Everything begins with staying dry. Roads are usually wet and pooled water, either splashed at your back or on your legs, makes you freezing instantly. Before you start your first winter ride, buy and fit the mudguards.
The most important aspect of cold-weather riding is your clothing. It’s also the aspect where most first-timers make mistakes. The key rule is to not overdress. There’s proved principle that if you feel comfortable at the moment you sit on the bike, you’ll be too warm after a while of spinning. But how can one get the balance right?
The trick is in the layers. Air is trapped between each layer of clothing and helps to keep you warm, while you can add and remove layers to regulate body temperature. Every rider is an individual, which means it’s good to try to select the number of layers and different clothing combination that will work right for you. Let’s start with the base layer.
This one will not only keep you warm by providing an extra layer of insulation, but will also soak away the sweat from your skin, therefore keeping you dry too. Long sleeve is preferred in winter and merino wool is particularly warm and retains heat even when wet. On the other hand, when you stop riding, the damp merino chills very soon. Man-made fabrics as polyester can help you stay warm longer. Another useful feature is windproof front panel, which can be found on some base layer clothes.
On the base layer comes the mid layer. In warmer days it can be used as an outer layer. A typical mid-weight winter jersey is made of 100 per cent polyester and has a fleece-lined interior. Some are a combination of merino and polyester, to offer the best of both fabrics.
Softshell is frequently used as the outer layer because it’s coldproof and waterproof, but because the air cannot flow through the fabric as easily, breathability can be an issue sometimes. Feature to look out for on a mid layer include a high collar (often fleece-lined) to keep the wind off your neck.
Fully waterproof jacket will be necessary to wear in a heavy rain. It can be rather expensive, so it remains a worthwhile investment if you plan to ride under all conditions. Gore-Tex is a waterproof, breathable fabric membrane.
Invented in 1969, Gore-Tex is capable of repelling liquids while allowing the water vapour produced by your body to pass through and is designed to be a lightweight, waterproof fabric for all-weather use. Check out for the waterproof zipper and taped seams to ensure 100 per cent water-resistance.
To keep your legs warm you’ll need some proper bib tights. For really cold temperatures consider tights that don’t have a pad. Padless tights allow you to wear your favourite pair of shorts underneath, adding additional warmth and comfort. In milder temperatures your shorts can be combined with knee warmers or leg warmers.
In winter days the gloves are a must. Select them carefully, because if they’re too tight, they will cut off the circulation in your hands, so make sure they fit properly. For instance, snowboarding gloves will keep you warm even if you are not snowboarding, but you must make sure you can still safely operate the shift and brake levers.
Modern helmets are perfectly ventilated, which is fine on hot days, but will make your head exposed to the freezing cold air. A windproof cap will keep frosty air at bay. A neck warmer will make a great service as it can be used to keep the bottom half of your face warm as well as your neck, and it also stops cold air disappearing though the neck of your jacket or jersey.
Last but not least, you need to acquire overshoes. They’re essential for keeping your feet warm. A neoprene overshoe will protect you against the wind and rain, while a fleece-lined thermal bootie will provide an additional protection in the coldest conditions.