How to Dress for Winter Cycling [4 Tips to Keep You Going in the Cold]

For many cycling enthusiasts, the idea of putting aside their bikes for an entire season is enough to send them into a slump. But the onset of winter doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the bicycling season. With the right prep and these four tips on how to dress for winter cycling, you can stay in the saddle all year round.

Tip 1: Keep Your Core Warm

The number one rule when heading out on your bike on cold days is to make sure your core stays warm and dry. But it’s important that you don’t overdress. Both insufficient clothing and too much clothing can lead to hypothermia or dehydration. 

Since it is cold outside, people assume they need a lot of clothes to stay warm. This can get you in trouble because when you ride, your body produces plenty of heat and sweat. It’s possible for you to actually become too hot and sweaty. Then when you stop, like at traffic lights, that extra heat dissipates and leaves you wet and shivering. 

Tip 2: Wear Layers

Wearing layers is the key to dressing for winter cycling. Then when you warm up, you can peel off the layers. You will want to be able to strip them off quickly and easily without having to stop in the cold, so make sure all layers have zips for quick and easy removal. 

A good rule of thumb is to wear three layers on the top half of your body, and two layers on the bottom. Fortunately, there are a lot of good winter cycling gear options to choose from. 

Top Layers

  1. Base - The purpose of a base layer is to keep you dry. Make sure your base layer is made from a sweat-wicking material, like merino wool, polyester, or nylon/spandex. Avoid cotton, which soaks up sweat and holds it next to your skin.
  2. Middle - Over the base layer, wear a warm middle layer. A fleece pullover or jacket works well.
  3. Outer - Your top layer should be a waterproof and windproof cycling jacket or shell. Look for vents to allow breathability and a longer cut in the back and arms. Two-way zippers are another excellent feature, which allow you to open the jacket from the bottom to shed heat while still keeping your arms and upper torso covered. 

Bottom Layers

  1. Inner - Just like with your upper body, the goal of the base layer on your legs is to keep them dry. Long johns or bib tights are popular choices.
  2. Outer - Selecting the best outer layer for your legs depends on the weather. If it’s rainy or snowy, you want something that is waterproof. If cold is all you’re dealing with, not rain or snow, then an outer layer that is windproof will work.  

Tip 3: Winter Cycling Gear for Your Head

Along with your hands and feet, your head is prone to getting chilled and is a place where you can lose body heat. A quick look at a bicycle helmet will reveal an immediate concern in winter weather: it’s full of holes. So how do you keep your head warm?

A wool stocking cap, helmet liner, or balaclava worn under your helmet can do the job. Just make sure your choice is thin enough to fit under your helmet and is long enough to protect the back of your neck. Another good option is a helmet cover. 

Tip 4: Good Gloves Are a Must

To enjoy winter cycling, you need to keep your hands warm and dry. If you are riding in an area where rain is a factor, make sure gloves are waterproof and have non-slip grip on the palms and fingers (handlebars get slippery when wet). 

For colder climates, shop around for gloves that will keep you warm, whether they are specifically for cycling or not. Skiing or snowboarding gloves may work just as well. You can also layer with glove liners to give your fingers a little extra boost of warmth and you the option to shed the outer layer if needed.

Winter Bike Storage

Multi-bike holding three bikes

Riding your bike during the winter can be extremely rewarding, but only if you’re well prepared. Just like having the right clothing can make or break winter cycling, how you store your bike in colder months is also important. No one wants to fumble with their bike every time they want to ride it. 

Garage Smart gives you the next generation in hassle-free bike storage with our Multi-Bike Lifter. It keeps your bikes safe and secure, with easy access whenever you’re ready to ride. Then, head over and check out our full line of convenient overhead garage storage solutions for simple ways to store your winter cycling gear when it’s time to put it away.