How do cyclists dress for winter? Is a great question for all cyclists new to winter cycling, you may have thought the winter too cold and savage, but with the right gear it’s a great time to ride and get fit for the summer fun. You don’t have to look like a scuba diver either, and one brand that knows how to get you through the winter looking, good and warm – is Cafe du Cyclisté.
The best and only sensible approach to winter cycling wear is layering, you don’t have to go crazy and wrap yourself in dozens of layers but, with a few thought items of clothing and you will be more than comfortable on a cold day. In this feature, we will detail out some of the core items you will need, and explain a few options on top of that.
It might be wise to think, all you need is some wooly gloves and a hat to keep the cold at bay. But, most cycling clothing is thin and designed for summer, so you are going lose a lot of body heat in this manner, gloves or not, ideally you need thicker (but not too thick) clothing with better thermal properties to keep the entire body warm – not just covering the head or hands myth…
In an editorial article from the New York Times, Dr. Daniel I. Sessler, an expert on hypothermia, at the University of Louisville medical school is quoted as saying;
“The body responds to cold temperatures in at least two ways. One is the constriction of blood vessels in the arms and legs, reducing blood flow to the extremities. This protects the brain and vital organs in the trunk but leaves the fingers and toes susceptible to frostbite, in effect sacrificing them. Another response to cold is shivering, which generates heat.
The face, head and upper chest are up to five times as sensitive to changes in temperature as other areas. This creates the illusion that covering up those areas traps in more heat, but clothing another part of the body does just as much to reduce overall heat loss.”
So therefor, by covering your entire body appropriately you actually keep warm. But, with what? Lets start, how do cyclists dress for winter…
For winter, merino socks are the best choice and a higher cut is perfect. It seems like such an insignificant item but, your feet don’t get much circulation on the bike so tend to be the area you will feel the cold first.
2 LEG WARMERS
My preferred option for anything that isn’t sub-zero is leg warmers. It gives you the option to roll them down if you start to overheat, they also come in handy in spring and autumn.
3 LONG SLEEVE BASE LAYER
I consider the long sleeve base layer to be the core of your warmth, and choosing the best is paramount to having a comfy ride. In winter I pair a base layer with a warm jersey/jacket and that is just right down to freezing (along with the other items here).
4 WINTER BIB SHORTS
Shorts matched with Leg warmers is ideal for winter if those shorts are also made with ThermoRoubaix DWR Rain Fabric. Whilst the base layer is the core of your warmth, your shorts need to not only keep your legs warm, they also need to be comfy for long winter rides. The Jeanne has a chamois constructed with a mix of three different density foams to ensure extra comfort and movement. Without shorts with great padding and panelling construction, all the warmth will mean nothing, if you’re not comfy. As mentioned before, using leg warmers with bib shorts gives greater versatility in all but the worst weather. The construction of the shorts also means more movement and you will feel less bulky. These bibs also have nice wide bib straps which also add to the comfort. Now these are on over your base layer, time for a jacket.
Too many layers can be a bad thing, restricting movement and generally ending up feeling bulky and taking ages to get dressed and go. For this reason I tend to pair a good long sleeve base layer with a decent jacket or jersey, and if things are wet – and cold – add a waterproof shell. But other than that, a base layer and jacket are perfect. Providing that jacket is fit for purpose.
So thats the main requirements for winter cycling but, you need to cover the extremities too, so heat isn’t lost from one area of the body or another. Whilst the items below may seem like sundry items they are vital for comfort, and in all seriousness, stopping you getting hyperthermia if things go wrong with the weather. It’s also why merino is a great choice of fabric as it’s thermal properties still work when it gets wet.
I swear by neck warmers and this one is the coolest, sorry warmest around. Looking every part the Breton sailor (no bad thing) this small item can make all the difference.
An absolute must on cold days and something every winter cyclist should have. Modern cycling shoes are not made for winter, with plenty of venting for hot summer riding, your feet will feel like blocks of ice in minutes and ruin your ride. They need to be easy to get on and off and hard wearing.
You probably wear gloves in the summer, you probably wear glove in the winter. If you haven’t got winter cycling gloves you should as they’re much better than just a pair of wooly gloves – Giving you the padding of summer gloves and the warmth of your fave winter mittens. They should have longer cuffs than normal winter gloves to allow for the reach on a bicycle, and not expose your skin to the cold.
WHEN THINGS GET ARCTIC
The clothing I recommend here will see you through most of the winter but, when the cold snaps come and the thermometer goes way below freezing and you still want to ride you will need to add some more layers and full winter tights. Whilst it can be fun to ride in very cold and icy conditions, we would ask you all to consider your safety and check the weather reports for ice. If all is good I suggest adding following items of clothing to the mix for ‘deep winter’ riding.