From insulated shoe covers and three-finger gloves to windproof cycling pants and comfortable mid-layers, the right cycling clothing for winter is all you need to spend the cold season on two wheels. We’ve prepared a guide to winter cycling clothing to help you prepare for the cold.
Winter Cycling Jackets
Finding the right winter cycling jacket or jackets is key for cycling to work in winter. It is your protection from the elements and the source of warmth that your muscles need when the frigid, winter winds bite. Because winter brings with it a variety of conditions, you may be looking for not one, but two or even three jackets to complete your winter commuter wardrobe.
Softshell Winter Cycling Jackets
At the top of the list, we have softshell jackets, staples in any outdoor enthusiast’s wardrobe simply because they are jam-packed with great features. These jackets are ideal for dull weather, where you may experience a drizzle or brisk headwinds thanks to their wind and water-resistant characteristics. They can be easily packed away for quick storage should the skies open up. Best of all, softshell jackets are incredibly stretchy. Say goodbye to restricting sleeves and tight shoulders, and hello to a few of our softshell favourites.
Insulated Winter Cycling Jackets
For the colder days when winter shows her true colours, a warmer layer may be necessary for your commute. In these temperatures, the best option is adding layers underneath your softshell jacket or opting for a lightly insulated jacket. Why not wear a down jacket? The answer is breathability. Down jackets are great for keeping you warm while waiting for the bus, but for aerobic activities like cycling, you want something that excels in breathability. For those colder than usual winter rides, leave the puffer in your closet and reach for some moisture-wicking layers made of wool or merino wool. Start with a base layer, add a mid-layer and top with a softshell jacket. Still feels a bit chilly? Add a lightly insulated vest that is easily packable should the temperature increase before your commute home.
Winter Cycling Baselayers
Cycling is an aerobic activity and gets your heart beating rapidly, so appropriate base layers are crucial. Some synthetic materials claim to be as performant as natural fibres such as wool and merino wool, but at the end of the day, merino wool is the best option. Wool’s moisture-wicking and odour-fighting properties are a must if you don’t have access to a shower before the end of the day. Some base layers are available in different weights (heavyweight being the warmest), allowing you to choose accordingly based on your personal preference and average body temperature in cold weather.
Winter Cycling Pants & Tights
When it comes to choosing winter cycling pants, there are a variety of options – waterproof shells, softshell, padded tights; the list goes on. A pair of waterproof pants would be handy to have in your closet for those slushy commutes. When it comes to deciding between padded tights or softshell pants, think about how long your commute is and if padded tights are necessary. If you find yourself out enjoying winter rides on the weekend as well, investing in padded tights would be a great idea. If you’re looking to get from point A to point B, softshell pants are perfect. You can also layer base layers under the waterproof shell pants on wet, cold days.
Winter Cycling Gloves
When it comes to winter commuting, whether it be on foot or bike, you can’t forget a pair of gloves. Gloves are especially crucial when it comes to commuting by bike because cold fingers can hinder your braking ability. Mittens can also hinder your grip on the handlebar, but thanks to brands like Garneau, who are experts in cycling, they know exactly what you need. Enter the “lobster glove.” If you’re someone who, like myself, prefers mittens to gloves, you may like Nathan’s Reflective Convertible Glove/Mitt or Sugoi’s Zap SubZero Split Gloves. These fancy-looking mitts blend the warmth of mittens side-by-side with the mobility of a regular glove all in one. If you’re not a mitten fan, don’t fret, there are plenty of great cycling gloves suitable for your winter commute. For cold, slushy days where a little extra coverage is necessary, pair a glove liner with a ski glove or opt for some heated gloves. Choose which glove or mitten is best for you, but keep in mind that you want to be able to manage your brakes safely and comfortably.
Winter Cycling Shoe Covers
If you ride clipped-in, winterizing your cycling shoes can be as simple as investing in a pair of insulated shoe covers. If you’re not riding clipped in and prefer regular shoes, you can upgrade to a pair of waterproof or insulated hiking boots for your commute. You want something that keeps your feet warm and dry without impeding comfort and mobility. Because some mid-height hiking boots can be quite stiff, you may need to shop around before finding the perfect fit if clips aren’t for you. If you’ve got a favourite cycling sneaker and it just needs a little waterproofing help, pair it with a gaiter to keep your socks and lower legs dry and protected from the elements.
Winter Cycling Socks
When it comes to sock choice for your winter commute, anything that is wool or merino wool is ideal. Wool and merino socks have all the same benefits as the wool and merino wool base layers mentioned above — warmth and odour-resistance. If you’re someone who likes to layer up your socks in the wintertime, make sure you don’t layer so much that your shoes feel tight. Keep in mind that most cycling-specific shoes have a slimmer, tighter fit. For those prone to cold feet, shopping for a heavier weight sock so you can wear a single sock is your best option. Some brands offer waterproof socks, but if you’re wearing waterproof shoes or using shoe covers, these may not be necessary.
Wearing a helmet is a must whenever you are cycling, so choosing a beanie or ear warmers that fit comfortably underneath is crucial. Look for something made of a thermal material such as Polartec or merino wool that is close-fitting. A close fit eliminates awkward and undesired bunching on pressure points for a comfortable fit. For colder days, swap the toque for a balaclava or pair it with a neck warmer for extra coverage.
Gear for Winter Cycling
Like any sport or hobby, there are a few must-haves that come with it. For winter cycling, some of these must-haves include lights, goggles and of course, a helmet. As your winter cycling season presses on, you may find yourself with a growing list of must-haves, but these three are great to get started.
Whether you’re commuting in the city or on country roads, appropriate lighting is essential for your safety. During the winter months, the days get shorter, and darkness sneaks up quickly, so having a set of lights on the front and rear of your bike keeps you visible to oncoming traffic and other cyclists. Some headlamps are compatible with helmets, but for simplicity, below are a few light options that mount onto your handlebars and seat post. Just like that, you can say goodbye to needing to rush home before darkness falls.
Most lights are either rechargeable or battery-powered. Because of this, it’s essential to make sure you always have backup batteries in your pack or leave the house with a fully charged light.
Aside from the bike, a helmet is the most critical piece of equipment for a cyclist, and you should never leave the house without it. Because there are a variety of genres of cycling, there are a variety of helmet styles, but this guide is sure to help you choose the right helmet for you. The most significant difference is between road and mountain bike helmets. If you enjoy shredding the dirt trails on the weekend, investing in a mountain bike helmet may be the best option for you. If you’re a roadie and spend your weekends on the winding asphalt, then a road helmet may be the better choice. You want to pick something that is comfortable and suits your needs.
Sunglasses & Goggles
Like skiing and snowboarding, winter cycling against frigid headwinds will have your eyes watering in no time. To beat this, try wearing a pair of cycling glasses or goggles. The goggles look may not be for everyone, but when your winter commute entails sharp winds and sideways raindrops, goggles are going to be your best friend. If you’re choosing to wear your ski goggles, be sure to try them on with your helmet to ensure they fit comfortably. You’ll want to choose goggles or glasses with a clear, rose or yellow lense, but you’ll want to leave the tinted lenses for daytime rides because they’ll be too dark at night. If you’re commuting in a flurry, you’ll be thankful for the goggles and the ability to see where you’re going.
Preparing for Winter Cycling
The first step to winterizing your cycling clothing for your winter commute is knowing how to shop wisely. Therefore, you should be looking for apparel that’s breathable, waterproof and windproof. Having a good jacket to block out wind and rain is key, as is finding gloves that will keep your hands warm while providing you with a good grip when conditions aren’t ideal. Safety is important all year long, so a good helmet is a necessity.