Biking in cooler temperatures comfortably as possible with a few key pieces of cold weather cycling gear. This guide will walk you through what those critical pieces of bike clothing are and how to layer them appropriately so you can enjoy riding outdoors no matter the temperature!
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.
For example, riding on a 45-degree day can feel like it’s 37 degrees at a modest speed of 15 mph. This is because the 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 a few essential pieces of cold-weather bike gear, you can extend your riding season comfortably into the Fall, or get out riding earlier in the Spring with no problem.
Most cyclists have riding shorts and a jersey and that’s an excellent foundation for building your cool-season wardrobe. Below are the additional layers we recommend adding for riding in the transitional seasons.
Cycling arm warmers effectively turn your short-sleeved jersey into a long-sleeved 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. Arm 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. A good pair of medium-weight thermal arm warmers are what we use anytime the temperatures dip below 60.
Pairing your bike jersey with a cycling 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 creating 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. 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.
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 knee warmers. If you tend to run a bit colder, then get leg warmers. As the temperature drops further, tights or bib tights are the way to go for the coldest rides.
When biking, pair up your warmers and base layer with a lightweight cycling windbreaker. This 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 cycling vest or jacket with removable sleeves.
A thin cycling headband or hat that fits under your bike helmet and covers your ears is a must on colder bike 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 insulated cycling gloves since you can always take them off if you get too warm. Nothing ends a good ride faster than cold hands.
Wool cycling socks are great for cooler rides. But below 50 degrees, you’ll want even more protection. Toe covers will protect your toes from the wind. Shoe covers or booties are better as the temperature drops more to help keep your feet toasty.
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.