What Should You Wear When Road Cycling In The Winter

I’ll try to answer this without simply presenting a bland list of clothing items…. fully expecting that it will turn into a bland list of clothing items.

Cycling outside in the winter is difficult for all manner of reasons.

It’s cold. It’s more likely to be wet. It’s more likely to be windy.

‘Nice’ winter weather presents its own challenges. A beautiful clear morning tends to go hand in hand with frost and ice. Ah, the frustration of wanting to enjoy the early morning light over a white-crusted country landscape, but knowing that you’re one false pedal stroke away from an ignominious pratfall and a broken collarbone.

And then we have snow.

(Not this type of Snow. Or this one.)

The window of cycling opportunity therefore tends to be a small one. A small one with a broken latch.

So you want to have a tried and tested winter wardrobe, ready and waiting for when the opportunity presents itself.

And so I’m going to share what I wore on a recent winter’s ride, to help illuminate the issue at hand (and to present you with a bland list of clothing items).


Winter Is Coming

This post is really a humblebrag about the fact that last Sunday I went out for a ride when it was heavy grey skied, temperatures hovering around zero. And it had just started to snow.

It’s part of my 35 days of cycling challenge (more about that here). Much of that challenge has been conducted on my indoor trainer, in my (frankly, damp) garage, at about 8pm, once I get back from work.

A side effect of so much ‘quality time’ with my turbo is that, come the weekend, when I can ride in daylight hours, I am more than desperate to ride in the great outdoors.

The same motivation that had sent me out on the preceding Saturday morning with clear evidence of frozen slush and icy patches on the ground (a ride I aborted after sense finally prevailed) girded my loins to an hour or so of suffering in Sunday’s grim wintry conditions (thankfully the floor-based ice had melted in the intervening 24 hours).

winter cycling guideAt times the ride was uncomfortable (insofar as an hour long ride can be). Wind in the face. Snow in the face. Wind and snow in the face.

But it occurred to me as I turned for home that, apart from wet, ice-block toes (which I’ll come onto later), I had (inadvertently) achieved the Goldilocks equilibrium in my choice of riding clothes.

And I felt quite smug. So I thought I’d share what I wore with you all, in the hope that it will be some help as you select your armour for your next winter ride. And then you can be smug as well.

Oh, and also it gives me an excuse to show a picture of me, evidencing my heroic performance, so you can praise me.

*Commences Drunken rant*

Cyclists of old! Can you hear me Eddy Mercx…? Jacques Anqetil…? Raymond Poulidor…? Let’s be ’aving yer!

*Ends Drunken rant*

Now, let the banal list of cycling items commence.

Starting at the top.

Head (And Neck-sicle)

Well, I did wear my new helmet, and a review will surely be on the way, but I’m pretty sure any helmet (that meets the required safety standard) will do you for a winter ride.

what to wear for winter cyclingI guess an aero helmet, without air vents, might make more of the water run off and away from your head, but there’s not much in it. Not an argument for looking a complete fool.

I did wear a skull cap though, under my helmet.

[Mont scrabbles around for a random statistic about percentage heat loss from the head. Fails. Remembers that scientific accuracy is not one of the central tenets of this website].

I’ve owned my skull cap (don’t even know if that’s the right term) since the start of recorded time. It’s a Nike one and I don’t even know if it’s a cycle-specific one (although it’s Armstrong-era, so maybe it is). If I was approaching this afresh, I’d see it as an opportunity to get some fluoro Castelli gear without having to remortgage my house.

Keeping it yellow, there is a name (that sadly escapes me) for that yellow thing that is wrapped round my neck (a name other than “an exercise in poor fashion sense”). Those with the eyes of a falco subbuteo will notice that it is heavily branded with the Tour de France logo. I got it in a TdF goody bag that I bought from the caravan that preceded the race as it sped through God’s own county (of Yorkshire) in 2014.

Now you don’t have to get a camp yellow one, but a [necky thing] of some sort is helpful for stopping those icy gusts from going straight down your neck, as you cycle head down into the driving snow. As I like to do.

I don’t have a link for you to buy one because, er, not knowing what they’re called, I can’t quite seem to Google it…. Some cycling information website this turned out to be…

My Body Is Hot

… because I’m wearing appropriate clothing.

happy winter road cyclistSee how I happy I look!

That’s because 1) the ride is over; and 2) I am pleased with my clothing choices.

Except my shoes – or rather the lack of anything covering them – more on that in a minute.

Inside Out (You Turn Me)

What you can’t see is that I’m wearing a base layer. And I’m pretty sure it will have been ‘technical’ in nature (I can’t remember exactly what I had installed).

At the very least it will have been a high-wicking long-sleeved number from Marks & Spencer (of all places).

If I was being particularly conservative, and I think I was, then it was a Patagonia long-sleeved base layer that 1. keeps me very warm; 2. generates sufficient static to power my bike lights; and 3. gives off a certain musty hum that says, “I’ve been wicking away sweat for over a decade”.

Better Than A Castelli Gabba?

Okay, I don’t know if the cycling jacket I wore is better that the Castelli Gabba. It must be close though. And certainly a lot cheaper.

I have nothing but good things to say about the dhb Blok Micro Softshell Windslam Roubaix jacket. Mainly because I’ve used up all the words just saying its name.

In short, it stops all the wind. And laughed in the face of snow.

Gilet (Of Jhish)

Nope. Me neither. Red wine again.

winter action cycling manThat blue affair is a little Italian waistcoat that I’ve had loads of use out of. It’s perfect for giving a little weather-resistant boost to whatever else you might have on your torso.

In this case (in extremis) I was boosting the already-capable dhb jacket. In warmer times I’ve worn it over a long- or short-sleeved cycling jersey, just for a little extra wind protection on my tum tum.

I now have to troop to the utility room (where it lives) to find out who makes it.

[Tromp tromp tromp].

I’m back.

Okay, it’s made by Santini. And the label assures me that it’s even made in Italy (oooh).

Again it was a gift (this time of the 35th birthday variety) from my sister and her husband. Sometimes I feel those two are the only relatives of mine that actually understand me…

Real Men Eat Quiche Wear Tights

Well, they wear tights when the weather conditions demand it. And for almost the first time this winter, climatic conditions warranted the wearing of dhb ASV Roubaix Bib tights.

Again a review is on the way, but like I was (am) with the dhb jacket above, I’m impressed.

The ‘Roubaix’ part of the name refers to the fluffy lining to the lycra. And I don’t half like a bit of furry fabric wrapped around my thighs on a wintry evening bike ride.

Also (and this is important), if you look in the photo above, I reckon the diagonal red stripes on the thighs cause an optical illusion that makes said thighs look larger and more powerful than they really are. And we all want larger and more powerful-looking thighs…

Now seems to be the time to buy them (presumably whilst everyone else is looking forward to the summer). Wiggle has them on sale.

I Loves Gloves

So I appreciate that the gloves shown in the photos make me look like I have masseev hands.

That’s because they are substantial gloves. So substantial, in fact, that I wrote a whole post about them (it’s a review rather than a description of how big they are).

They’re made by a company called Sealskin (based in Norwich, for those who are fans of East Angular).

I suffer from Raynaud’s phenomenon (me na me nah). Which is in fact a thing.

I suffer from very uncomfortable hands in cold weather, particularly if I’m not wearing suitable gloves. And there is no greater praise than to say that these gloves are very suitable indeed.

Doesn’t stop ’em being masseev though.

The Only Improvement I Would Make To My Winter Cycling Outfit…

… would be to get a pair of overshoes.

My Specialized Road Elite (Elite – ha ha ha!) shoes have quite few mesh sections on their topside (a technical term used by shoemakers, or cobblers). The mesh is ideal for letting out excess heat in the summer. Less good at stopping excess water getting in during the winter.

If I had my time again, I’d invest in a good pair of neoprene overshoes.

Luckily, whilst my feet got cold and wet on this ride, as they’ve done many a time before, I don’t suffer the same Raynaud’s related pain in my feet as that in my hands. Just the normal numbness (numbity?) that normal people get.

Normal people like you.

L’Hiver Arrive

C’est tout. That’s your lot.

Here endeth the list of clothing that you might like to tick off as you build your ‘perfect’ winter cycling outfit.

If nothing else, I would have thought you’re coveting that yellow Tour de France neck thing. And I wouldn’t blame you.

Some of the links above (the ones to Amazon and Wiggle) are affiliate links. If you click on them and then subsequently buy something, I get a commission. You pay the same price.

Finally, if you have any suggestions on clothing that you swear by during the winter months, please do share them in the comments section below. We’re always in the market for a good recommendation and with retailers looking to clear their winter stock, now might be the time to pick up a bargain.

Until next time, safe cycling all!

Monty - Sportive Cyclist
Monty is an enthusiastic road cyclist with only moderate talent. He started Sportive Cyclist in 2013 to record the journey to his first 100 mile ride, the RideLondon 100. Over time the blog has expanded to include training advice, gear reviews and road cycling tales, all from the perspective of a not-very-fit MAMIL. Since you're here, Monty would also like you to check out his YouTube channel. Also, Monty really needs to stop referring to himself in the third person.

24 thoughts on “What Should You Wear When Road Cycling In The Winter”

  1. All that I could add to that post is why ride the good bike? When I’m out in crappy weather it’s the old junker I get out. Regardless, you’re at least out riding while I’m just sitting here reading about riding. Keep riding!

  2. I went out on my good bike a couple of weeks ago and regretted it afterwards… 2 hours of cleaning…
    By the way, I purchased exactly the same helmet, same colour, about a month ago. An absolutely brilliant investment… so light too, compared to my old Giro.

  3. What you’re wearing there my friend, is a snood. Snoods come in all shapes and sizes. Draw stings around the neck/face, some have head shaped bits at the top. Some are fleece lined. Whatever. They keep your neck nice and warm (or sweaty when you totally misread the temperature!)

    SNOOD. SNOOD. That’s an amusing word.

    • Aha. A SNOOD. Another suggestion (from Rob on Facebook) is that it is a ‘buff’.

      What I *am* clear on is that if I open a pub, I will be calling it The Buff & Snood.

      • I call it a ‘Buff’ because that’s who made the one I wear. I’m seriously considering getting another for under my helmet; they’re brill.

  4. Celsius 2 spd winter boots by Northwave. Brilliant as they keep my feet warm and dry. Being a girlie with Raynauds I suffer with blue/frozen/painful toes easily, but not wearing these.

  5. 2 comments well 3 really…
    buff ideally merino, and you need a link to on one..cos they do really good CHEAP ones.
    Base layers Merino, there’s nothing like it, it may not wick quite as well as more techie fabrics, but it doesn’t smell unless you wear it for week solid..
    Gloves and feet Sealskin please 🙂

  6. Castelli call theirs a Head Thingy, which I rather like. But doesn’t make a great pub name.

    And don’t be fooled into thinking overshoes will be the answer to all your prayers. I was recently out in the wet, wearing quick drying hiking socks, underneath Sealskinz waterproof socks, underneath my shoes, underneath some apparently waterproof Endura overshoes. So whilst my feet started out warm and dry, going through a big puddle accidently caused water to seep down my legs, past all the layers and, unable to escape the waterproof socks, nestled around my feet. Horrible and very cold by the time I got home!

  7. If you don’t want the bulk of neoprene overshoes, I find Sealskin waterproof socks excellent, although when it drops below zero, I dig out the overshoes as well.
    Front mudguard also helps keep feet dry!

      • Interesting. A lot of love for Sealskin going on. They offered to send me some products to review a while back but nothing materialised. Maybe I need to blag a pair of waterproof socks…

  8. I find a cheap pair of Silk Gloves under the Sealskins I wear help, especially when it comes to taking them off without them going inside out. I agree that mudguards are a good idea at this time of year, and I’ve gone to a pair of Winter Shoes from Sidi (albeit I only bought them because they were in the sale) and they’re much better than my summer shoes with either Neoprene or waterproof overshoes.

  9. I really enjoy reading your posts, they always make me chuckle!! I have recently purchased a Buff cyclone snoody thing, it has a windproof section and a double thickness material bit too. This means I can protect my neck and head with one garment, circa £20 on Amazon. For base layer I really rate ‘Endura’, I have both short and long sleeve ones bought when on offer. Thank you global warming for keeping me cycling outdoors thi winter!! Keep up the good work…..

  10. regarding the neoprene overshoes i have a pair and whilst they are excellent at keeping the water out the holes in the soles (for heels and cleats) do still let a significant amount of cold in (not helped by most cycle shoes having a solid sole made from resin) and i have found when i roll them off they will be ‘wet’ due to sweat having nowhere to go – do the sealskin gloves have a similar problem (optum waterproof ones certainly do)?

  11. Nice article, Monty. I like my Sealskinz gloves but they don’t breathe very well and they take a couple of days to dry after laundering, so I’ve started wearing Pearl Izumi Elite softshell gloves instead. (Not quite as warm, but they breathe well and dry quickly.) The best booties I’ve tried so far are Gore Road SO Thermo Overshoes, in eye-stabbing yellow.

    BTW, I recently got rained on during a cold mountain descent, wearing my Gabba 2 jersey and Nanoflex tights. And I nearly froze to death; luckily the wife was able to come rescue me at a coffee shop at the bottom. Water proof? Not so much, at least from that experience. Perhaps one needs to apply a DWR coating regularly or something? Maybe a good excuse for you to get some Gabba gear and ride a blog about it!

  12. I live in Toronto and I ride through the winter in my summer gear. It is my personal opinion that the two most miserable cycling activities are; cold weather riding and riding on a stationary trainer. So you can imagine my delight when a velodrome was built for me in the nearby town of Milton. Actually it was built for the Pan Am Games which Toronto hosted in 2015. It is a real boon to the local cycling population, and makes winter riding much more tolerable.

    • Funny you should say this Nigel. One of the unstated aims of my 35 day cycling challenge was to up my fitness levels ahead of doing a series of sessions at the recently-opened velodrome near where I live (Derby, in the UK), which my wife bought me for Christmas. Reminds me that I must get those booked…

  13. I’ve been commuting regularly for over 2 years now, through summer and winter and do about 14 miles a day. Here’s what I’ve found works so far…

    For headgear that fits under a helmet I recommend one of these http://www.cotswoldoutdoor.com/rab-meco-165-beanie-a1e12573?id_colour=124 – it’s seen me through -2 deg C commutes and washes very well.

    Neck wear – as mentioned it’s hard to beat the trusted and true original Buff ™ which come in a range of heat settings and designs. http://www.cotswoldoutdoor.com/brands/buff/neckwear

    (You’ll notice I’m not linking to a cycle shop – there’s suitable gear to be had all over!)

    Layers are the real key – a decent base with options on top depending on the conditions, duration etc Aldi’s cycling kit is very good, they do a range of winter tops and the jacket I’ve got must be designed for Arctic conditions as it’s consistently too warm! Their tights are warm and comfortable too.

    Waterproof socks are better than overshoes imho, Aldi were selling these last year so I got two pairs.

    Gloves seem inconsistent but again layers can help – a liner is worth keeping in your pack for those really chilly starts! http://www.cotswoldoutdoor.com/?fuseaction=products.search&source=Search&searchvalue=glove+liner.

  14. I also suffer from Raynaud’s syndrome, its a bloody nuisance. I have spent a fortune on gloves over the years, I also currently wearing Sealskinz which do a decent job but although this might sound contradictory although cold my hands sweat like buggery, the inside of the gloves get soaked.

  15. I think I’d describe it (the neck thing) as a kerchief, although I can’t see if you’d tied round your neck or not, if not perhaps it is a snood. Love the post, as always – has done more for my cycling than anything else.

  16. Raynaud sufferer as well I’m afraid. However, I now use Blazewear heated inner gloves with a cheap pair of Aldi outers and now have no problems. Switch the gloves on 15 mins before you go out and fingers will be nice and toasty! Yes, there are batteries attached but the benefits far outweigh any issues there.

  17. Winter riding? I think it was colder in my house last night (38 degrees F) last night than your ride. The gear you are using is good but more for wet weather. When it gets COLD around here (below 0 F) I’m into windproof over and bulk under. I lost some toenails last year to frostbyte and find it hard to keep hands warm. The other problem is the face because when you cover up enough you can’t see. Keep the blog up, I enjoy it.


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