Winter Cycling II: Clothing

The correct clothing is just as important as the correct bike when riding in winter.  I've found that the key is to ride with a set of carefully chosen layers.  This will allow you to fine-tune your clothes as your ride progresses.  My typical winter riding gear is:
  • Wicking base layer to remove cold sweat from your skin
  • Wicking thermal mid-layer to provide insulation.  I usually go for a lightweight fleece as a mid-layer.
  • Breathable windproof / showerproof top layer.  I don't ride in a full waterproof as they usually aren't breathable enough for cycling, so a windproof to keep the elements away is better.
  • Full pack-away waterproof.  This is a last resort when it gets really wet.  It will be uncomfortable to ride in but will stop you getting completely soaked.
Different people experience different problems riding in cold weather.  I find my hands and feet can get very cold.  To reduce this problem I wear either fleecy gloves in good, cold conditions or waterproof fleece-lined gloves in wetter conditions.  These reduce the feel you've got for the controls on the bike, but as with everything it's a matter of compromise.

To keep my feet warm I typically wear Sealskinz waterproof socks.  These have a neoprene layer integrated into the fabric which do a reasonable job of keeping your feet dry.  Even when they fail and your feet become wet they do a good job of keeping the water warm!

Finally I will wear some good quality riding shoes.  When riding on the road I typically wear my walking boots.  I figure if my bike goes wrong there's a good chance I will have a long walk ahead of me, so I should be comfortable.  On the mountain bike I favour Five Ten shoes.  They aren't very waterproof, but they are warm and the soft rubber means you've got reasonable grip on frozen ground.

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