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Cold Weather Cycling Guide

Posted by Matt Wells on

Just because the temps have dropped, doesn't mean you have to quit your favorite activity! Winter cycling can be loads of fun if you dress right and layer for the elements. It can also be a disaster if you choose not to prepare and roll out with improper gear. From slushy conditions to bitter cold windy winter mornings, below is everything you need to make your winter bike ride comfortable and fun.

Winter Riding in the Woods

Head, Hands, and Feet

Head: Wear a thin balaclava or winter hat designed to be worn under a bike helmet to trap heat and protect your head from wind coming in through the vent holes of your bike helmet. Also consider a winter bike helmet with fewer vent holes and extra insulation to provide warmth and protection. Most of your body heat will escape through your head, so keeping it warm is super important! If you protect your face with a mask or bandana, be aware that the condensation from your breath may freeze on the material through time.

Protect Your Head

Hands: Extremities like hands and feet are more susceptible to the cold when biking in winter conditions since your body limits blood circulation away from your core. This is to ensure the cardio system functions optimally, and the necessary heat is generated for the body. This leaves the hands and feet on their own for insulation and heat generation. Chances are if you have to head inside because of the winter cold, it is because of your hands or feet!

Make sure your winter bike gloves or mittens combine warmth, windproofing and dexterity. It’s very important that you’re able to maneuver the shifters and brakes, with minimal loss of dexterity. This means the bike gloves should fit very well but not too tight. Some gloves are designed to accommodate hand warmers, which should never be placed in the palm of the glove.

Protect Your Hands

Feet: The comfort of the rider’s feet can single-handedly make or break a winter bike ride. We stress the importance of a high-quality pair of wool blended socks combined with bike boots fitted with thermal qualities. Avoid cotton and acrylic socks as they lack the necessary thermal production and moisture-wicking you’ll need to stay warm on the trail. We recommend a bike boot built specifically for winter cycling. Remember, although it may sound tempting to put on two pairs of socks on those below zero winter days, this will make your feet sweat and cause you to be even colder!

Quality Footwear is Key

Lower Body

Base Layer: Using the proper base layer is imperative. Layering right for winter bike ride can have a huge impact on your day. Choose a lightweight baselayer with multi-stretch fabric to ensure minimal binding while pedaling. Avoid heavyweight baselayers, as they tend to generate and trap too much heat and impair your range of motion. However, if it is below zero, you may benefit from a mid-weight baselayer. Choose a baselayer with exceptional wicking properties to help keep you cool and comfortable as you work up a sweat this winter.

The Maillat Lightweight Baselayer is perfect option for your baselayer. Comfy, moisture-wicking fabric keeps you dry and comfortable as you ride along. With 90% Polyester and 10% Elastane for stretch and mobility, this baselayer combo is designed to keep you comfortable without limiting performance. 

Outer layer: Your outer layer should be a technical piece, preferably bike specific. Some winter bike tights have built-in chamois pads, some don’t. This padding will help make your ride feel more natural and comfy so you can ride longer and farther. Make sure your outer layer is windproof and water-resistant or waterproof. Obviously, no one wants to get wet on their bike should you run into slushy conditions, and weather-resistant outerwear will keep you nice and dry should the weather deteriorate. Also, look for biking tights that feature ventilation along the back of the leg to help regulate body heat and ensure you don’t get too hot while riding.

The Esker Bike Bibs feature 15,000 mm of waterproofing and 10,000 g of breathability with fully-taped seams to ensure that every drop of moisture stays outside. Ventilation zippers on the outer leg allow body heat to easily escape, helping you keep cool and comfortable. With adjustable shoulder straps, you’ll be able to find the perfect fit every time.

Lower Body Outer Layer

Upper Body

Layering is key! Keeping your core temp regulated will ensure comfort and safety throughout your winter biking adventures. Start with enough layers to be comfortable before your body acclimates to the cold, but be prepared to strip a layer as your body warms up. This will prevent sweating, which can create a potentially dangerous and frigid situation depending on the elements and your location. Start with a lightweight base layer with wicking properties, followed by a light/mid-weight thermal layer to create and store heat, followed by a shell layer. The thermal layer should create enough warmth for the climate, but not so much that you’re overheating. It’s OK to be a bit cool at the start of your bike ride, keeping in mind you’ll be warming up and creating more heat after biking for about 15 minutes. The shell layer should be waterproof and breathable.

Blue Seeley Jacket

An excellent option for your torso is the Seeley 3L Jacket. This men’s jacket features a three-layer shell with 15,000 mm of waterproofing and 10,000 g of breathability. The seams are fully-taped to ensure that moisture never leaks inside.

Seeley Jacket

If you’ll be winter biking in remote locations, wooded trails, or at night, it’s smart to pack an emergency kit with a fire starter, light food or snacks, a light, and some extra clothing, if space allows.

We recommend using a bike frame pack or larger seat bag like one of these, to allow for packing winter layers and other necessities. They attach easily to either your seat bike’s post or handlebars, so you have extra carrying capacity on the go. Framed's Lenroot series including the Lenroot Handlebar Bag and Lenroot Seat Bag are ideal for packing all the gear you need to enjoy a winter day on the bike.

Lenroot Seat Bag

Lenroot Handlebar Bag


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