Cycling during winter can be very challenging due to the cold and wet conditions you’ll face.
You’ll likely feel the urge to just crawl back to bed and snuggle under your blankets.
Fortunately, the right winter cycling gear can give you the motivation you need to get out and go for a ride. Layering up with the right clothing and wearing proper equipment will make your biking experience more enjoyable, regardless of the weather outside.
Winter cycling gear can come off as an indulgence; after all, can’t you just exercise another way when it’s cold out?
But if you want to remain consistent with your workout habits and keep building your strength and endurance, it’s best to continue riding—don’t let cold weather stop you!
Good-quality winter cycling gear can last many years, so they are worth the upfront cost. We’ve put together this winter cycling gear checklist to help you choose the very best pieces available in the market today.
Read on for a comprehensive list of everything you need to stay warm, dry, and get through the chilly weather on winter rides.
10 Winter Cycling Gear Essentials
Here are the top 10 winter cycling gear pieces you need to layer up for a warm winter riding experience:
#1 Cycling Jacket
A top-quality waterproof cycling jacket will protect you from the cold, damp weather and keep you warm and cozy when you go biking in the winter.
The best cycling jackets have thorough insulation, water resistance, and moisture-wicking properties that keep the chill and wetness out. Make sure to get a jacket that is windproof and breathable.
Look for a cycling jacket with a comfortable yet snug fit and taped seams. A jacket with a dropped tail will provide extra coverage and protect you from spray from your bicycle’s rear wheel.
#2 Bib Tights
Winter bib tights are excellent for the harsh, cold winter months—they handily protect your legs against the elements.
They offer excellent wind resistance and sufficient insulation to keep your legs warm. They are also usually water-resistant, so you won’t be affected even if you ride in damp weather.
Bib tights can come with or without padding. Non-padded tights are a bit more affordable, but you’ll have to wear bib shorts over or under them, which adds to your costs and your bulk. Padded bib tights are much more streamlined.
It’s best to get bib tights with reflective details for added visibility, a high double-layered front panel for extra warmth for your core, and a fleece liner for softness and comfort.
High-quality, breathable bib tights with mesh on the back will help prevent overheating. A high waistband will also ensure that the tights won’t dig into your sides while you’re riding.
Bib tights also have straps that go under your feet to prevent the ends of the legs from riding up, increasing your comfort and letting you focus on your ride.
#3 Base Layer
Your choice of a base layer is arguably the most important one you’ll have to make. It is in constant contact with your skin, and it is crucial for temperature regulation.
Good-quality base layers are often made of synthetic wicking fabrics like polyester, nylon, spandex, or natural Merino wool.
Merino wool is a relatively expensive option, but it is fantastic for insulation and temperature regulation. It provides excellent breathability, which helps prevent overheating.
It also wicks away moisture and protects against odor, which means you can cut down on the number of washes, thus ensuring the material’s durability.
It’s best to avoid cotton base layers as they absorb sweat and keep it close to your skin, which may cause irritation and itching.
Instead, look for a thick Merino wool base layer that is soft and comfortable. Your sweat will not linger on your skin, so you won’t feel itchy when you go riding.
Your base layer should also fit comfortably, with long sleeves and wrist loops that you can put your thumbs through. Wrist loops keep the sleeves stretched into your palms for warmth and to keep them from riding up your arm.
A turtleneck base layer is the most practical option. It will cover more surface area, so you won’t have to buy a neck warmer as well.
The mid-layer is an insulating layer that may feel like too much if you already have a base layer and a cycling jacket. However, it adds another critical layer of protection and warmth so that you won’t freeze as you cycle in cold weather.
Mid-layers are usually made of natural or synthetic insulation materials to regulate your core temperature while allowing heat to pass through.
This prevents overheating even if you begin sweating on long rides. A mid-layer should also be water-resistant to withstand a drizzle.
Good quality mid-layers are easy to fold and pack, so you can stuff them into your jersey pocket when you don’t need them for your ride. They also come in bright colors to add to your visibility if you plan to wear them as an outer layer.
Go for a mid-layer made up of a thermal, moisture-wicking fabric like Merino wool with a soft interior for extra insulation and comfort.
A winter cycling jersey provides protection from the cold, wind, and rain so you can stay cozy and dry in chilly, damp conditions.
Jerseys are generally made from thermal, wind-resistant, and waterproof materials that are moisture-wicking and highly breathable. These properties prevent overheating on warmer days or when you’re riding across hilly terrain.
If you’re in the market for one, get a well-fitting, soft, and breathable Merino wool jersey that will help with temperature regulation and remain comfortable on your skin.
Your jersey should also have enough pockets for extra storage and offer good odor resistance and ventilation.
If you plan to wear your jersey on its own as an outer layer on mild and warm days, look for one with reflective detailing. This will help you remain visible to others on the road, especially on dark and foggy days.
#6 Eye Protection
If you thought sunglasses were only for summer, think again. Winter cycling gear is incomplete without good-quality eyewear.
Eye protection is beneficial on clear winter days when the sun feels too bright on your eyes, and it can also block the cold wind and rain. It will also protect your eyes from spray, dirt, and other particles that can get kicked up on your bike trail.
Sunglasses with good coverage prevent the delicate skin around your eyes from getting uncomfortably cold and dry. A good pair will help you enjoy your ride no matter where you go!
You can get a pair of sunglasses with replaceable lenses that can function during the summer and the winter. Or you can get a specific pair for the winter, ones with clear lenses that will not block weak sunlight.
Some pairs come with yellow lenses to add a bit of visibility during dark and gloomy days.
The best eye protection for winter cycling includes an adjustable nose piece that will provide a good fit and remain in place even during high-intensity biking.
#7 Cycling Gloves
In the winter, your hands will often get cold more quickly than the rest of your body. A solid pair of winter cycling gloves will help you beat the cold weather and make your winter bike ride much easier to bear.
A well-insulated and windproof pair of gloves will keep your hands warm and happy and help you feel your digits even through the worst of the cold.
Maintaining finger dexterity ensures that you can always maintain control of your bike, which is especially important on rugged terrain or when you’re riding in heavy traffic.
Many cycling gloves are also waterproof and moisture-wicking, keeping the rain and moisture out. After all, you don’t want to end up with damp or sticky hands while riding.
Pick a pair that is comfortable, flexible, breathable, and has extra padding. Try on potential pairs to see if your hands remain dexterous while wearing them.
You need to be able to move your fingers freely and maintain good contact with your bike’s handlebars as you ride. If your gloves are too tight, they’ll cut off blood circulation. So make sure you buy the right fit for your hands.
Reflective details enhance visibility, so keep a lookout for this feature, too.
On colder days, you can wear another layer of lightweight hand protection (such as surgical gloves) underneath your usual thick ones for an extra layer of warmth and protection.
#8 Bike Hat or Cap
When considering winter cycling gear, the focus is largely on the core, legs, hands, and even eyes. It can be easy to overlook an important part of the body from which most body heat escapes: the head.
A good cycling cap or hat will help retain the warmth on your head when you’re on the move. It is a crucial element for weather protection under your helmet, as it can wick away moisture and keep you sweat-free and cozy.
It’s best to choose one made of wind-resistant and water-repellent material for added comfort.
Your cycling hat should be breathable, fit comfortably, and preferably include ear warmers or ear flaps. It should also be made of stretchable fabric to ensure freedom of movement on long rides.
A lot of bike hats are made of fleece, Merino wool, or synthetic materials such as polyester and spandex.
Many cycling caps also feature reflective elements for added visibility and a peak to help keep the rain and spray out of your eyes.
If the weather in your area can be too cold for a simple hat, go for a balaclava for better protection. It will help protect your head, ears, neck, and jaw, providing much better wind coverage.
#9 Cycling Socks
Cold feet are a major concern when cycling during the winter. Fortunately, wearing a pair of high-quality socks will keep your feet warm and cozy on long bike rides.
Invest in a good pair or two to keep up your cycling routine even during the coldest months of the year.
Good cycling socks provide all the coverage you may need, along with compression, comfort, and breathability, while regulating heat and wicking away moisture.
Look for pairs with anti-microbial and anti-odor properties, which will keep sweaty and stinky feet at bay.
Make sure the socks you buy for cycling are not overly thick. While socks help keep warm blood flowing into your toes, bulky ones stuffed into tight shoes may reduce blood flow and cause numb feet.
Get a pair that’s made of wool or other insulating fabrics like polyester, nylon, or elastane, with sufficient cushioning and durability. Like other types of winter cycling gear, cycling socks come with reflective trimming for high visibility in the dark.
#10 Cycling Overshoes
A good pair of cycling overshoes can be a massive game-changer for thermal insulation for the feet.
You don’t need a dedicated pair for cycling during the winter. You can keep wearing your favorite summer cycling shoes and pair them with heavy-duty and affordable overshoes.
Cycling overshoes protect against cold weather and potential abrasions on the road. They are meant to be worn over your cycling shoes—they have holes at the base to allow your cleats to connect to the bike pedals.
Water-resistant versions are designed with taped seams and a waterproof zip to keep moisture out.
Get a pair of comfortable and durable neoprene overshoes that will trap the warmth and keep water out when it rains. If you want more insulation, you can get a pair with cozy fleece lining.
Overshoes also come with reflective tabs for visibility in the dark.
This ultimate winter cycling gear checklist will give you everything you need to ensure a warm, comfortable, and safe riding experience all winter long.
When you layer up before a ride, you can easily add or remove different elements as you please.
Make sure to keep your winter cycling gear clean and dry after every ride so that they remain breathable and odor-free. Proper care and maintenance will ensure that you can use your high-quality gear for years to come.
Do you have a favorite piece of clothing or equipment for your winter rides? Share them with us in the comments below!
Last Updated on July 17, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic