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The Art Of Layering: Dressing For Cold Weather

Cold weather cycling apparel

Riding on a 45 degrees day can feel like it’s 37 degrees at a modest speed of 15 mph. It’s important to remember that air temperature is only one part of the equation when riding. On a bike, you’re also creating additional wind-chill, which is a more significant factor as temperatures dip. But with just a couple of critical pieces of gear, you can extend your riding season comfortably into the Fall, or get out riding earlier in the Spring.

Gearing up to ride in the 40s and 50s can be tricky. You need to be strategic and not over-dress, yet have enough insulation and wind-blocking layers so that you stay comfortable as temps drop or winds shift. Most cyclists have riding shorts and a jersey, and that’s an excellent foundation for building your cool season wardrobe. Below are tips on what layers to add for riding in the transitional seasons.

Specialized Therminal Arm Warmer


Arm warmers effectively turn your short sleeve jersey into a long sleeve option. You’ll be surprised how much warmth this simple addition makes – with the bonus that they can easily be stuffed into a back pocket if temps rise. Warmers come in a range of technical fabrics from wind and water resistant to summer-weight designs to reflect the hot sun and harmful UV rays like the Bellwether Coldflash Sun Sleeves. A good pair of medium-weight thermal arm warmers like Specialized Therminal Arm Warmers are what we use anytime the temperatures dip below 60.

Baa Baa Merino Wool Base Layer Cycling Shirt

Base Layer

Pairing your jersey with a base layer increases your comfort range by keeping your core temperature regulated. Base layers do a great job of pulling moisture off of your skin and create a micro-climate to help keep you dry and more comfortable. Just like arm warmers, base-layers come in a vast range from lightweight, airy mesh designed for the hottest summer days to thermal long sleeve options for riding in the coldest temps. One of our favorite long sleeve options is the Endura’s Baa Baa Merino Base. Adding a second layer over the torso – especially when paired with arm warmers – is a great way to keep you comfortable when it’s colder while allowing you to remove layers as temps rise. You can find more base layer options here.

PR3E14484Legs & Knees

When the temps are below 60 degrees, it’s a good idea to protect your knees and keep them warm. A great way to do this is with a pair of knee or leg warmers. Like arm warmers, these keep you warm but can easily be removed if temps rise. The difference between knee and leg warmers isn’t huge. If you run on the warmer side, go with Specialized Therminal Knee Warmers. If you tend to run a bit colder, then get their leg warmers. As the temperature drops further, tights are the way to go for the coldest rides.


When you pair up your warmers and base layer with a lightweight windbreaker, you can extend your comfort range. There are some excellent windbreakers that have removable sleeves that can serve an even greater range of temps and conditions. The key thing to look for in a cycling windbreaker is breathability. The last thing you want is to get clammy and cold from your perspiration. If you run on the warmer side, we’d recommend going with a vest or jacket with removable sleeves. Check out all of our cold weather cycling jackets for him and for her to find the one that’s right for you.


A thin headband or hats like the Specialized Element 1.5 Wind Stopper and 45NRTH Greazy Merino Cap that fit under your helmet and cover your ears is a must on colder rides. They weigh next to nothing and take up virtually no space in a back pocket if you warm up.


Your hands get a lot of abuse from the elements on a bike. Excellent wind protection is essential, and it’s better to use warmer gloves since you can always take them off if you get too warm. Nothing ends a good ride faster than cold hands. We love the Specialized Deflect Gloves, but depending on how toasty you like your digits, we’ve got lots of options to choose from.

45NRTH Socks and Shoes


Wool socks are great for cooler rides, and 45NRTH Midweight Knee Socks do the trick. But below 50 degrees, you’ll want even more protection. Toe covers will protect your toes from the wind. Shoe covers are better as the temperature drops more to help keep your feet toasty. We like the Specialized Element WindStopper Toe Covers and the Endura MT500 II Booties.

If you’re looking for a dedicated performance shoe for cool and wet conditions, the 45NRTH Ragnorok delivers unrivaled weather protection in the wettest and muddiest of conditions.

Dress for the Ride

Dress for the weather, but also the duration and the level of exertion. On casual rides, you might want more layers. If you’re riding hard, you’re going to warm up. It’s always best to start out on the chilly side. If you walk outside and feel comfortable or warm, you’ll be stripping off layers as soon as you get your heart rate up.

On a longer ride, you may get cold from prolonged exposure to the elements or if your clothing gets damp from sweat. It’s a good idea to bring an extra layer – especially if you’re going to be starting and stopping or standing around for any length of time.

In the end, everybody’s internal thermostat runs a bit differently, so it’s always best to experiment and find what layers work for which temperatures for you. Swing by your local ERIK’S or shop now online for the latest cycling apparel! Let us help you find the perfect cycling apparel so you can ride comfortably in any temperature.