Colder temperatures are upon us. A vital aspect of enjoying your cycling during the winter months is to ensure you’re adequately attired. Cycling tights are an important part of your adequate attire.
The aim of this post is shed a little light on the subject of winter cycling tights. I doubt that too much light is required, for this is hardly a challenging subject.
I’ll let you know the different leg warming options available to you as a road cyclists (yes, you have options) and provide some recommendations on what to buy in each category.
I’ll also throw in some inane chatter (you’re welcome). Now bring on the men in tights!
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on and purchase something, I will get a commission. This comes at no cost to you – you won’t pay any extra.
Sportive Cyclist Winter Tights Recommendations
In recent years here in the UK, I’ve managed to keep cycling throughout the darker, wetter, colder months. My chosen leg-warming solution (erm…) depends on the prevailing conditions – mainly how cold it is. The strength and temperature of the wind will also be a factor.
The recommendations below are from the perspective of an enthusiastic (early!) middle-aged road cyclist. My winter rides tend to be between 1 to 2½ hours in length. I want to stay comfortable but I wouldn’t say I’m particularly sensitive to cold in my legs (unlike my hands).
If this rider (and riding) profile sounds like you as well, then hopefully you’ll find my recommendations below useful.
(By the way, if you’re interested in the things to think about when selecting your tights, and why you should never wear tights underneath your bib shorts, I cover this below my recommendations)
Winter Cycling Bib Tights With Padding
(Which is a mouthful of a heading and no mistake).
Broadly speaking, tights come in two flavours (suck ’em and see): with a foam pad around your nethercrackers (variously known as a chamois or chammy) and without.
Assuming you’ve elected for tights with a pad, you then decide if you want them to have shoulder straps and the bits of material that hold in your, er, ‘relaxed abdominal muscles’, or tights that just come up to the waist.
For the purposes of this section of the post, let’s work on the basis you chose the former. Here are two versions of essentially the same bit of kit: a set of padded bib shorts, just with the legs extended down to the ankles (er, like human legs do).
Pick the one that best suits the amount you have to spend…
Best Value Thermal Bib Tights: dhb Aeron FLT Roubaix Bib Tight
Disclaimer: I am biased because Wiggle sent me a pair of dhb roubaix tights very similar to these to test (yes, for FREE, dear reader).
I can honestly say that they have been excellent. On extreme weather days, they are toasty warm. They are not waterproof, and certainly they’re not made of neoprene, but there is a wetsuit-like quality to them. Even if they get a bit wet, either from the rain or road spray, they retain the heat close to my legs and you really don’t notice if there’s a little dampness.
The build quality is really good too. Getting on tight-fitting thicker lycra is always a bit of a struggling, involving some pulling and stretching to get it all sitting in the right place. This puts stress on the seams and the material itself. But I haven’t seen any stretching, or tearing, or signs of wear at the seams.
Highly recommended from me then.
Also highly recommended by the cycling hive mind. On the Wiggle site, the tights get a rating of 4.5 out of 5, from 69 reviews, at the time of writing. The link below is to the new version of the tights, which at the time of writing, shows zero reviews. Through the magic of writing previous bib tight recommendation posts, I know that the previous version of these tights had 200+ reviews with a strong average rating of 4.5 out of 5.
Best Winter Cycling Bib-tights For Performance: Castelli Sorpasso 2 Windstopper Bib Tights
Everyone needs a little Castelli their life (and a little money on their credit card to afford a little Castelli in their life).
These tights purport to be windproof, insulating and highly breathable. With an almost 5 star rating (4.6 to be exact) from over 115 reviews on the Wiggle site, it’s likely these tights do what they purport.
As you’d expect from Castelli, the Sorpasso’s benefit from a performance-oriented cut. As well as being somewhat on the ‘fitted’ (read: tight) side, this means they are engineered to
pull you in provide support in all the right places. In practice this means that they pull in your, er, mid-section and provide lumbar support for your lower back.
The tights are constructed from two different (but admittedly similar) fabrics, each with a different purpose. Thermoflex Core2 has a ‘hollow-core’ yarn on the inner face (the bit touching your legs) which provides insulation (and therefore warmth), with a more standard nylon outer surface. This material is used on the front (midriff) and knees. The more flexible Thermoflex (you see what they did there) is used for the thighs and on the back of the legs, to provide stretch and movement (whilst still being fleecey-warm).
The thing to be aware of with Castelli products is sizing. Most reviewers (including the customer reviews on Wiggle) suggest going a size bigger than with other makes (which concurs with my experience of their jerseys).
Best Cycling Waist Tights (For Want Of A Better Term)
Interesting (not so interesting) fact. The first two sets of cycling tights I bought did not have a pad (for yo’ bum) in them. They were made by Nike before the whole Lance Armstrong kaboodle caused them to quietly depart the cycle clothing market.
Anyhoo… I assumed that the vast majority of cycling tights were therefore sans chamois. How wrong I was.
In researching this post (*messing around on the internet*), it appears that most cycling tights these days, do come with a fitted pad.
So unless you want to ‘double-pad’ it, you probably won’t want to wear bib shorts beneath them.
Anyway, behold a couple options (depending on how visible you want to be)…
Best Cycling Tights For Visibility: dhb Flashlight Cycling Waist Tights
The dhb Flashlight tights have been around for some time. When I started following them (I follow pieces of bike clothing rather than celebs on Instagram), the design involved a load of reflective hexagons.
This allowed me to roll out all my trusty Blockbuster game show jokes (it’s a UK thing…).
Then they (dhb) did a version which dispelled with the hexagons in favour of what looked like reflective gun targets.
It seems that
common sartorial sense has prevailed. Cyclists are enough of a target without tempting other road users to shoot them.
So we’re back to the hexagons.
In the midst of all of this, whatever the design, these tights have continued to go a fine job of being thermalwarm whilst having plenty of reflective bits that make riders easier to spot in gloomy conditions.
So a worthwhile purchase if the visibility point is important to you (e.g. you do a lot of commuting).
Also, I’ll take a P please bob.
Best Value Thermal Cycling Waist Tights: dhb Classic Thermal Waist Tight
That’s just classic Thermal. Classic.
These tights used to have ‘Roubaix’ in the title, denoting the fact that they’re made with the Lombardia fleecy lycra fabric. Despite the slight name change (which is probably more understandable to the lay reader) they’re still made from that material.
So still nice and warm at a reasonable price.
There’s a good number of reviews on the Wiggle site (over 60) and the vast majority would recommend (as would, since effectively I own the ‘bib’ version of these tights).
Why You Shouldn’t Wear Tights Underneath Your Shorts
For a long time, when I saw pro riders (or those who wanted to look like pro riders) training in cold weather, I assumed they were wearing tights underneath their cycling shorts.
It took me an awfully long time (too long) to realise that this wasn’t the case (I hope it wasn’t the case) and they were most likely wearing knee or leg warmers.
Just in case this is something of a revelation for you, a brief explanation.
Cycling shorts are designed to be worn sans pantage. The pad (or chamois) is meant to placed directly against your, er… skin [Monty successfully avoids being overly explicit].
If you put your tights on beneath your cycling shorts, you’re negating the effect of your (potentially expensive?) chamois and increasing the chance of material bunching up, causing saddle sores.
If the tights have a pad as well, then you’ll be double padded, and have to waddle around like a sumo wrestler.
So tights are worn over your cycling shorts.
Got that? Good. Moving on.
(If you need further clarification, Sir will please enjoy this extended explication wot I wrote.)
Things To Think About When Buying Winter Cycling Tights
So here we go. There are a number of factors you might like to consider when identifying your perfect set of tights. And below are a few of those factors.
(And yes, it is one of my life beliefs that everyone has a ‘perfect set of tights’ … out there in the frozen tundra… waiting to be found…)
How The Tights Stay Up
Cycling tights stay up either by having an elasticated waist (and have the appearance of tight trousers or, er, … tights) or by having shoulder straps like bib shorts (and therefore look much like bib shorts but with longer legs).
Both of my pairs of tights are elasticated at the waist. I’ve never had a problem with them either digging in or falling down (to be honest, I hadn’t realised this was even a consideration until I started researching* this post).
(* Yes, I do research these things, in a fashion).
Cycling tights, like shorts, are generally made from lycra (what else would you expect?). To those (Americans) wondering what lycra is, it’s another name for Spandex.
That said, there are different types of lycra/spandex depending on how warm the manufacturer intends to make the garment in question.
Most popular tights tend to have some degree of fleecy lining, generally identifiable by their fancy, trademarked fabric names, such as Roubaix, Super Roubaix, Thermoflex, Nanoflex.
You’ll sometimes see ‘Roubaix lycra’ used as a more general term to refer to any lycra that has a fleecy inner surface. Hence the dhb (Wiggle own-brand) Aeron Roubaix thermal bib tights below are described as having a Roubaix finish, despite being made from another type of lycra (Lombardia, in case you’re interested – oh, you’re not…?).
Pad – With Or Without
Apparently, cycling tights are available with or without integrated ass pads (alright, chamois). Who knew?*
(*Not me – neither of my pairs of tights has one).
Clearly, if you buy tights with a pad, you wouldn’t wear another pair of cycling shorts underneath them.
Perhaps this is an obvious point, but I’m going to make it anyway. If you buy shorts with a pad, you only have one layer of material between you and the elements.
If you buy overtights, there are two layers of lycra where your shorts are, providing additional insulation at the top of your legs and around your boll…. your lower vital organs.
This is a category of ‘cycling tights’ in and of itself. And to be honest, I feel they’re stretching the meaning of the term ‘tights’.
Essentially, Castelli, purveyor of expensive cycling clothes (as worn by pros, even when they have a different clothing sponsor), make a winter cycling suit comprising a pair of thermal tights sewn into a thermal cycling jersey.
A bit like the pants and vest combo that poor East End evacuees were sewn into during the 1940s (a bit like that).
Beyond the obvious, there are few ‘features’ of cycling tights.
Many will have reflective elements, either in the form of stickers or piping near some of the seams. I wonder how effective these are, given 99% of tights are otherwise almost entirely black. Better to have a decent set of lights on your bike.
The bit around the foot is…. interesting (alright, I’m grasping at straws here!). Specifically how the cuffs at the end of each leg get over the foot before forming a tight seal around the ankle.
Many tights have small zips just below the calf to facilitate this. Others go for a stretchy cuff (which sounds like a medical condition). I prefer the zipped ones.
Leg (And Knee) Warmers
If you want to look like the pros, with black-clad legs beneath brightly-coloured pro team shorts, then wearing knee/leg warmers are the way to achieve it.
(I apologise without reservation. Your eyes! Your eyes! Etc).
Essentially, cycling leg warmers are lycra tubes, shaped to a greater or lesser degree (often based on how much you paid) to fit closely around your legs.
Whether said tube is a knee warmer or a leg warmer is a question of scale – if it goes to just below your knee, it’s a knee warmer; to the tops of your socks (and below) it’s a leg warmer. If it’s made of pink wool and just warms your shin, you might have gone to a 1980s dance shop rather than your local bike shop.
The accepted wisdom appears to be that the legs of your cycling shorts should overlap the tops of the leg warmers in order to provide continuous clothing coverage.
The advantage of leg (and knee) warmers, versus the common-or-garden tight, is that they are easier to remove mid ride and occupy less space in your jersey pockets, in the event that the temperature of your mid- to lower-leg becomes unbearably high.
If you want more detail on this important area of cycling philosophy, I wrote a post comparing the merits of cycling tights versus leg warmers. Check it out. Or don’t. No bones to me.
Monty’s (Important) Concluding Thoughts
That’s all we’ve got time for in this post. I hope you have found it usefu….
Oh Wait, You Want To See The Superman Option? (The Castelli Sanremo RoS Thermosuit)
Well this is a wetsuit, isn’t it?
Not quite. There’s no neoprene to be seen.
Instead what you’re looking at is essentially a
It’s a strong combination, at a somewhat eye-watering price.
If you care about staying uber-warm, and you have the funds, this might be the choice for you.
That’s Enough Tempting Tightwear
There’s only so many lycra (or spandex) clad legs you want to gaze at in a single sitting (where ‘so many’ generally equals zero).
Hopefully this summary of the ‘issues’ has been useful. If I help just one person prevent saddle sores through incorrect tight wearage then I’ve done my job.
Until next time, happy (warm, winter) cycling!
24 thoughts on “Best Winter Cycling Tights For Road Cyclists”
Cheers for the article. It’s well timed indeed; I have found the last week to be the proper transition time in terms of clothing. As it happens, I purchased a pair of Santini Poseidon bib tights at the weekend. I had my first cycle with them this morning and think that they are absolutely excellent. I also splashed out on a Santini Rebel winter jacket. With the tights and jacket combined I was extremely comfortable in the cold this morning.
What I like about Santini is the fact that all of there products are made in Italy and are competitively priced. I have a few Castelli bits and pieces; they come from Romania, Bangladesh and China, which I find to be slightly weird. I have nothing against buying these things I just like to try and reduce the travel distance of these things, one of my favourite items ever is a Castelli cycling cap, its super absorbent and higher quality than soem of the other brands I have seen around. Other brands that are worth looking into are Lusso and Endura which are UK based. All my rain gear and my cycling club apparel is from Endura, I have a short and long sleeved base layer from Lusso, both of which I really like.
Ok, i’m finished now, sorry…
No need to apologise Paul! All good tips. Will look at Santani’s range. I’m a big fan of Endura (despite not owning much of their gear…).
I have been having pretty good rides in the cold with my underarmour coldgear tights. Not cycling specific but they do the job for sure. Showers pass rain jacket and pants for when the wet stuff starts coming down.
Thanks Glen. I’ve a feeling that at least one of my pairs of tights is not cycling specific, but they too do the job.
Are you ok? Gone very quite around here…
Hello! Yes, I’m good. I’ve been working our house renovation and it’s dominated my life these past few months. We moved in a couple of weeks ago so hopefully things will calm down soon and I’ll resume blogging (and resume cycling….)….
I’m jealous right now! Thanks for this, I like tights, and this has been helpful. Well done!
Thanks for the article. I recently bought some tights and it wasn’t until I got home that I realized there was no padding. I had assumed the tights would be like my shorts (with padding) but longer. I wasn’t sure what to do until reading this. I will try wearing my padless tights over my shorts tomorrow.
The thing that always confused me was pro riders seemingly wearing their tights under their shorts during winter racing/training. It took me far too long to realise that they were wearing knee warmers rather than full on tights….
So thrilling were those black frog legs I have ordered myself a pair so I will have no excuse when my thin Oz blood whimpers on those cold mornings… I can now confess that working at an australian ski resort in the 70’s we used to sneak, heavily disguised, into a dance supply store to buy leggings to wear under our ski gear- at great risk to our manly public image…
Keep up the good work, always interesting and a good laugh,
Any thoughts on the Rapha gear? They seem to have beatiful and functional rear but prising is steep. But the various Merino wool blends give it a less syntetic touch.
I’m afraid I can’t comment on Rapha, Helmut. I don’t think I’ve even touched their clothing, never mind worn it. I imagine it’s good quality, and it looks smart, but can you get over the pricing…?
Anyone else here a Rapha wearer or fan? (Or prejudiced, without having tried it…?)
Hi Monty, great article! I have just bought two long bib tights with pads but not thermal. I am still finding it a bit nippy round the boll….. I am a noob and it’s my first year any tips for my situation as this gear lark is getting expensive.
Just a short question.why don’t cyclists wear footed tights. I’ve worn some a few times. Find them comfy and do the job.
So I’ve got a pair of Bib shorts that are dead comfy from giordana and they sell the matching pair of bib tights with no pad
I think they go over the top of the shorts not to sure ,is this recommended and has anyone done this
what about assos?
The issue is assos is that they seem very expensive and, more importantly, all the photos I could ‘borrow’ to show in my table feature a topless musclebound bloke….
If you ride hills in winter, windstopper can be a godsend for long descents. I have a pair of Castelli Meno Windstopper tights that I absolutely love. I wear leg-warmers until I notice that I’m leaving them on for the whole ride, and then I move to bib tights (with integrated pad, which is my preference). People’s cold tolerance varies, depending on various factors (age, body type, riding style, etc.) so part of the fun is finding out what works for you, preferably without going bankrupt in the process…
Nice review, but I think I missed your views on the UK based Rapha products. Usually on a really tight fit, but nice build quality and they know how to sell their stuff.
Only ever used padded tights.The thought of having to put tights over shorts seems a bit cumbersome to me.
Really enjoy the blog Monty!
If the tights are thin spandex I wear them inside of my chamois shorts. Been doing this for a long time ( not the same tights). If heavier material especially merino wool then tights are outside of course. Never had a problem.
Oh for non-black tights! So boring and black is not my colour. I have some blue Campag ones from a few years ago but have never seen any coloured ones since – anyone?
Hey Vicki – how about we start a business making non-black tights for the non-boring cyclist?
Are any of these wind or waterproof from top to bottom on the front or all the way around? I need a very warm pair of bib tights or tights. I have other tights that only have windproof or waterproof material that go down just below the knees, this is not good enough. I need it to go all the way to the bottom.