Coming from California, it’s been a crazy cold winter here in the UK with many days starting out below freezing. But as we are still in full lockdown, I need to get outside on the bike for my daily exercise and the cold isn’t going to deter me. As long as you dress appropriately, a winter bike ride can actually be enjoyable and a great way to get a little fresh air for a mental break during the day.
Here is some of the gear that has been helping me stay warm on the bike this winter.
Hands and Feet
It’s usually your feet and hands that go cold first. While making sure your core is warm can help in this department, a good pair of gloves and shoe covers can make the difference between fun and suffering.
Hestra Windstopper Tracker Gloves: I have worn these gloves every single day this winter, whether for riding, hiking, or my endless walks around the parks of London. They are some of the warmest gloves I have ever owned. Made from Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper fabric, these bike gloves block the cold wind and will resist some light rain, snow or puddle splashing.
They are close fitting while still offering plenty of mobility for operating your brakes and shifters. The fingers are touch screen compatible so you don’t have to worry about removing them to operate your phone or bike computer.
An elastic band around the wrist keeps cold air and rain from getting in, while a pull tab makes them easier to get on without a struggle. When you stop and take off your gloves for whatever reason, fellow tester Andrew Straw noted that it was really nice that the lining doesn’t pull away from the outer shell (when it does, gloves are super hard to put back on) and they also don’t have those annoying seams in between the fingers or on the fingers tips that always rub the wrong way when you are cycling. The bike gloves are just really comfortable to wear. Bonus: the bike gloves feature a snot wipe on the index fingers—key for winter riding.
Showa 282 Insulated Gloves: On any bikepacking trip, I always throw in a pair of these Japanese fishing gloves for cold rainy days as they are lightweight, pack down small, and are fully waterproof. The 282 version vs the 281 version adds a layer of fleecy insulation for those really wet winter days. Yes, you may get some strange sideways glances from fellow riders but these things work to keep your hands warm and dry when it’s absolutely pissing down and you know you have to be outside all day.
Cycling Shoe Covers: I own a range of shoe covers depending on the degree of cold and wet weather I am heading out in. For those mildly cold days, the Defeet shoe covers work great. For cold and especially wet conditions, I go with the neoprene booties from Rapha or Pearl Izumi.
The key to keeping your core warm is layering. One thing I learned from trying to stay warm in sub zero temperatures while ice climbing is don’t overdo it. You want to be comfortable but you don’t want to sweat excessively, as sweat will just make you cold and really fast.
Decathlon RC100 Winter Cycling Jacket: I love Decathlon as you can get some decent apparel at really affordable prices. The retailer sent me the RC100 Winter Cycling Jacket to try out and it’s been a great layer for my winter riding. Paired with a base layer (or two) underneath and a waterproof rain jacket over top on really cold days, this fleece-lined softshell jacket offers warmth with some added wind protection. The high collar and extended sleeves help keep the cold air out while some roomy, easy-to-reach side pockets are great for storing an extra layer, your phone, or some snacks.
Don’t Forget to Accessorize
Some accessories I find essential include a neck gaiter and a hat. Something about a neck gaiter just adds a huge level of warmth and a thin wool hat under my helmet keeps my ears warm and the cold air from hitting my head when bombing downhill into the cold wind. Make sure your hat isn’t too bulky as it will just slip around under your helmet and become really annoying.
Keep Eating and Drinking
If you are out for longer rides, don’t forget to eat and drink as your body needs fuel to keep you warm. The more depleted you become, the colder you will get.