There’s been quite a few guides published recently on bike websites such as Bike Radar, Road.cc and Cycling Weekly to name a few. This guide will detail my experiences of what to wear for Winter. Whilst it will undoubtedly draw parallels to other website’s guides, I hope you can take something away from my guide.
The key thing to recognise is that if you are a novice to road cycling and it is your first Winter, Winter clothing is an expensive outlay but remember, it should last you for years and that outlay will pay dividends in the long run. From experience of working in a bike shop, many customers skimp on winter clothing. Remember – buy cheap, buy twice! The saying couldn’t be more true here.
Your normal helmet is fine, but if you own an aerodynamic helmet, Winter’s a great time to wear it as it will keep your head even warmer due to a lack of ventilation!
Cap / Skullcap
These are two brilliant, cheap investments and will really keep your head warm. You don’t need to spend masses here – just something nice and simple and your head will thank you for it. Wear a skullcap when it gets below 5 degrees.
Another good, cheap investment – this will cover the opening between your jersey and your neck and stops the cold from getting in. A buff can be substituted in transitional weather (as Autumn changes to Winter) as a bandana for your head and can also be used in the Summer as a replacement for a cap.
I personally do not currently use any eyewear when cycling as I find it distracting, but I can understand the reasons why you should. It stops your eyes from watering up and improves vision, so these are important. Swap your Summer lenses for a clear lens if you can.
A very important component of winter clothing, a good base layer will help wick away moisture. You don’t need to spend masses here, although the more you spend the better the base layer is at wicking away moisture.
TIP – Base Layers from Decathlon (an all sports shop) are fantastic value and cost £2.99 per base layer. I have a mountain of them as they’re so good! (https://www.decathlon.co.uk/300-longsleeve-cycling-baselayer-black-id_8217439.html)
Jersey / Jacket
Definitely wear a long-sleeved jersey, ideally one made of merino wool to help keep you warmer. When it gets really cold, try experimenting with wearing another base layer or maybe wear your thinner, more breathable Summer jersey underneath your Winter one.
A jacket is not essential, but is a very worthy piece of clothing. For transitional weather, something like an Endura Packajak (http://road.cc/content/review/46972-endura-pakajak) will do the job and you can just pull it out when it starts to chuck it down. You can also buy Winter jackets that could be used as jerseys as well which are extremely good, but you will pay a premium for them. It’s very hard to buy a cheap winter jacket that is windproof, waterproof and breathable – the Castelli Gabba for example (http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/reviews/jerseys-tops/castelli-gabba-2-jacket) is designed to do all three at a premium but does the job excellently.
Gloves are an essential piece of clothing as they keep your hands and fingers warm. Gloves are a pain because they take a bit of experimenting to get right (you may find you’ll buy three pairs before you find the right one) but gloves should be used all year round anyway. Perhaps experiment with a thin layer and then a thicker glove over the top in very cold conditions.
An extremely important piece of clothing – DO NOT skimp here. In conjunction with the correct saddle, a quality pair of bib tights will improve comfort massively. Definitely buy ones that are padded. In transitional weather, you could buy some 3/4 length ones (I don’t) or use arm / leg / knee warmers. Articles such as the Castelli Nanoflex Bib Tights even protect you from rain to a degree as they trap particles in the middle of the garment – but it’s not fully waterproof. It’s a good idea to have a couple of pairs so that you don’t end up washing your kit all the time.
Arm / Knee / Leg Warmers
An alternative to 3/4 length bib tights are knee or leg warmers. These are great for transitional weather and in the height of Winter, you could even use these as an extra layer under bib tights. A very worthwhile purchase.
Wear these over your shoes to keep your feet and toes warm. You could even buy a dedicated pair of Winter cycling shoes, but these are probably a more cost-effective option. If possible, buy multiple sets of overshoes for different weathers – I find mountain bike overshoes better as they’re thicker and thus warmer. Some brands, such as Castelli have introduced a “Toe Thingy” which is essentially half an overshoe – a good idea for transitional weather. (http://road.cc/content/review/69980-castelli-toe-thingy)
TIP – Try wrapping silver foil around your feet before putting your shoes in. Your feet have the effect of a baked potato and this is a simple, inexpensive way of keeping your feet even warmer from the elements.
So you should now be on your way to a warm, comfortable Winter period on the bike with the right clothing. Yes, it will cost you if this is your first time but remember, this should all last you a long time.