Layering Winter Cycling Clothing

The winter months provide plenty of challenges for cyclists, long routes and days out can be restricted by available daylight hours, and the colder/wetter weather can end up ruining what could be a nice day out on the bike. The most effective way to deal with cold weather when cycling, is to ensure that you are kitted out and dressed correctly.

One of the most challenging parts about cycling in cold weather is temperature regulation, a cyclist can be incredibly warm when tackling challenging ascents, but then be incredibly cold once they stop. An effective layering system is the best way to regulate temperature, allowing you to remain comfortable on the bike, at all stages of your ride.

Layering cycling clothing works much in the same way as it does for other outdoor activities, such as hiking. There are three main layers to consider - the base layer, which is worn immediately onto the skin, the mid layer - which provides insulation and the outer layer which provides protection from the elements, through windproof and waterproof properties. Not all of these items need to be specialist cycling clothing, but the changing position of cycling, and the unique hunched over position whilst on the bike, means that cycling clothing designed for these positions - provides the best fit, comfort and coverage.

On very cold days, it’s best to wear all three layers mentioned above - and on the bottom half of the body, it’s always worth considering wearing some winter cycling tights to keep your legs comfortable and warm. Using these three layers on cold days on the upper half of your body, means that you should not have to stop and take layers off/add layers on at any point during your journey.

Winter Cycling Base Layers

A base layer is the closest item of clothing to your skin - it’s therefore very important to find the right base layer, which provides comfort as well as performance. A good base layer needs to be able to wick sweat away from the body, preventing your clothes from being saturated in sweat - in the way that dreaded cotton t-shirts become waterlogged. The base layer needs to wick sweat through two extra layers - so base layers are usually made from a mixture of wicking materials, such as a wool and polyester synthetic blend. If you find synthetic materials uncomfortable, merino wool cycling base layers work very well.

It’s also worth noting that a base layer needs to be tight, as well as being tight for comfort reasons - base layers need to pick up all moisture for the skin, and loose fabric will miss certain areas. On cold days, a tight fitting base layer also prevents draughts and winds from forming a chill!

If you are commuting to work, it’s worth wearing a base layer under your shirt if you do not get changed - this base layer, as well as keeping you warm, will also keep your shirt dry and more hygienic. There are hundreds of different base layers available, and we stock and supply the very best ones we can source from different, specialist suppliers including Mons Royale.

Winter Cycling Mid Layers

The weather forecast, and how warm you get when cycling will influence the type of mid layer that you choose. There are many different mid layers to choose from, and the purpose of this mid layer is to continue to wick sweat and moisture away from the body, whilst providing warmth.

Some of the most commonly used winter cycling mid layers include lightweight jerseys, long sleeve jerseys, insulating jackets and heavy thermal base layers. The warmer options are better for colder weather, but for rides with intervals and challenging sections - a lighter mid layer may be the best option.

Depending on how comfortable you are on the bike when it comes to temperature, you can experiment here and choose the most comfortable mid layer for you.

Winter Cycling Jackets & Outer Layers

The outer layer is an incredibly important part of a winter cycling setup. As well as providing protection from the elements, the outer layer also needs to be comfortable to wear on the bike, whilst being breathable enough to continue wicking sweat and moisture away from the body. On top of all of this, it’s up to an outer layer to provide good visibility and bright colours/reflective areas to warn road users of your presence. A good outer layer also needs to have plenty of pockets and storage areas for essentials such as cash/car keys and mobile phones.

The outer layer you choose will depend upon the weather, and when cycling on dry and windy days - look for a softshell jacket or a wind blocker gilet which provides plenty of protection for the core of your body, from the wind.

In rainy conditions, you will be looking to wear a waterproof and windproof jacket - made from materials such as Gore-tex or similar. These technical jackets will keep out unpleasant weather keeping you warm and dry.

Protect the Extremities

One of the best ways to keep the body warm and comfortable is to protect the extremities - no matter how well layered you are, if your hands, feet and head are uncomfortable and cold, you will suffer. We stock and supply an excellent range of winter cycling kit, including gloves, hats, shoes and thermal layers to keep you on the bike, in the most comfortable way. Regardless of your cycling type, we have the right winter kit at all price points and budgets.