Guide to Winter Cycling Gear: How to Stay Safe & Warm

Last Updated on July 7, 2022 by Michael Rogers

winter cycling gear

What to Wear for Winter Bike Commuting


Do you enjoy cycling in cold weather? Or maybe you’ve just started and would like to know how to practice cycling safely, especially as the temperatures and Fall leaves drop.

This Guide to Winter Cycling Gear will make a huge difference in the quality & safety of your winter rides!.

It’s important that you, as an amateur or intermediate cyclist, gear up to face the harsh winter weather. This way, you can remain active while the rest of us cuddle up with blankets.

To stay safe and warm while cycling in the winter, we’ve researched the essential winter cycling gear you’ll need. We’ll also show you how to take proper care of your bike, and how to ride in snowy weather.

How to Dress for Winter Cycling

How to Dress for Winter Cycling

It’s intuitive that we start with the right winter cycling clothes that’ll keep you warm. But how do you layer up the right way?

Our advice will be to divide your layers according to functionality and how easy it would be to remove them if the weather was to change.

Here’s my apparel guide to staying warm

First Layer: Base Layer

The base layer’s function is to keep your body dry and ensure your comfort. Choose a synthetic wicking fiber, such as polyester or spandex. This will move moisture away from your skin, and help regulate your body temperature.

It’s best to avoid cotton since it’ll soak up the sweat and stick to your skin which isn’t ideal in cold weather.

This layer may include:

Winter Cycling Jersey or Shirt

Make sure the undershirt fits your skin comfortably to trap the air and keep you warm.

Thermal Underwear

Base layer of cycling gear Thermal Underwear

This is the layer that goes under your shirt and pants. These are worn next to the skin.

Second Layer: The Mid or Insulating Layer

You can add or remove this layer as often as you want, depending on the weather. The layer’s main functions are to retain more heat, provide warmth, and transfer what little moisture there’s from the base to the outer layer.

Natural and synthetic insulating materials, such as fleece fabrics, are your ideal choice. Since they consist of lightweight microfibers that’ll trap air well.

An insulating layer might include:

Light Pullover or Hoodie

Second Layer of cycling gear pullover

You can remove this if the weather becomes less chilly or have it act as both the mid and outer layer.

Third Layer: The Outer Layer

This layer’s function is to protect you from the elements, so you should pick material that’s both water and air resistant, and is also breathable.

This layer usually includes:

 Winter Cycling Jacket

Make sure it’s a loose fit, with a longer cut for your back for protection. If it has a full front zipper and a windproof inner flap it’ll help your body quickly adjust to the temperature.

Winter Bicycling Pants

Winter Bicycling Pants

Known as bib tights, they offer water and wind resistance. Maybe choose one with a high front panel that’ll warm up your core alongside your legs.

Gender-Specific Fits

As with everything else, there are slight differences between men’s and women’s cycling clothes so make sure to choose a fit that fits you.

Men’s winter cycling clothing comes with more chamois pads and is rigid-shaped. Male cyclists should choose clothes with padding on the sitting bones. This removes pressure off their perineal region to increase blood flow.

Women’s winter cycling clothing is more difficult to shop for. Because women’s form varies, many issues arise. Some women opt for buying men’s sizings instead, so for female cyclists, we’d recommend playing around with sizes to achieve the greatest comfort.

What Kit Do I Need For Winter Cycling?

Your cycling kit should also include the following essentials:

Cold Weather Cycling Gear

Just as important as wearing the appropriate clothes, choosing the correct accessory to go with it is too. Your gear is effective if it provides an extra layer of warmth as well as helps you see and be seen on the road.

Bicycle Lights

Bicycle Lights
Not a winter scene, but these headlights are a great example!

The least amount of brightness for front headlights should be 500 lumens and 100 lumens light for the rear lights. I’d also recommend getting a light for your helmet and backpack.

Reflective Clothing

Stick with bike-specific clothing since they have a reflective trim which makes you detectable by drivers. But for a more budget-friendly option, consider adding reflectors or reflective tape to your bike, clothes, or backpack.

Neck Tube

On windy days, you’d want to protect your neck with a neck warmer.

Hat or Headband

This piece of gear is to protect your head against elements. It should be thin enough to fit under your helmet. You can get better protection for your head, neck, ears, chin, and mouth by buying a balaclava.

Winter Cycling Gloves

Winter Cycling Gloves

Choose a pair that is both wind and water-resistant. Remember that they shouldn’t be too tight or they’ll cut off your circulation.

Protective Eyewear

A pair of these will be very useful in protecting your eyes from the grit and water that cover the wintery roads. They’ll be useful during the summer as well, and help you see better on sunny days.

Foot & Shoe Protection

A winter cycling overshoe will protect your biking shoes from rain and mud. The fit is important. If it’s too loose, water might enter, and if it’s too tight, your circulation will be cut off. Another alternative is warm socks or toe covers.

How to Bike in Winter

It’s also a very good idea to take proper measures to protect your bike.

Consider packing extra repair items for your bike. Being stranded in the winter is much more serious than in the warmer weather.

How Do I Prepare My Bike For Winter?

It’s simple. Keep the following four things in mind and your bike will thank you.

Check Your Tire Pressure Often

Check Your Tire Pressure Often

A simple maintenance check to do before every ride is to check and adjust your tire pressure. Cold temperatures reduce air pressure faster than normal.

You might consider switching to slightly wider bike tires during winter times. They provide more traction on wet surfaces making it easier to cycle.

Equip your bike with mudguards

We know that there’s some controversy around mudguards. Like they spoil your bike’s elegant lines. But mudguards protect you from spray when cycling in the rain, snow or through standing water.

Clean and cover your bike

Cleaning your bike includes wiping down your bike parts from ice and grim immediately after a ride. Do a clean and lube every other week too. Don’t forget your brakes. The contact surfaces between them and your wheels should be clear of snow and dirt.

Covering your bike means sheltering it away from freezing temperatures and rain. Store it indoors if possible or get a bike cover.

Warm Up Your Batteries

If you’re an E-bike rider, it’s best you take care of your batteries since they drain faster in the winter. Don’t keep the batteries outside but store them away in a heated area.

How Cold Is Too Cold to Bike?

How Cold Is Too Cold to Bike

There shouldn’t be any problems with biking in extreme weather as long as you have the right gear. But pay attention to the weather before you head out. This will help prevent accidents & sickness.

Cold Winter Air

If you have any lung or breathing issues remember to use a scarf. It may even be better to wait for the weather to warm up.

Wind

Checking the wind speed outside would do wonders for your ride. It’s a great risk to exercise in the strong wind since your skin loses heat faster. Consider not cycling in open areas but in routes with lots of trees and buildings.

Rain

Exercising when it’s raining isn’t the safest thing to do. And if you’re cycling after it has just rained, on a cold and wet day, you’ll need excellent rain gear. Otherwise, you’re risking your chances of hypothermia.

fat biking in snow

fat biking in snow

Riding in snowy conditions is possible for cyclists and E-bikers. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

You’ll still need to take into consideration proper layering. Effective insulation will protect you from hypothermia and frostbite.

Your tires need extra attention, or you’ll have less traction and visibility on the road. Don’t push it, if you sense the tires might give out, head back.

Remember, bikes are much harder to control in the snow.

What Percentage of The US Population Cycles During the winter?

A study shows that most Americans avoid cycling in regular conditions due to safety reasons—a telling statement.

Many US states have harsh winters with temperatures dropping to negative ) degrees from time to time. Of the 48 million Americans who ride, less than 54% are likely to cycle in colder weather.

Wrap Up!

You can still safely ride in the winter with proper winter cycling gear and clothing.

Keep in mind the weather conditions where you live. If your winters are unstable, remember to wear removable layers. If the elements, such as rain and wind, can be strong, make sure your gear and clothing are water and air resistant.

Don’t forget your bike! It also needs care. Clean it well after rides, properly store it away, and check its tires regularly. E-Bike owners should take special care of their bike’s batteries.

What’s Next…

Did you enjoy this article? If so, go check out Bicycle Commuting Best Practices!

Happy Cycling!

About Informed Cyclist
Michael Rogers
I’m Michael, a cycling fanatic and the founder of Informed Cyclist. I started this site to give back to the sport I love! My mission is to bring the very best cycling advice & know-how to my readers. I hope you enjoy this site as much as I love working on it. I put a lot of heart & effort into it!