Just make comfort a priority when it comes to your clothing, here’s how…

Learn how to be a smart dresser and you can ride through almost any weather.

If you let them, cold weather bike rides can become the best rides ever for many reasons. First of all, getting outside — especially when the mercury takes a deep dive — feels like a greater achievement than in milder weather. Then there are the added benefits, like better traction when the ground is frozen, fewer people competing for their share of the road or trail, and practically zero chance of heat-related issues (!) Riding in cold weather does require some strategy, but it’s fairly easy to learn. Here’s how to arrange your cycling clothing layers to optimize your ride experience.

  1. Base layer – Depending upon your definition of “cold”, a base layer can be either a close-fitting long-sleeve or sleeveless synthetic t-shirt that wicks perspiration away from the skin. Base layer cycle clothing is intended to be worn as a second skin under your jersey to keep you warm and dry.
  2. Thermal jersey – A long-sleeve jersey with a thermal lining protects you from the cold while holding in body heat, and offers freedom of movement, which is super important since additional layers may restrict movement and make it harder to react to what’s around you. The jersey’s pockets are also useful for holding snacks, which benefit from your body heat to keep food from freezing on extended rides.
  3. Cycling tights – Keeping your muscles warm will help keep you comfortable even when you’re not moving. Fleece-lined tights will chase away chills and even ward off wind thanks to treated fabrics or a windproof membrane to block penetrating wind. Cycling-specific tights will also come with padding to make you extra comfy.
  4. Outer layer – Choosing an outer layer ultimately depends on what’s happening outside. Reach for a breathable rain jacket in case the skies decide to open up (or if it’s already raining, but that’s another blog post), or if it were a classic day in the UK with overcast skies and low visibility, a bright or even fluorescent outer layer would be best for comfort and safety. A windbreaker is your ally against bullying wind, or opt for a thermal cycling jacket if the temperature is slightly below your tolerance for cold (you’ll warm up once you get going).
  5. Cycling cap or beanie – Putting a lid on beneath your helmet is the dealmaker for any cold-weather ride — don’t go outside without it. A cycling cap works well in mild weather since caps are often made out of lightweight cotton or synthetic fabrics. However just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean the sun stops shining, which makes the cap’s visor useful for shielding you from harmful rays. A beanie is better for lower temperatures since it covers a greater part of your head, including the ears, yet it loses the visor so applying some sport sunblock would be smart. A beanie is often available in different fabrics ranging from lightweight to thermal, which makes it ideal for harsh cold.
  6. Gloves – Your extremities are equally important to keep warm. Gloves share top rank with socks so winning at a cycling clothing layering strategy means getting them right. Go for cycling-specific gloves because the palm and fingers are usually treated or padded with material to provide grip, which gives you better control when shifting or braking. Same as temperature and weather conditions, cycling glove options span a wide range. For example, grab some fitted, 5-fingered, water repellent gloves if wet weather is expected, otherwise heavier gloves that combat the cold should keep your digits snug. What really matters is your cold tolerance and personal preferences so choose gloves aimed at maximizing your comfort when the temperature drops.
  7. Socks – Same as gloves, if you nail your sock selection, you can have the best ride of the season…every time. Socks should be thick enough to keep your feet warm but not so bulky that you’re forcing your foot into your shoe just to get it on. No matter how good your socks claim to be, a tight fit can reduce circulation and result in cold feet so make sure your foot has some wiggle room. Sock material seems to bring out passionate opinions in people, like wool loyalists, who swear by the fibre as long as it’s blended with something to give it stretch. Plenty of state-of-the-art synthetic materials can do the same job however, so whichever you choose: wool or synthetic, prioritize comfort.
Ride (even) smarter with these additional tips:

  • Learn how to do the “ranger roll”, which will allow you to efficiently carry extra layers in your jersey pockets.
  • A neck warmer can close the gap between your collar and chin, plus it can be pulled up over your face to keep warm on the downhills.
  • Carry an extra set of gloves and zip them in between your jersey and your outer layer. If your hands get cold, you can swap your gloves for the ones you’ve been keeping warm next to your chest.

Falling temperatures can be something to look forward if you know how to dress for cold weather. Bragging rights are another benefit to riding in the cold because of the extra effort it takes to go outside. Here’s another thing, riding in winter pays dividends in summer, when summer’s heat never felt so sweet!