Winter is approaching, but that doesn’t have to mean you can’t still go out and ride. Sure, it’ll be cold, but with the proper winter cycling gear, you can still enjoy a few hours outdoors. While most winter cycling gear is intended for 30-20 degrees Fahrenheit, there are a few pieces that can make you comfortable in sub-20 degree temperatures. Or you know, you could fly south. But if you’re stuck around town for the cold winter months, then you’ll need a few key pieces to make riding worth it, because nothing is worse than a cold and miserable ride with frozen fingers and toes.
First things first, heat escapes from your head, so a cycling hat is essential for any winter riding. These are form-fitting and stay flat on your head beneath your helmet and keep your body heat from escaping.
The key piece to every cyclist’s winter riding kit is merino wool. While it’s expensive, it’s worth it to invest in base layers. These layers will keep your torso warm and more importantly, dry. You sweat while you ride and when you stop, this sweat dries on your body, which causes you to become cold. With merino wool, this doesn’t happen. It dries while you’re riding, which means you’ll be warm and dry for the duration of your ride. Aside from base layers, there are also merino wool jackets and socks, as well as beanies and gaiters worth looking into.
Another key item every cyclist needs is a pair of thermal gloves. Once your hands freeze over, all bets are off. To prevent this, thick gloves with an inner liner are best. Don’t go cheap when it comes to gloves, you’ll pay the price later.
Shoe covers are a must-have when it drops below 40 degrees. Cycling shoes have holes in the bottom where your cleat clips into the pedal and this allows air to come in and chill your toes. While wool socks might seem like a good enough answer, they aren’t. Shoe covers are made from nylon or neoprene and help insulate your entire shoe, kind of like a surfer’s wetsuit. If you don’t have the bucks for this item, some cyclists wrap their toes in tinfoil.
The most important part of winter cycling is layering, so let’s review that for a minute. When you put on a pair of long-style bibs or leg warmers, you want to put on a base layer before pulling up the suspenders. This helps lock the heat in your torso beneath your jersey and prevents any chilly air from creeping in. After you’ve put on the suspenders, arm warmers are next, and then a jersey. The jacket you choose should be lined and thermal, specified as a winter jacket, not a windbreaker or a rain jacket, which are thin and not insulating. Be wary of spending upwards of $300 on a rain jacket when all you really need is a winter jacket to stay warm.
Once you assemble all of these pieces, you’ll be ready for a winter ride for at least two hours. If you’re riding for longer, you might want to add another jersey or a long sleeve merino wool layer. You can always strip layers and roll them up to store in your jacket pockets.
Tune-up your bike and get ready to keep riding into the colder months with some of our favorite winter cycling gear.
1. Pearl Izumi Merino Wool Cycling Cap
Having a cap beneath your helmet is essential for a cold ride and the wool will dry as you sweat. With a merino wool cap for winter, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of headache in the darker months. Pearl Izumi’s cap has thermal regulation, is made from sustainable fabrics, and gives 100% sun protection with its wide brim. Stay warm with a wool cycling cap.
2. Meriwool Base Layer
Meriwool’s merino wool base layer is a non-itchy long sleeve shirt that goes on under your jersey in the winter. This layer is a sweat-wicking, odor-resistant, dry shirt that will keep you warm even when you sweat. For long winter rides in the cold, consider a few of these base layer shirts to wear on every ride. The plus side to investing in merino wool is that they are just as wearable in the summer to keep cool.
3. Velocio Merino Wool Mesh Base Layer
Velocio is an excellent source for merino wool because of its commitment to being eco-friendly and sustainable. Their base layers come in three different styles, from a long sleeve merino wool layer to a t-shirt style, to a sleeveless version. The sleeveless merino wool base layer is best for cycling because it won’t get caught up beneath your jersey or interfere with arm warmers. The long sleeve option is great to pair with long sleeve jerseys or as a single base layer beneath a winter jacket.
4. Castelli Entrata Thermal Cycling Gloves
Castelli makes excellent thermal gloves, and these at mid-price, are worth checking out. These gloves are made from 100% nylon and cinch at the wrist to minimize exposure. Your hands are the most vulnerable part of your body while you’re outdoors in the elements, especially if the wind picks up and the temperature drops. To keep your hands from going numb, be sure to flex them every few minutes while riding and avoid staying in one hand position.
5. POC Essential Mid Road Long Sleeve Jersey
POC’s long sleeve jersey is a great addition to any winter cycling kit. Made from mid-weight, high-wicking polyester, this jersey will insulate your torso on a cold day. The layer is jersey with a base layer and a jacket and you’ll be set for the winter months ahead. With three back pockets and an elastic hem to help it stay in place, you’ll be warm enough for a longer ride even if the wind picks up.
6. Rapha Men’s Classic Long Sleeve Jersey II
This long sleeve jersey may eradicate your need for a base layer as it’s made from merino wool. This jersey will keep you warm and dry if worn under a winter jacket or on its own. Depending on the temperature, this is a versatile long sleeve jersey that can be worn throughout the fall and into the winter.
7. Velocio Foundation Long Sleeve
If you’re looking for performance in a relaxed fit, then you’ve found it in Velocio. Their Foundation Jersey is made from 100% recycled fine gauged Italian milled polyester and is as warm as they come. This is an excellent jersey to wear with a merino wool base layer up until 40 degrees and then it’s a great pairing with a winter jacket. Lightweight and sweat-wicking, this might become your go-to winter long sleeve jersey.
8. Fizik Winter Shoe Covers
Fizik’s shoe covers slip easily over a cycling shoe and will keep your toes insulated from the bitter cold. As waterproof, cold-proof, and easy to clean, these shoe covers will keep you riding into the dark every morning. With a rubberized outsole for a better grip, these shoe covers are made with bonded mesh and a waterproof zipper.
9. DeFeet Woolie Boolie Socks
As far as winter socks go, the DeFeet Woolie Boolie’s have to be a crowd favorite. Catch all of your friends sporting these on your next group ride because they’re warm, fast-drying, and odor resistant. Made from 70% Merino wool, 27% nylon, and 3% lycra to fit snugly to your foot. You might want to buy these in bulk.
10. Giro HRc+ Merino Wool Cycling Socks
Giro’s answer to the best wool winter cycling sock is stated in their mantra of “science and soul.” That’s all we need to hear (plus merino wool) to get behind these socks that come in a dozen funky colors that will surely brighten your day. Enjoy your ride into the cold day and never fear getting cold feet the morning of.
11. Castelli Thermoflex Leg Warmer
If you’re not a fan of long bibs, leg warmers may be your saving grace come wintertime. Easier to take off mid-ride, leg warmers are just as insulating as pant-style padded shorts. These Castelli leg warmers are 100% polyester and will keep your legs toasty for the entire ride.
12. Gore Wear Men’s Thermo Bib Tights
Every cyclist should invest in a pair of padded bibs for the winter and Gore Wear’s Thermo bibs will do the trick on an icy day. Form-fitting, these bibs have thin suspenders that will help keep the cold from sneaking in along your back. Moisture-wicking with intense breathability, these bibs will let you cool off when you become too hot.
13. Rapha Men’s Core Winter Jacket
The jacket will be the most expensive winter item you purchase, so make sure it’s from a company you know fits you well and will last a long time. Rapha’s Core Winter Jacket is an excellent choice because of its price and how it combines a weather-resistant three-layer laminate front section with a breathable back to allow excess heat to flow through. As a wind and rain-resistant item, it will take you through the long winter intact for the summer months ahead. With plenty of zippered pockets for large items and small items like cash and snacks, the Rapha Core Jacket is a valuable piece that will last you for the season ahead but won’t break the bank.
14. Pas Normal Studios Control Winter Jacket
Now, this is the investment piece of the century. At these prices, Pas Normal Studios better deliver the goods. Their Control winter jacket is an insulated piece that is best worn with a base layer for optimal comfort. Rain resistant and windproof, their winter jacket is as stylish as it is warm.