Temperatures are plummeting but we plan to keep riding, so it’s time to pick out our best winter cycling gear!
As someone hardy around here said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad outfits!” With the right winter cycling clothes in your wardrobe, and appropriate equipment, you can keep riding all year round, even when temperatures drop toward zero.
Sure, it does get more challenging, but overcoming the elements to enjoy the freedom of cycling and get a good workout in the cold makes it even more rewarding. As long as you’re warm enough to enjoy it, and equipped to ride safely when you encounter slippery surfaces and unexpected weather conditions, there’s no reason to stop cycling.
What should I look for to find the best winter cycling gear?
Of course, the main goal for winter cycling clothing is to maintain a comfortable body temperature without getting clammy from sweat. That means keeping body heat in, while allowing ventilation so you can avoid overheating. Add the need to fend off all kinds of rain and snow, and be as conspicuous as possible in low-light, reduced-visibility conditions, and it’s clear we need some specialized cold weather gear if we’re going to enjoy the ride fully.
Some of these requirements are met really well with clothing made for skiing, since both sports deal with periods of high and low activity in freezing temperatures and cold wind. However, there are several ways cycling specific winter clothing works better for us.
- Winter bike clothing gives a better range of motion in the arms and torso forward cycling position.
- It tends to be tailored for better aerodynamics – loose clothing flaps in the wind and wastes your energy.
- It will usually have a more practical pocket layout for access on the go, rear pockets especially.
- Better visibility is commonly built in, with reflective details and high-viz colors.
- Cycling gear is generally padded at contact points, where it really counts.
Here’s a shortcut to the best in winter gear at Terry: Our Cool Weather Collection
How to stay warm and comfortable when cycling in sub-freezing temperatures
Keep these important ideas in mind as you prepare to dress for cold weather cycling.
- Use layering to keep your core warm: wicking base layer, insulating mid-layer, and a windproof, waterproof top-layer.
- Choose items with adjustable ventilation, and breathable fabrics, so you can avoid getting wet from sweating during strenuous parts of the ride. When you ease off, that dampness can make you chilled very quickly. It’s very easy to overheat riding up a climb, only to freeze to the bone on a long descent.
- Cold feet and hands will ruin the fun quickly, so invest in insulated coverings to keep feet warm and hands toasty.
- Around 10% of your body heat is lost through your uncovered head, and ears freeze first. In milder temperatures a fleece ear band may be enough to keep your head warm. As temperatures drop, a liner under your helmet, and a helmet cover, will become essential.
- Winter cycling will bring cold temperatures, freezing wind, all the uncomfortably cold kinds of precipitation, and road spray, often salty and dirty. Windproof, waterproof, and breathable fabrics are the first choice for all outer items.
What’s new in winter cycling gear for 2020/2021?
We aim to help you keep riding as long as you want, so we have even more good gear options for winter bike rides than usual this season. That’s a bit of a surprise in this pandemic year, when manufacturers were shut down and supply chains disrupted because of COVID-19. Our suppliers really came through for us, and our designers delivered.
We’re stocking up with two fantastic new options in winter cycling tights. If these look right for you, don’t wait too long to buy – we think they will be in high-demand.
We also made some exciting new additions to our long sleeve jersey line-up. They have proven very popular, so order early if these meet your needs and your size is still available.
We have some great options for keeping your extremities toasty, too. Gloves are important enough to get their own mini-buying guide, here.
Our recommendations for the best cycling clothing and accessories for cold weather rides
Natalie P., Product Development Whizz
My favorite winter cycling pick would have to be our new Tulip Jersey. The super cozy fabric and versatile styling make this jersey a major go-to when the temps start to dip! The back zippered pocket is also great for securing small items while you’re on the move.
Cam M., Customer Service Maven
Nothing motivates me to get in the saddle like knowing I’ll be comfortable once I get there. The brushed interior is cozy against the skin and makes starting up my ride a breeze.
The cut is really flattering and it has become my go-to layering for hiking and biking! The half-zip is perfect for ventilation when the sun pops out or the wind dies down.
The Strada Jersey makes me look and feel like a “real” athlete. It is snug enough without being too tight and I feel “racy” every time I throw it on!
I wear a Skida neck warmer every day from November to March, I LOVE them. I am a snow bunny but a big baby when it comes to a cold neck and ears. These neck warmers are a colorful and unique way to protect myself from the elements and support another female owned Vermont business.
I make sure to carve time into my schedule everyday to hop on the saddle, either indoors or out. I treat this as 100% me time, it’s my best way to de-stress
Jeannette S., Customer Service Guru
Winter rides are shorter, but more intense.
Warm wool socks, like the Northstar cushion socks, that extend to just below the knee, winter tights (anything with fleece and wind protection.) If the chamois isn’t built into the tight (looking forward to trying out Terry’s new Winter Tight due soon!) I’ll wear my Bella shorts and then pull a lined tight over. If it’s really cold and windy, the Thermal Skirt goes on over everything else!
I throw on a neck gaiter – a vital piece of clothing that keeps the winter chill from sneaking down your neck. Look for the Tour or Bandit neck Gaiters.
From there I add a beanie or any light cap that covers my ears, (Women’s sport fleece beanie, or C3 Windstopper helmet cap are great choices) under the mandatory helmet.
I use my regular cycling shoes with winter booties (C5 Windstopper Overshoe), followed by Windstopper Split Mitt. I find that my cold prone fingers prefer the added warmth of claw vs full fingered gloves.
Next, if you haven’t already, check wind direction. The Weather Bug app works well for me. If possible, start your ride by heading into the wind and up hill. This will warm you up, and make the ride home more enjoyable.
Finally, even with all the winter gear accoutrements, expect your ride to be shorter than summer rides. It takes more energy to be out there in the winter, and your body is working harder to stay warm in that short amount of time. I find my rides drop from a 2 to 4 hour average down to 45 min to an hour, and that’s plenty.
The last item on my list – a post ride hot cocoa with a piece of toast and PB&J.
Lisa W., Queen of Customer Service
I love to layer for chilly bike rides and pick out great pieces to keep my extremities warm!
And a note from the guys…
Nik H., Operations Wizard
I’ll admit it –
My go to for winter riding is our Coldweather tight, now discontinued unfortunately, but we have two excellent replacements coming to market. Both these winter cycling tights feature USA made Polartec Powerstretch Pro fabric for ample warmth. The Powerstretch Pro Tight and the Winter Tight will be available in early January. The Winter Tight has a wind and waterproof front, making it great for the worst conditions. I’m excited for both and with winter just about here, they can’t come soon enough.
Colin D., Web Marketing Wonk
I find the fit of a number of Terry bike bottoms is forgiving enough to work really well for me. As the rides have been getting colder I’ve been layering a pair of lightweight windproof pants over the Terry Coolweather Tight Tall, and riding comfortably down to mid-30s. The tights alone are good between high 40s to high 50s for me. I’m adding a pair of Powerstretch Pro tights as soon as I can. The fit notes have them running a little long so they should work for me, and I expect to be riding happily in them right through the winter.
The Terry Winter Tight will be an awesome choice in serious winter cycling tights, with thermal, breathable, wind and water blocking fabric. They get the highest recommendation for any women looking to ride in sub-freezing temps.
Other essential gear for winter cycling
I always layer up for a comfortable torso. Good wicking base layers, a wind-blocking mid layer, and a breathable shell are all I need most of the time. I vary the weights and the shell to adjust for expected temperatures, and double up the base layers for extra warmth. It’s been a long time since I commuted by bike in the winter. If I were to start again I would add a premium breathable, storm-proof cycling jacket to the mix, and be ready for anything.
I find the real key to cycling comfortably in cold weather is keeping my extremities warm. Toasty feet, hands and ears make for long, happy rides.
Helmet liner: I have a merino wool blend liner that works wonderfully. I barely know I have it on except my head and ears are completely comfortable down to freezing and below. This winter hat from Skida will fit the bill beautifully.
Helmet cover: I also have a breathable, waterproof helmet cover for rides below 20° – highly recommended if you’re riding in the deep cold or in snowy/wet conditions.
Booties: I finally splurged on breathable, thermal, wind and water proof booties in neon Gore Tex fabric. Do not skimp, these are terrific. I wish I had them years ago. I like them for rides below high 40s. With warmer socks I think they will keep my feet comfortable well below freezing.
Gloves: I ride a road bike mostly, so I need dexterity on the levers, but my hands get cold fast so I go for heavy ski gloves below 50°. The ones I use have a pocket for air activated hand warmers, great for below 25°. The only down side is the lack of palm padding. This year I plan to upgrade with some split finger gloves. The Terry Split Mitt is a great choice for winter cycling gloves. This option by Gore is also great, sizes are limited already.
Check out these posts for more gear and tips for winter cycling
Good winter cycling gloves are such an essential for happy cold-weather rides, we gave them their own handy guide, here.