Much of the fun of winter cycling comes from being outside pedaling with the thrill of an adventure, and the discovery that winter cycling can be quite comfortable and enjoyable. It's all a matter of dressing appropriately. You'll find that one of the bigger issues of cold-weather cycling comes in the form of over heating and then subsequent freezing. Prevent over-heating or freezing with the right clothes, and a very unique, unforgettably fun cycling experience ensues.
Here is what we recommend wearing. We get these recommendations directly from personal experience. We love winter riding and have done quite a bit of it. So, we've tried a lot and have arrived at tried-and-true recommendations. The winter of two years ago, with many feet of snow, found us outside riding frequently. The more it snows, the more we are excited about riding outside in it.
Fingers and Toes
What freezes first and is most painful if not properly dressed? Almost everyone agrees it's the poor fingers and toes. Fortunately, there are perfectly cozy fixes to make them happy.
Boots are significantly better than shoe covers to keep your feet warm. One reason why feet freeze so quickly in the cold is that the cold air quickly penetrates the thin sole of a cycling shoe, especially where the cleat is attached. These boots make a huge difference in warmth and they are light and move well so that pedaling is still easy.
For gloves, fingers stay warm if they're together. For this reason, we recommend 45NRTH 4-finger gloves with liners and Pearl Izumi lobster gloves. These gloves allow plenty of dexterity for shifting on drop-bar and flat-bar bikes.
Our product testers who have the most sensitive hands and who have Raynaud's have found these gloves to do the trick to keeping hands warm for long, 3+ hour cold-weather rides. We suggest sizing up to allow for more room for fingers to move around within the gloves and a bigger chamber for warm air to reside.
Keep Your Noggin and Surrounding Parts Warm
A big source for heat loss comes from your head. And your sensitive ears, being affixed to your head, really need to be kept warm, too. We suggest a comfortable wool cycling cap that is made to be worn under a helmet. Separately, use a neck warmer to cover your neck, mouth, and nose, depending on how cold it is. It's useful that these two things are separate since it's often necessary to use them in different ways during the course of a single ride. Start really well bundled up, and have the ability to move things around as the ride progresses and you warm up.
A neck warmer is best if it's wool. Like everything 45NRTH produces, their Blowtorch gaiter is wonderful in its simplicity and effective in keeping comfort levels high on a ride.
Limit the Layers
As nice as layering is, it's not always beneficial to layer too much. There is a fine balance between temperature control, breatheability, and feeling constrained, and uncomfortable.
The easy solution to this dilemma is to invest in a winter jacket and winter bib tights with a built-in chamois.
Take this supremely comfortable, very innovative jacket made by Velocio. It's warm. And it breathes well. It's been created with the idea in mind that a single layer under it is all that is necessary on the coldest days. Imagine not having to get a whole bunch of layers gross and sweaty. Keep the laundry pile small, and discover the joy of putting on a warm jacket that has proper temperature control in mind for the duration of any pace bike ride.
If you haven't experienced the sheer pleasure of putting on winter tights with nothing underneath them, you have to do it to know just how great it feels. The fuzzy inside of the tights is instant warmth, comfort, and the chamois is arguably the most comfortable chamois on the cycling market today. You'll want to run outside and play in the snow the moment you put these on! If you're used to wearing tights over a pair of cycling shorts or bibs, you'll see how much extra compression and discomfort is introduced as a result of wearing too many layers. Try these and you'll find you're looking forward to cold days to have an excuse to put them on.
45NRTH has introduced an apparel line, the Naughtvind, for this winter that has cold and protection in mind. They have a very protective jacket, full pants, and thermal bib tights with chamois built in. 45NRTH is used to riding and designing apparel and equipment for Minnesota winters. Everything they produce is very high-quality and well thought-out. We and Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington are two of very few 45NRTH apparel dealers in all of New England. Check out their stuff on our shelves.
That's all there is to dressing for the winter. The basic concepts are:
Invest in a few, key pieces of clothing that are built for winter cycling. There is a noticeable difference between good winter clothes and great winter cycling clothes.
Take especially good care of your fingers, toes, and ears. Suffering in the cold is not only painful, it's dangerous, and unnecessary.
When in doubt, go up a size. Having more room for warm air inside your clothes whether we're talking about gloves, boots, or jacket, is always a good thing.
There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. We look forward to the winter and the riding we get to do in fresh snow every year. The reason is that it's fun, always a memorable experience with friends, and not something we do out of any need to suffer.