear a pair of disposable rubber gloves underneath your outer gloves for extra insulation. Be sure to poke holes in the fingertips to allow moisture to escape. For a full-finger glove that will keep you warm and still allow you to use your phone, we recommend the Giordana AV 300 Winter Glove.
Anyone who has tried to bike even in mildly cold temperatures knows that face coverage is non-negotiable. Coach Darryl doesn’t recommend anything that covers both mouth and nose, such as a balaclava, unless it’s too cold to endure without it. Leaving your nose open keeps you from trapping carbon dioxide, and that will keep you breathing efficiently on a hard ride. The Deep Winter Face Mask from Isadore is a versatile, lightweight option that provides great neck and ear coverage and a lower face mask that can cover as much or as little area as you need. When it comes to winter cycling gear, you need to be able to adapt your gear to your body’s temperature.
The Bicycle Saddle
Discomfort from the cold can be bad enough; you don’t need an uncomfortable rear end making worse. Be sure to start with a tensioned bicycle saddle for all of your cycling, winter or otherwise. If you don’t want to worry about waterproofing or covers for those icy, wet rides, we’ve now got an all-weather bike saddle just for you.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of cold-weather cycling gear, but it will get you started. Make sure your bike is equipped with good fenders and that you’re giving it extra cleaning and greasing to prevent corrosive buildup. Have a good light handy for those dark rides, and a slim but spacious bike bag from our friends at Orucase for all the extra gear. Last but not least, Coach Darryl advises bumping that seat down a notch. All that extra padding is going to stretch your legs a bit farther away from the pedals and make your knees sore.
Stay warm out there.
You can find more insights from Coach Darryl, including tips for the best order in which to put on all this gear, over at his website.