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 drop and the cold wind blows.
This Guide to Winter Cycling Gear will help make a huge difference in the quality & safety and give you the best winter cycling experience.
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 keeping warm and dry.
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
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 wick moisture away from your skin, help regulate your body temperature and keep you warm.
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 you have a thermal jersey undershirt that fits properly. A proper fit, not too loose, not too tight to your skin will comfortably trap warm air and keep your core warm.
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 Merino wool, fleece and other synthethic fabrics are your ideal choice. Since they consist of lightweight microfibers that will trap the warmth from your body.
An insulating layer might include:
Light Pullover Or Hoodie
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 waterproof, air resistant, aerodynamic 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
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.
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 body shapes can vary greatly some women opt for buying men’s sizings instead, so for female cyclists, I recommend trying different styles and sizes to achieve the greatest comfort.
What Kit Do I Need For Winter Cycling?
For winter cycling you will need to invest in a few key items to make sure you stay warm and dry.
A good quality base layer made of Merino wool or synthetic material will help to regulate your body temperature, while a windproof and waterproof outer layer will protect you from the elements.
You may also want to consider investing in a pair of winter cycling gloves, a balaclava or neck warmer, and some overshoes to keep your feet warm and dry.
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.
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.
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.
A neck tube is an important part of your winter cycling wardrobe.
Windproofing your neck during cold weather riding is essential to keeping you warm. It can be made of various materials, including wool, fleece, or synthetic fabrics.
Hat or Headband
A winter cycling cap is will keep your head protected from the elements during cold-weather cycling.
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.
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.
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
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 your bike indoors if possible or at the least 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?
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.
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.
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
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 0 degrees from time to time.
Of the 48 million Americans who ride, less than 54% are likely to cycle in colder weather.
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.
Did you enjoy this article? If so, go check out Bicycle Commuting Best Practices!