Winter conditions can make it challenging to motivate yourself to get outside, let alone go for a ride on your bike. There are fewer daylight hours to enjoy, it’s generally pretty chilly, and sometimes a bit wet.
But there are so many good things about cycling in winter to enjoy too - generally fewer people on the roads and trails, soaking up the limited winter sunshine or enjoying a beautiful sunrise or sunset.
Being prepared for the conditions with the right winter kit and accessories will make the difference between an enjoyable ride and an unpleasant experience, while also hopefully making you more likely to head out for a ride again and again during winter.
We’ve put together our top recommendations for clothing and accessories to keep you warm and comfortable when cycling this winter.
Your hands are pretty exposed on your bike, so a good pair of gloves is a necessity as the temperature drops. There are many options for gloves, and at many price points. The main things to look for are a temperature rating that suits your climate and some level of water protection. It is also a good idea to choose gloves that allow a bit of temperature flexibility, and adding liners for the extra cold rides for additional warmth when you need it.
We love the Pedla AquaSHIELD Gloves for their touchscreen compatible fingertips, letting you use your phone without exposing your hands to the cold. The gloves offer comfort and warmth down to 10ºC (50ºF), and are easy to add liners under if you’re going out in colder conditions. The flexible knit fabric molds to your hands for perfect dexterity, while also featuring a waterproof membrane, ensuring even if you get stuck in the rain your hands will stay dry.
We also think it is a very good idea to have a spare pair of gloves with you when you head out for a ride, nothing worse than a chilly descent with wet gloves!
Pedla AquaSHIELD Gloves used in the rain to operate an iPhone with a Quad Lock Poncho
Quad Lock Poncho
We can’t predict the weather, but we can help when it rains. The Quad Lock Poncho is easy to slip on your phone over the Quad Lock case and provides protection from rain, dirt, and mud. Super lightweight and durable, add one to your jersey pocket or bag or slip on your phone when you head off for a ride. The crystal clear TPU makes it easy to view apps on-the-go and is fully functional with your phone's touch screen and buttons.
Make sure you choose a pair of gloves that are compatible with touchscreens and both your hands and your phone will be protected from all weather on your rides.
Quad Lock Poncho protecting an iPhone from rain, dirt and mud.
Front and Rear Fenders
Nobody likes having a muddy bum. Fenders will make a huge difference if you’re riding in wet weather, keeping your backside protected. You may manage to avoid riding while it is actually raining, but if the road is wet, road spray can quickly turn your ride unpleasant. Traditional fenders aren’t always the quickest, easiest, or coolest accessory you can add to your bike.
In comes Ass Savers. Super quick to install and remove, with no tools required, they can even be packed in many frame bags and installed on the go if needed. Lightweight, with multiple size options, front and rear fenders are available in many different colours and designs.
Full-length Winter Bibs or Tights
Warmers are great for transitioning seasons or rides in the middle of a mild winter's day, giving you the option to remove them if it warms up enough. But getting out the door is the hardest part on cold days, so make dressing for your ride a whole lot easier by getting yourself some full-length winter bibs.
Most winter bibs feature a brushed lining, adding protection from the cold to your rear you just won’t get from leg warmers. Whether you prefer bibs or tights, there are many winter options to choose from to suit your preference.
But the biggest question remains - socks over or under?
One big challenge to riding in winter is the shorter days. Invest in a good set of front and rear lights to make getting out before the sun comes up, or heading off just as it is dipping for the day a lot safer for you and other road users.
To decide which lights you’ll need, consider the areas you plan to ride to help you determine how bright your lights will need to be. If you’re planning to ride in populous, will-lit areas, a front light with over 200 lumens will provide enough light to see the path or road in front of you, as well as making you visible to other road users.
If you’re planning on riding on more remote roads with fewer street lights, or bike paths with minimal lighting, you will want to invest in a front light with upwards of 500 lumens.
Rear lights don’t need to be as bright, but we still recommend around 100 lumens and with flash function.
We love the lights from Knog, such as the Plugger front light and Blinder rear light. The plugger has a powerful 350 lumens, making it perfect for most cycling where there are the occasional street lights. The Blinder Square rear light will ensure you're visible to other road users, with 100 lumens and 8 flash patterns.
Knog Blinder Square Rear Light used on a road bike at dusk.
Stashable Rain Jackets
Layering is the key to having a comfortable winter ride. A good rule of thumb is that you want to be a little cold when you head off for your ride, but you should be comfortable (but not hot) within the first 15 minutes.
Rain jackets are a great piece of winter kit to bring with you for every ride in the cold months. Choose a packable rain jacket, making it easy for you to add it to your jersey pocket or bag for every ride. Then if the weather changes, or you’re heading for a long descent you’ve got a jacket that will provide protection from the wet as well as the cold wind.
The layers that you add on the outside definitely matter to protect yourself from the elements, but so do the layers underneath. The key to exercising in winter is to ensure when you sweat it is wicked away from your body quickly, while still holding enough heat to keep you warm. Without a good base layer, once you start to sweat, and it is trapped close to your body, this will easily lead to a chill as you cool down when you stop for a coffee break.
Look for base layers with either a merino-wool blend, or polar-tech fabric, both great options to ensure warmth and quick-dry capabilities.
Neck Warmers and Headbands
A great multi-use item for winter is a neck warmer. While it looks like a simple piece of fabric, neck warmers are an essential for frosty mornings and come in different weights and styles to suit your climate. A thinner neck warmer can even be worn over your head under your helmet to keep everything toasty on top, or pull it up over your ears and nose when you head off on your bike, and easily pull down as you warm up.
Headbands are another option if you find your ears getting cold when out riding. Most cycling specific headbands are made from a merino wool blend, making them breathable as well as warm.
We love the Pedla Roubaix Neck Gaiter for it's soft, brushed fleece inner for those especially chilly days. The added benefit of the reflective dots also help with visibility for other road users, you can never be too visible!
Pedla Roubaix Neck Gaiter Navy worn while cycling in winter to keep ears, and face warm.
Frame Bags and Saddlebags
Winter cycling is all about staying dry and keeping warm. Usually, this will require additional layers and preparing for poor weather. Riding with a backpack is not ideal, and jersey pockets can only carry so many items.
Frame bags and saddle bags come in just about every shape and size, something to suit every rider and every bike. If you’re thinking of adding one to your bike for the work commute, or a small one to fit the essentials for your ride, there’s an option to suit your style.
Including one on your bike means you won’t have to make the choice between bringing along a spare pair of dry gloves or your spare tyre kit - neither of which you want to be stuck without should you need it!
Rapha Bar Bag on gravel bike used in the wet to store additional layers.
Winter Socks, Oversocks and Overshoes
Many cycling shoes feature ventilation for breathability, which is great in summer but can be very unpleasant in winter. Most cycling brands sell winter specific socks, usually a merino wool blend for warmth while maintaining breathability. If you live in a mild climate, a warmer pair of socks may be enough to keep your feet comfortable.
If you live somewhere that gets a bit colder, we recommend adding oversocks or overshoes. Oversocks and overshoes go on the outside of your cycling shoes, adding another layer of protection from the cold. While oversocks are a thinner, more breathable option, they are not waterproof, and generally not as warm. Overshoes are usually made from neoprene type fabric, providing both protection from the cold and wet weather.
If all else fails to motivate you to get outside for a ride in winter (or you live in a climate where extreme weather makes it very difficult or unsafe) maybe an indoor trainer is the best investment you can make to keep you riding all through winter.
Garmin Tacx Neo 2T Smart Trainer being used with road bike to ride Zwift.
Have a product you recommend for riding your bike during winter? We want to hear about it! Comment below or tag us on social media