As the weather turns and the temperature starts plummeting, cyclists all over the country are rummaging through their wardrobes in a desperate attempt to find their long lost warm kit. But even the most experienced cyclists can struggle when it comes to what to wear in the wet and cold of winter; leg warmers or tights? Thick socks or overshoes? Wearing the wrong kit can result in a really grim ride, so here’s my quick guide to winter clothing…
To make things simple, I’ve split it into 6 sections:
Warm= 10-15C
Cold= 3-10C
Wet= raining/standing water on the roads
Damp= little or no rain, but spray from the road
Dry= no rain, dry roads

Warm and dry
We’re probably past this kind of ride by now, but it’s one worth covering anyway. In these kind of conditions, it’s slightly too chilly for full summer kit, but dig out the tights and you’ll be soaking in your own sweat.  The combination of arm warmers, leg warmers and a gilet is ideal- if the tempo starts to wind up (or the sun comes out…), it’s easy to stick the legwarmers in your back pocket and keep riding comfortably. Thick socks or toe covers work well for keeping your feet warm.  You may also get these conditions on an early season trip to Mallorca

Warm and damp
Slightly more common.
Once again, I’d veer more towards leg warmers than tights- simply for the reason that despite some spray around the ankles you’ll largely be dry and warm. Pair with some thin overshoes to keep your feet dry. Up top, it’s probably time for a light Windstopper jersey- the Castelli Gabba or the Gore Xenon Windstopper are both great bits of kit, offering both breathability and a degree of water resistance. Try a wicking baselayer for an even more comfortable top half.

 

Warm and wet
At this point, I’d usually be digging out my bibtights- the combination of wet and wind chill will leave you with very cold legs, so it’s worth wrapping up. It’s probably time to get a fully waterproof top out as well, paired with a wicking baselayer- in heavy rain, soft shell jackets will simply soak through and leave you feeling both heavy and cold. For the combination of breathability and waterproofing, Gore’s own Gore-Tex jackets are second to none. Waterproof overshoes are a must, but it’s probably worth accepting early on that eventually your feet will be getting wet. Neoprene or thin full-finger gloves will probably do the job when it comes to keeping your hands warm.

 

Cold and wet
Very similar to warm and wet kit, the only major difference here is wearing a thermal base layer as opposed to a wicking one. Thicker socks and gloves are usually a good call as well- Merino wool socks are ideal for lower temperatures, and a glove with a Windstopper membrane will keep your hands warmer at low temperatures. Windstopper tights are also worth considering- they offer a little bit more warmth, but can occasionally feel quite restrictive around thigh muscles and the knee joint.

Cold and damp/dry
Bibtights again, but this time you can probably choose a Windstopper top over a fully waterproof one. That said, if the weather looks like it could turn, go with the waterproof. A thermal baselayer is usually a good call, combined with thick overshoes and gloves. Wind chill is particularly noticeable on your face at these temperatures, so a piece of kit like a Buff is ideal- thick enough to break the worst of the wind chill, but thin enough to allow you to breath comfortably.

 

Hopefully this is a good place to start from when it comes to picking out kit, but common sense is also massively important- check the weather forecast before you ride! Also, check for ice- sometimes it’s better just to get on the turbo trainer, or visit our friends at Cyclebeat rather than to brave the elements and find yourself sliding sideways…