To help you do just that, we’ve got a fool-proof solution to beat the cold-weather riding blues and outsmart Jack Frost at his winter tomfoolery. What’s our secret weapon? Rechargeable heated vests, gloves, socks, and insoles. You’ll have to find another excuse not to ride!
Everything is going electric these days. Even your bike’s drivetrain. So why not add a touch of battery power to your cycling wardrobe? The motorcycle community has used heated clothing for years. It’s about time cyclists caught on. And while our two wheels can go fast, wind chill factors are much greater on open, motorised vehicles, proving their effectiveness in stamping out the cold.
Each article of clothing contains heating elements powered by a compact internal or portable external battery that charges via a USB cable. Some of today’s smart heating elements even adjust to your body temperature and as you exercise. Wearing heated clothing in winter keeps your core and extremities toasty so you can get outside and enjoy the great outdoors; even when the thermometer won’t budge.
Infrared, wire vs surface panel heating elements
A garment’s heating elements define its effectiveness. Most heated clothing sold today uses either insulated linear wires or carbon fibres formed into a rectangular or square surface panel. Both use infrared (the infrared spectrum) to transform electrical energy into radiant heat. Infrared heating is reported to positively activate human tissue cells by promoting blood circulation and speeding up metabolism.
Wire heating elements are less effective in distributing heat uniformly because of their linear shape but are useful on curved surfaces or unusual shapes. Surface heating panels vary in size and can be used in a combination over multiple planes to create the sensation of three-dimensional heat.
Both types are rigorously tested to withstand deformation (stretching, folding, washing), thermal fatigue (fluctuations between hot and cold) and resistance to humidity like sweat and water. Carbon is thin, lightweight, and flexible. And its high tensile strength makes it a natural choice for this application. Its low resistance means it heats up quickly too.
Vests and sublayers
Cyclists have been dressing in layers for decades. Chilly morning? Add a layer. Too hot? Peel them away, one by one, to find the ideal temperature. Piling on layers keeps your core warm but adds a lot of undesired bulk.
You no longer have to feel like “Bib” the Michelin Man in winter, thanks to heated vests and base layers. Some models even have a heated collar and those few extra inner pockets come in handy for essential items. This leaves the exterior jersey pockets free for spares, food and more.
Do your toes go numb and shiver more than twinkle when riding in the winter? Then a pair of heated socks will change your life and prevent you from investing even more in a heavier pair of winter riding shoes that may not solve your problem in the end.
Heated socks should keep your feet pleasantly warm, not hot. Ignore the lumps the battery packs create under your winter tights. Who cares? Your little piggies are happy. If the subject comes up, fellow cyclists will be green with envy and ask where they can get a pair. You’ve become the smartest winter cyclist they know in just a few sentences.
Gloves and glove liners
If your hands are your weakest link in cold weather, then you’ll rejoice in a pair of heated gloves or gloves liners. They are an investment, but a worthy one. Especially if you suffer from a pre-existing medical condition such as Raynaud’s disease that affects circulation.
If your hands are still numb and cold after buying a pair of heated gloves or liners, your problem may be linked to your physical riding position on your bicycle. An appointment with a local bike fitting expert may be just what you need to solve the problem and get you rolling in warmth and comfort.
Gloves come in different thicknesses, and some have an added layer of wind protection. Whatever glove or liner you choose, they should be breathable, easy to brake and shift when on, and touchscreen compatible, too.
You can find heated overshoes but heat is best applied directly at the source, right? This is where heated insoles come in. They are available in a variety of sizes and thicknesses. Find your favourite, then cut them down to fit inside your shoe using your current insole as a guide. While most insoles provide a certain amount of support, they may not be an ideal replacement if you have custom insoles or orthotics.
Our feet heat up during exercise but these beauties come with a wireless remote to control them on the fly. If the overall fit is too tight with your insoles and socks, it will defeat their purpose. Some airflow is necessary for circulation and to keep the space warm and cosy.
We’ve covered a handful of heated clothing available on the market. But you can even find heated Balaclava face masks. No matter what part of your body suffers most from cycling in the cold, you’ve got options. Every article should have adjustable temperature settings and be machine washable (up to a recommended number of washes). But remember to remove the battery first!
In most cases, you can use portable batteries to top up your phone or GPS in a pinch. Some use Bluetooth technology to control the temperature and check battery levels with their smartphone. More powerful external batteries are available aftermarket to maintain the heat on longer rides. Rechargeable heated clothing will unlock additional months of cycling and you’ll be in even better shape come spring.
With so many heated garment brands and price points available on the market, we’ll leave it up to you to find the one that best suits your needs and budget. When purchasing, remember your investment isn’t restricted to cycling use only. The clothing can be useful for other outdoor activities or to just keep the chill away. Compare features and verify there is a warranty before purchasing. Stay warm out there!