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What To Wear Mountain Biking In The Cold


by Billie Westcott



Mountain biking is an exhilarating outdoor activity that allows you to connect with nature while challenging your physical and mental limits. However, when the temperatures drop and the cold weather sets in, it becomes essential to dress appropriately to stay warm and comfortable during your rides. The right clothing and gear not only protect you from the elements but also enhance your overall biking experience.


When it comes to mountain biking in the cold, proper layering is key. Layering allows you to add or remove clothing as needed to regulate your body temperature and stay comfortable throughout your ride. By understanding the basics of layering and investing in the right clothing and accessories, you can keep the chill at bay and enjoy your mountain biking adventures even in frigid conditions.


In this article, we will explore the essential clothing items and gear you need to consider when dressing for mountain biking in the cold. From upper body clothing and lower body clothing to hand protection, footwear, and headgear, we will cover it all. Additionally, we will discuss some additional accessories that can further enhance your comfort and performance.


Whether you’re a seasoned mountain biker or just getting started, this guide will help you make informed decisions about what to wear, ensuring that you stay warm, dry, and ready to conquer any trail, no matter how low the temperature drops. So, let’s dive in and discover what to wear mountain biking in the cold.


Layering Basics

Layering is the foundation for staying comfortable in cold weather while mountain biking. It involves wearing multiple layers of clothing that work together to provide insulation, moisture management, and protection from the wind and cold. The key to effective layering is to strike a balance between staying warm and avoiding overheating during physical exertion.


When layering for mountain biking in cold weather, you should typically consider wearing three main layers: a base layer, mid-layer, and outer layer.


The base layer is the layer that sits closest to your skin. Its purpose is to wick away sweat and moisture from your body, keeping you dry and preventing the accumulation of moisture that can make you feel cold. Look for base layers made of moisture-wicking materials such as merino wool or synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon.


The mid-layer provides insulation and helps regulate your body temperature. It should be thicker than the base layer and trap heat to keep you warm. Fleece jackets or thermal layers are excellent choices for the mid-layer, as they offer warmth without adding bulk or restricting movement.


The outer layer, also known as the shell layer, protects you from wind, rain, and snow. It should be windproof and water-resistant or waterproof to keep you dry and shielded from the elements. Depending on the temperature and conditions, you can opt for a softshell jacket or a hardshell jacket, both designed to provide protection and breathability.


Remember that layering is not limited to your torso; you should also consider layering your lower body, hands, feet, and head. By layering appropriately, you can ensure that your entire body stays warm and comfortable during your mountain biking excursions.


As you layer, be mindful of adjusting the layers based on your level of activity and the temperature. If you’re starting to feel too warm or sweaty, consider removing a layer to prevent overheating. On the other hand, if you start feeling chilly, add a layer to retain heat.


By following these layering basics and choosing the right materials and garments, you can create a comfortable and functional clothing system that keeps you warm, dry, and ready to tackle any trail, no matter how cold it gets.


Upper Body Clothing

When it comes to dressing your upper body for mountain biking in the cold, it’s important to prioritize warmth and protection while maintaining freedom of movement. Consider the following clothing items:

  • Base Layer: Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, such as a long-sleeved thermal shirt or a merino wool top. These materials will keep moisture away from your skin, preventing you from feeling cold and clammy.
  • Mid-Layer: For insulation and added warmth, choose a fleece jacket or a thermal mid-layer. These garments provide excellent insulation while allowing for breathability and moisture control.
  • Outer Layer: Your outer layer should be windproof and water-resistant to protect against cold winds and light rain or snow. A softshell jacket or a lightweight insulated jacket with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating are ideal choices.
  • Neck Gaiter or Balaclava: To protect your neck and face from cold wind, consider wearing a neck gaiter or a balaclava. These versatile accessories can be pulled up to cover your face or worn loosely around your neck.

In colder temperatures, it’s also wise to consider additional layers or accessories to maintain warmth. A down jacket or a vest can provide extra insulation, especially during rest breaks or in extremely cold conditions. Additionally, arm warmers or thermal arm sleeves can be beneficial if you prefer wearing short-sleeved jerseys and want to add extra warmth to your arms.


Remember to choose clothing that allows for unrestricted movement. Opt for garments with stretchy and flexible materials to ensure comfort and full range of motion while riding. Adjustable cuffs and hems are also handy features that help seal out cold drafts.


Lastly, don’t forget about visibility. In low-light conditions or when riding during dusk or dawn, consider wearing a high-visibility or reflective jacket to enhance your visibility to other riders and motorists.


By layering appropriately and choosing the right upper body clothing, you can stay warm, comfortable, and protected during your cold-weather mountain biking adventures.


Lower Body Clothing

When it comes to dressing your lower body for mountain biking in the cold, it’s crucial to prioritize insulation, comfort, and protection. Consider the following clothing items:

  • Base Layer: Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, such as thermal leggings or padded cycling shorts. These will help keep you dry and provide a layer of insulation.
  • Mid-Layer: Depending on the temperature, you may opt to add an additional layer of insulation, such as fleece-lined tights or thermal pants. These garments will provide extra warmth and comfort.
  • Outer Layer: Your outer layer should be windproof, water-resistant, and durable. Look for mountain biking-specific pants or tights made from materials like softshell fabric with a DWR coating to protect you from the elements.
  • Knee Pads: If you’re riding on technical terrain or prefer extra protection, consider wearing knee pads underneath your pants. They can provide padding and safeguard against impacts and abrasions.

When selecting lower body clothing, consider the fit and flexibility. Look for pants or tights with a stretchy, performance-oriented design that allows for a full range of motion while pedaling. Elastic waistbands and adjustable leg openings can also ensure a snug fit and prevent cold drafts.


Additionally, if you’re riding in wet or muddy conditions, consider wearing waterproof or water-resistant pants to keep your lower body dry. Some pants feature reinforced areas on the lower leg for added durability and protection from trail debris.


Finally, think about the length of your pants. Full-length pants or tights provide more coverage and insulation, making them ideal for very cold weather. However, for milder temperatures, you may opt for three-quarters or shorts paired with leg warmers.


By choosing the right lower body clothing and layering appropriately, you can pedal with comfort and confidence, even in the coldest of riding conditions.


Hand Protection

Protecting your hands is essential when mountain biking in the cold, as they are exposed to the elements and highly susceptible to wind chill. Here are some options for hand protection:

  • Gloves: Start with a pair of thermal or insulated cycling gloves. Look for gloves with a windproof outer layer and a soft and warm inner lining. These gloves will keep your hands warm and provide dexterity for shifting and braking.
  • Hand Warmers: In extremely cold conditions, consider using hand warmers. These small packets generate heat when exposed to air and can be placed inside your gloves to provide extra warmth and comfort.
  • Inner Liners: If you need additional insulation, consider wearing thin, moisture-wicking glove liners underneath your gloves. These liners add a layer of warmth while helping wick away sweat.

When selecting gloves, it’s important to find the right fit. They should be snug but not too tight, allowing for proper blood circulation. Look for gloves with adjustable cuffs or closures, as they can help seal out cold air and prevent moisture from getting inside.


It’s also worth considering the grip and padding of the gloves. Look for gloves with silicone or rubberized patterns on the palms for enhanced grip on handlebars and controls. Padding in key areas, such as the palms and knuckles, can help reduce vibration and provide additional comfort during longer rides.


Remember, when riding in wet or snowy conditions, it’s essential to choose gloves that are water-resistant or waterproof. Wet gloves can quickly lead to discomfort and compromised warmth.


By wearing the right gloves and considering additional hand warmers or liners, you can keep your hands protected and maintain optimal control and comfort while mountain biking in the cold.



Choosing the right footwear for mountain biking in the cold is crucial to keep your feet warm, dry, and comfortable during your rides. Here are some considerations for cold-weather footwear:

  • Cycling Shoes: Invest in a pair of insulated cycling shoes designed for cold weather riding. These shoes often feature additional insulation, windproof or water-resistant materials, and a more relaxed fit to accommodate thicker socks.
  • Toe Covers: If you prefer using your regular cycling shoes, consider adding toe covers. These neoprene or insulated covers wrap around the front of your shoes, providing an extra layer of protection against wind and cold.
  • Over-Boots: For extreme cold conditions or wet trails, over-boots can be a great addition. These waterproof or water-resistant covers slip over your regular cycling shoes to provide an extra layer of insulation and protection.
  • Wool Socks: Opt for thick, moisture-wicking wool socks to keep your feet warm and dry. Merino wool socks are excellent choices as they provide insulation, breathability, and natural moisture-wicking properties.

When selecting cycling shoes, it’s important to consider their fit and the ability to layer socks comfortably. Your shoes should have enough room to accommodate thicker socks without causing tightness or discomfort. Additionally, choose shoes with a grippy sole to ensure proper traction when walking on muddy or slippery trails.


When riding in wet or snowy conditions, it’s crucial to choose waterproof or water-resistant footwear to keep your feet dry. Wet feet can quickly become cold and uncomfortable, making your ride less enjoyable.


Lastly, don’t forget to consider added insulation for your feet during extremely cold rides or extended periods of inactivity. Toe warmers or heated insoles can provide extra warmth and comfort when the temperatures plummet.


By choosing appropriate cold-weather footwear and combining it with quality socks, you can ensure that your feet stay warm, dry, and ready for action during your mountain biking adventures in the cold.



Protecting your head and keeping it warm is vital when mountain biking in the cold. Here are some headgear options to consider:

  • Helmet: Your helmet is a crucial piece of safety equipment and should always be worn when biking. To keep your head warm, consider wearing a thin skullcap or beanie underneath your helmet. Look for moisture-wicking materials that can regulate temperature and prevent sweat buildup.
  • Neck Gaiter: A neck gaiter is a versatile accessory that can be pulled up to cover your face and neck from cold wind or kept loose to provide additional warmth. Look for fleece-lined or thermal neck gaiters for added insulation.
  • Headband or Ear Warmers: If you prefer to keep your ears and forehead warm without covering your entire head, a fleece-lined headband or ear warmers can be a great option. They provide insulation without causing your head to overheat.
  • Balaclava or Face Mask: In extremely cold conditions, consider wearing a balaclava or face mask that covers your entire head, neck, and face. These provide maximum protection against wind and cold, keeping your whole head warm.
  • Sunglasses or Goggles: Protecting your eyes from wind, cold, and debris is crucial. Wear sunglasses with UV protection or goggles to shield your eyes from the elements. Look for options with interchangeable lenses for different light conditions.

When choosing headgear, ensure that it fits comfortably without obstructing your vision or interfering with the fit of your helmet. Look for adjustable features, such as toggles or Velcro straps, to achieve a secure fit and prevent cold air from entering.


Visibility is also essential, especially in low-light conditions. Consider wearing a brightly colored or reflective beanie or helmet cover to enhance your visibility to other riders and motorists.


By wearing suitable headgear that provides insulation and protection, you can keep your head warm and comfortable while maintaining optimal focus and safety on the trails.


Additional Accessories

In addition to the essential clothing items, there are several accessories that can further enhance your comfort and performance when mountain biking in the cold. Consider the following accessories:

  • Arm Warmers: Arm warmers are a versatile accessory that can be added or removed depending on the temperature. They provide extra warmth to your arms without the need for full-length sleeves.
  • Leg Warmers: Similar to arm warmers, leg warmers can be a practical accessory to layer up your lower body without compromising mobility. They can easily be added or removed during your ride.
  • Buff or Multifunctional Headwear: A buff or multifunctional headwear is a versatile accessory that can be worn in various ways. Use it as a neck gaiter, headband, or face mask to adapt to changing conditions and provide added warmth.
  • Hand and Toe Warmers: When the temperatures drop significantly, disposable hand and toe warmers can provide extra insulation. They generate heat when exposed to air and can be placed inside your gloves and shoes to keep your extremities warm.
  • Hydration Pack Insulation: If you’re using a hydration pack to carry water or snacks, consider adding an insulation sleeve or cover to prevent liquids from freezing in extremely cold temperatures.
  • Windproof and Insulated Pants: If regular cycling pants are not providing enough warmth, consider investing in windproof and insulated pants specifically designed for cold weather riding. These pants provide additional protection and insulation for your legs.
  • Hot Beverages: Consider carrying a thermos flask with a hot beverage like tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. Sipping on a warm drink during rest breaks can provide instant comfort and help regulate your body temperature.

Remember, it’s essential to stay hydrated and fuel your body during your rides, even in cold weather. Ensure that your water bottle or hydration bladder has an insulated sleeve to prevent fluids from freezing.


By utilizing these additional accessories, you can further enhance your warmth, comfort, and enjoyment while tackling the cold weather on your mountain biking adventures.



Mountain biking in the cold can offer unique challenges and rewards. By dressing appropriately and using the right gear, you can conquer the elements and enjoy thrilling rides even in frigid temperatures. Here’s a recap of what to wear when mountain biking in the cold:

  • Layering is key to regulating your body temperature. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, add insulation with a mid-layer, and protect yourself from wind and moisture with an outer layer.
  • Choose upper body clothing that allows for freedom of movement and prioritize visibility with reflective elements.
  • Opt for lower body clothing that provides insulation, protection, and flexibility.
  • Protect your hands with thermal gloves, hand warmers, and liners.
  • Select appropriate footwear that keeps your feet warm, dry, and comfortable.
  • Wear headgear that provides insulation and protects your head, neck, and face from the cold wind.
  • Consider additional accessories like arm/leg warmers, buffs, warm beverages, and insulated hydration packs to enhance your comfort.

Remember to tailor your clothing choices based on the specific weather conditions, trail difficulty, and the intensity of your ride. Layering allows you to adjust your clothing as needed and maintain optimal comfort throughout your journey.


Lastly, always prioritize safety and visibility. Ensure your helmet fits properly, wear high-visibility clothing, and consider using lights or reflective gear in low-light conditions.


With the right clothing, gear, and mindset, you can embrace the challenges and beauty of winter mountain biking. Stay warm, stay safe, and enjoy the exhilarating experience of riding in the cold!