It has been fantastic to see our streets and roads filled with the thousands of people who took to their bikes for the first time this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, if you are one of them, welcome! But as autumn and winter approaches, how many will keep going as the days get shorter and the weather gets wetter and colder? All of them we hope!
Cycling is, as we know very well at Cycle-SOS, a brilliant way of getting around and once you discover the ease and convenience of a bike there is no looking back. But even we have to admit that wet, cold weather is off-putting. However, there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing, which is why we have put together this guide for everything you need to keep riding this winter.
Cycle clothing is an investment, if you know you are going to be comfortable then stepping out the door on a frosty morning is so much easier. If you are starting from scratch this is going to look like a long list, but honestly it is all worthwhile. When you get to work with warm dry feet, without foregoing the convenience of your bicycle, you will thank us.
From the ground up
Overshoes or winter cycling shoes
Cold feet make cycling miserable. Your feet bear the brunt of puddles, road spray and wind chill so protection is essential. Overshoes, as the name suggests, pull on over your cycling shoes to keep wind and rain out. Look for a pair made of neoprene, like a wetsuit, as these help insulate and keep feet warm even if wet.
Leave your old cotton sports socks in the drawer and pull on a lovely pair of merino wool socks to provide another layer of warmth and protection. Pro tip – if you are commuting carry a spare pair for your journey home to guarantee you start your ride with warm dry feet.
Tights or cycling trousers
Cycling tights aren’t a look that everyone can embrace but they serve a purpose, keeping your legs warm and allowing you complete freedom of movement to pedal. Look for tights that have water protection such as a DWR coating and feature thermal insulation. If tights really aren’t your thing then opt for waterproof cycling trousers that you can pull on over your casual clothes.
An all year round essential, if you haven’t discovered them yet you are missing out. A padded seat insert inside the shorts offers you protection from the saddle ensuring that you are sitting comfortably throughout your ride. Remember, bike shorts are designed to be worn next to your bare skin to prevent chafing.
Remember your old grandma who always checked you were wearing a vest in winter? It’s time to follow her advice again. A base layer is basically a vest, designed to be worn next to your skin to carry sweat away so your skin feels dry, even if you are perspiring. This helps to prevent wind chill from cold, damp skin.
Temperature regulation is all about layering, versatile clothes that you can add or remove depending on the weather. A mid-layer is normally made from an insulating fabric such as fleece or merino wool that can also ‘breathe,’ allowing sweat to be carried from your base layer to the outside air to keep your skin dry. On a cool but dry day your mid-layer cycling jersey can be your outer layer, on a cold or wet day you can wear it under a jacket to ensure you stay warm and toasty.
This is where the big bucks get spent. Top of the range highly technical cycling jackets are not cheap, but it will transform your perception of what ‘bad’ weather really is. You only need one jacket that will work for all conditions as you can adapt it to different temperatures by varying what you wear underneath. It’s that layering thing again. When it comes to jackets you really do get what you pay for as the fabrics used in its construction can make a huge difference to the protection and comfort it offers. Breathable fabrics mean that the sweat and heat you produce can be transported to the surface where it can evaporate, leaving your skin dry and your temperature comfortable. Cheaper fabrics are less breathable so you may remain dry from the rain but be wet from your own sweat. If you only have one jacket, make sure you choose one that is windproof and waterproof to cover all eventualities.
Cold, stiff fingers make it much harder to control your brakes and gears so warm hands are not just essential for comfort, it is important for your safety too! With winter gloves there is a fine line between keeping your hands insulated from the cold and ending up with gloves so thick you feel clumsy. You may have hundreds of gloves at home already but cycling design and technical fabrics that protect from wind and rain whilst allowing dexterity are worth investing in. Don’t think you can get away with an old pair of knitted gloves or your big, thick ski-gauntlets!
A thin silk or cotton tube of fabric may not seem like an important purchase, but they are incredibly versatile, we’d even go as far as saying indispensable. One of the most popular brands, Buff, has become synonymous with this type of neck wear and they are now everywhere. The chances are, that if you have done a running event or cyclosportive, you may already have received one as a finishers prize. You can wear them round your neck to plug any gaps and keep the draft out, or pull them up over your face to protect from cold, you can fold them in half and wear them as a hat under your helmet, or use them as a mask, the list is endless.
Hat or cap
An insulating or windproof cap under your helmet is a great way to avoid that ‘ice-cream’ headache you might otherwise get cycling into a cold wind. It’s particularly important if you are challenged on the follicular front! A traditional cycling cap with a peak is good for wet conditions as the rain runs off the peak and away from your face, helping to keep rain out of your eyes.
Cycling glasses are part of your safety kit all year round, not just on sunny summer days. In winter wearing clear lenses both day and night will protect your eyes from grit and road spray which can irritate or even injure your eyes.
Fitting your bike with mudguards is the ultimate way to stop water and road grime spraying upwards. They help to keep your feet, legs and backside dry and prevents the tell-tale line of brown muck from streaking up the back of your jersey. It also keeps your chain cleaner and minimises your winter bike maintenance. Everything considered, you’d be a fool not to fit them.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but if you buy one of everything on here it really will set you up for a winter of warm, comfortable cycling so you don’t have to give up on the fresh air, reliability and convenience you have found riding your bike.