Ice Cold Threads: A Cyclists’ Guide to Winter Clothing



With the notable exception of particularly deranged masochists, no one enjoys cycling in the winter. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by My Voucher Codes, almost a third of cyclists stop regularly riding during the winter.

However, when armed with the right clothes, cycling doesn’t have to be a hellish battle against nature, and can be manageable - even enjoyable.

Temperature regulation is one of the most important aspects of dressing for winter. If you wear too much, you’ll soon overheat, but if you don’t wear enough you’ll be uncomfortably cold. By wearing different layers of clothing, you can easy regulate temperature by adding, or removing, layers.

A good winter outfit would use 2 or 3 layers with some quality leg and footwear. A basic set would include:

A Base Layer: The base layer is arguably the most important, as it is instrumental in keeping warm air close to your body whilst simultaneously wicking moisture and sweat away from your skin, therefore preventing you from getting too cold when you stop moving.

A good base layer should be tight fitting, to allow you to wear more layers on top, and made of merino wool or high quality polyester, so that it retains heat when it’s damp and wicks sweat away from your skin.

A Middle Layer: The middle layer helps trap yet another layer of warm air around your body and helps keep out cold air. In milder temperatures, and dry weather, a good cycling jersey combined with a base layer will be enough to keep you comfortably warm, provided you’re exerting yourself. You should ensure that your jersey has high, tight collars and cuffs to prevent cold air from entering it. Once again, it should be a fairly snug fit, so that you can fit more layers on top without restricting movement too much.

A Top Layer: In particularly cold temperatures and during heavy rain, a good cycling jacket can protect you from the worst. If you’re going to be cycling hard, your jacket will need to be breathable to stop you overheating and getting too sweaty.

If you want a good rain-proof outer jacket, make sure that it is totally waterproof, including zips, collars and cuffs, and is made of breathable material. For mild but wet temperatures, a lightweight cycling shell will keep you dry and cool.

Legwear: Bib tights are the go-to legwear for winter cycling. They fit snugly and keep your legs toasty and dry. The only downside is that a quality pair can set you back around £100.

During dry weather, you can wear thermal long johns which can be bought cheaply from hiking and camping shops. With a little imagination, and some basic sewing skills, you can even make your own pair from an old sweater. Instructions here.

If ruining old sweaters isn’t your thing (and you’re comfortable with looking like an 80s pop star) you can also improvise some insulating legwear by donning leg warmers or even wearing a pair of tight wool stockings under your shorts.

Footwear: Merino wool socks are an obvious go-to choice for footwear, because they’re odour resistant and wick moisture away from your skin. Overshoes will keep your feet warm and dry in cold, wet conditions. If the combination of quality socks and overshoes still isn’t enough, some cyclists use heated insoles too.

In particularly torrential conditions, wrapping your feet in plastic bags before donning overshoes can help keep your feet dry.

Although appropriate clothing is essential for winter cycling, it’s worth remembering that everyone’s different. So before you run out and buy a new set of winter jackets, spend some time on your bike getting to know what you’re comfortable with.

About the author: As an ex-powerlifter and enthusiastic touring cyclist, Scott loves keeping active and pushing his boundaries. He writes about health and fitness for a number of websites and his work has previously been featured on the Guardian and the Daily Mail.

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