Cycling Wear for the Coldest Winter Months

By Adam Marsal

Make sure to have appropriate clothing for rides in the coldest winter months because illness might drag you from the saddle for weeks.

There are several reasons why to keep cycling throughout winter. You won’t lose fitness, you’ll never get stuck in traffic, and the calories from holiday binging will burn. Nevertheless, your bike should be equipped with winter tires for a better grip, guards against wetness, and also carefully maintained. The key to staying on a bike even after frost has engulfed your town is warm technical clothing. There’re some good choices to be found even in big stores like Decathlon that work well without ruining your family budget.

Commuters cycle over London Bridge. © BEN STANSALL / AFP / Profimedia

The main layer

In winter, cycling outerwear features longer cut at the back with long sleeves and better venting. To stay dry, wearing waterproof or water-resistant shell is a must. The lengthened cut prevents your back and bottom from getting soaked while longer sleeves stick to wrists even when you stretch out your arms. Breathable materials ensure you don’t get boiled under the shell and soaked in your own sweat while climbing, which would turn your body into a piece of ice later while descending. Two-way zippers allow opening the jacket from the bottom without exposing your arms and torso. In dry and cold weather, softshell is the best choice for the outer layer. You can stay warm and perfectly ventilated.

Covering your head

If you ever had a cycling experience in temperatures around the freezing point, you know well that the head is prone to get chilled without the possibility to warm up by physical activity. A thin cap that fits under your helmet will do the work while a balaclava hidden in your rear pocket will help should the chillness become unbearable.

Female commuter outside a bright tourist shop in Paddington, London, 7th January 2015. © TW Photo Images / Alamy / Alamy / Profimedia


Whatever you put on, your feet will feel cold during long winter rides. After a while, you might even lose sensation. Wool socks usually help but not for long. Putting too many socks on might cut off blood circulation and you’ll end up with cold feet. The rule of thumb is that if your core stays warm so will the extremities. This is why reconsidering your outerwear is the first task. A winter shoe should fit perfectly. If it hurts or feels too tight in room temperatures, it will be much worse outside. For that reason, some people riding both a road bike and an MTB sometimes opt for MTB shoes even for road cycling, as they are more spacious and comfortable. They also feature more cleats for safer walking, which is what special winter shoes offer too. Using ankle-high shoes helps with tucking in your tights or leg warmers and prevents road spray water from getting into the shoe.

On hands

In New York City, many cyclists use plastic shopping bags as gloves to prevent getting their hands wet but are they something you wanted to wear for a sporty ride? On the other hand, keeping your hands dry is important if you want to feel comfortable. Recommendable are waterproof gloves that should be insulated without being too bulky for safe rides during chilly days.