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What To Wear When Biking In The Cold


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Audrye Henn



When the temperature drops and the chill of winter sets in, many cyclists may be inclined to hang up their bikes until warmer days arrive. However, with the right clothing and gear, biking in the cold can still be a thrilling and invigorating experience. As an adventure enthusiast, you know that being prepared is key to enjoying your outdoor activities to the fullest.


Proper clothing is essential when it comes to cold weather biking. Not only does it provide warmth and protection, but it also allows you to stay comfortable and maintain optimal performance on your bike. Layering your clothing is the key to achieving both insulation and flexibility as you ride through various weather conditions.


In this article, we will explore the importance of proper clothing for cold weather biking and dive into the different layers you should consider. We will discuss base layers for moisture management, insulating layers for added warmth, and outer shells for protection against wind and precipitation. Additionally, we will explore options for head and face protection, as well as hand, finger, and footwear choices. Lastly, we will touch on some safety considerations to keep in mind when biking in the cold.


So, if you’re ready to gear up and embrace the winter cycling season, let’s dive into the world of cold weather biking attire and uncover the essentials you need to brave the elements while enjoying your two-wheeled adventures!


Importance of Proper Clothing for Cold Weather Biking

When embarking on a biking adventure in cold weather, it’s crucial to prioritize your clothing choices to ensure both comfort and safety. The right clothing will not only keep you warm but also allow for ample flexibility and moisture management. Here are the key reasons why proper clothing is essential for cold weather biking:

  1. Temperature Regulation: As you pedal through the cold air, your body generates heat. Proper clothing helps regulate your body temperature by allowing heat to escape while trapping warmth close to your body. This ensures you stay comfortable and prevents overheating or excessive chilling.
  2. Moisture Management: Even in colder temperatures, your body perspires. Moisture-wicking base layers are crucial to keep your skin dry and prevent chilling due to sweat. These base layers help regulate moisture, keeping you comfortable and preventing the dreaded chill factor.
  3. Flexibility: Biking requires ample movement and flexibility. Layering your clothing allows you to adjust and adapt as the weather conditions change throughout your ride. You can add or remove layers to find the perfect balance between warmth and comfort, ensuring you can freely move your arms and legs without restriction.
  4. Wind Protection: Wind can be a cyclist’s worst enemy in cold weather. Investing in an outer shell that provides wind resistance is essential to keep the biting cold air at bay. A windproof jacket or vest is a great addition to your cold weather biking attire.
  5. Protection from Precipitation: If you’re biking in areas with a chance of rain or snow, having an outer shell that is water-resistant or waterproof is crucial. It will keep you dry, preventing excessive moisture and discomfort during your ride.

By considering these factors and choosing the right clothing, you can ensure a comfortable and enjoyable biking experience in the cold weather. Layering is key to achieving the perfect balance between insulation and flexibility, allowing you to adapt to changing weather conditions. In the following sections, we will explore each layer of clothing in more detail, helping you make informed decisions for your cold weather biking adventures.


Layering for Warmth and Flexibility

When it comes to cold weather biking, layering is the key to staying warm and flexible throughout your ride. By wearing multiple layers, you can easily adjust your clothing based on your activity level and weather conditions. Let’s explore the different layers and their importance:

  1. Base Layer: The base layer is the foundation of your cold weather biking outfit. It should be moisture-wicking and snug-fitting to keep sweat away from your skin. Consider materials like merino wool or synthetic fabrics that effectively wick moisture away and retain warmth. A long-sleeved base layer and long pants will provide coverage for maximum comfort.
  2. Insulating Layer: The middle layer is responsible for providing insulation and trapping heat close to your body. Fleece jackets or thermal jerseys are excellent options for this layer. The insulating layer should be breathable and lightweight, allowing for easy movement without adding bulk.
  3. Outer Shell: The outer shell layer acts as a barrier against wind, rain, and snow. A windproof and water-resistant jacket is a must-have to protect you from the elements. Look for features like adjustable cuffs, a high collar, and ventilation options to regulate airflow. Pants or tights with similar qualities are also recommended to keep your legs protected and warm.

By layering your clothing, you can easily adjust your attire based on the changing weather conditions or your own body heat. If you start to feel too warm, you can remove a layer to prevent overheating and excessive sweating. On the other hand, if the temperature drops or the wind picks up, you can add a layer for extra insulation.


It’s important to note that when layering, you should avoid wearing cotton next to your skin. Cotton absorbs moisture and holds onto it, causing you to feel cold and damp. Opt for moisture-wicking materials that will keep you dry and comfortable throughout your ride.


Additionally, don’t forget to consider your range of movement when layering. Ensure that each layer allows you to freely move your arms and legs without restriction. Flexibility is vital when biking, especially in cold weather when you may need to maneuver through challenging terrain or make sudden adjustments to your riding position.


By following these layering guidelines, you can strike the perfect balance between warmth and flexibility, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable cold weather biking experience.


Base Layer Options for Moisture Management

When it comes to cold weather biking, the base layer is a critical component for effective moisture management. It is the layer closest to your skin and plays a crucial role in keeping you dry and comfortable throughout your ride. Here are some base layer options to consider for optimal moisture management:

  1. Merino Wool: Merino wool base layers are a popular choice among cyclists due to their excellent moisture-wicking capabilities. Merino wool fibers naturally absorb moisture from the skin and release it into the air, keeping you dry even during intense rides. Furthermore, merino wool is known for its insulation properties, keeping you warm regardless of external temperatures.
  2. Synthetic Fabrics: Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester or polypropylene, are also commonly used for base layers. These materials excel at moisture management, wicking away sweat and allowing it to evaporate quickly. Synthetic fabrics often have the added benefit of being lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying.
  3. Blended Fabrics: Some base layer options combine merino wool with synthetic fabrics to create a hybrid base layer that offers the best of both worlds. These blends provide the moisture-wicking properties of synthetic materials while benefiting from the insulation and odor-resistance of merino wool.
  4. Fit: In addition to the fabric choice, it’s essential to pay attention to the fit of your base layer. It should have a snug fit without being too tight or restrictive. A proper fit ensures maximum contact with your skin, facilitating efficient moisture transfer. Flatlock seams are also beneficial to minimize chafing and friction during long rides.

Remember, the purpose of the base layer is to keep your skin dry and comfortable by effectively managing moisture. Avoid cotton base layers as they tend to retain moisture and can leave you feeling damp and chilled during your ride.


Depending on the weather conditions, you may opt for different weight options for your base layer. Lightweight base layers are suitable for milder cold weather, while heavier weight options provide additional insulation for extreme temperatures.


Ultimately, the choice of base layer will depend on personal preference, climate, and intensity of your rides. Some cyclists may find that merino wool works best for them, while others may prefer synthetic fabrics. Consider trying out different options to determine which base layer suits your needs and keeps you comfortable and dry during your cold weather biking adventures.


Insulating Layer Choices for Added Warmth

In cold weather biking, an insulating layer is essential for providing an extra level of warmth and insulation. This layer helps to retain heat close to your body, keeping you comfortable and protected from the cold temperatures. Here are some insulating layer options to consider:

  1. Fleece Jackets: Fleece jackets are a popular choice for cold weather biking due to their excellent insulation properties. They are lightweight, breathable, and provide warmth without adding bulk. Fleece is known for its ability to trap heat, making it an ideal choice for those colder rides.
  2. Thermal Jerseys: Thermal jerseys are another option for an insulating layer. These jerseys are designed with thermal fabrics that help trap body heat and provide an extra layer of warmth. Thermal jerseys are typically made from materials like polyester blends with a brushed or fleeced interior for enhanced insulation.
  3. Softshell Jackets: Softshell jackets are a versatile choice for cold weather biking. They combine insulation, wind resistance, and breathability in one garment. Softshell jackets are designed with a water-resistant and windproof outer layer, while the inner layer provides thermal insulation and moisture management.
  4. Vests: Vests offer a lightweight and versatile option for added warmth. They are sleeveless and can be easily layered over a base layer or under a jacket, providing insulation to your core while allowing for unrestricted movement of your arms. Vests are particularly useful for milder cold weather or when you need extra warmth during high-intensity rides.

When choosing an insulating layer, consider the temperature range you’ll be riding in and the intensity of your activity. Thicker insulating layers may be necessary for extremely cold conditions, while a lighter option may suffice for milder weather.


It’s crucial to strike a balance between insulation and breathability with your insulating layer. You want to stay warm, but you also don’t want to overheat and become sweaty. Look for insulating layers that offer breathability and moisture-wicking properties to prevent excessive sweating and discomfort.


Additionally, make sure your insulating layer allows for freedom of movement, especially in areas like the shoulders and arms. It should not restrict your range of motion or feel too tight. The goal is to maintain flexibility while staying warm.


By adding an insulating layer to your cold weather biking attire, you’ll enhance your comfort and ensure that you’re properly protected against the chill. Choose the option that works best for you based on the weather conditions, intensity of your rides, and personal preference.


Outer Shell Options for Protection Against Wind and Precipitation

In cold weather biking, having a reliable outer shell is crucial for protecting yourself against wind, rain, and snow. The outer shell layer acts as a barrier, shielding you from the elements and keeping you dry and comfortable throughout your ride. Here are some outer shell options to consider for optimal protection:

  1. Water-Resistant Jackets: Water-resistant jackets are designed to repel light rain or snow. They are treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating to prevent moisture from penetrating the fabric. Water-resistant jackets are generally lightweight, breathable, and packable, making them a versatile option for various weather conditions.
  2. Waterproof Jackets: If you frequently ride in heavy rain or wet conditions, a waterproof jacket is essential. These jackets are made with a waterproof fabric and fully sealed seams to ensure no water can penetrate the garment. Look for jackets with a high waterproof rating (measured in millimeters) to ensure maximum protection against heavy downpours.
  3. Windproof Jackets: Windproof jackets are designed to block the wind from penetrating the fabric, keeping you insulated and comfortable. They are often made from tightly woven materials or feature windproof membranes that prevent the chilling effect of wind. Windproof jackets are lightweight and breathable, making them ideal for biking in windy conditions.
  4. Shell Pants or Tights: Just like jackets, pants or tights with windproof and water-resistant or waterproof properties can provide excellent protection against the elements. Look for options that are specifically designed for biking, featuring articulated knees, adjustable waistbands, and reinforced bottoms to withstand the wear and tear of cycling.

When choosing an outer shell, consider the conditions you’ll be riding in and your personal preferences. If you anticipate encountering frequent rain or snow, opt for a waterproof shell. If wind is your main concern, prioritize a windproof option. In some cases, you may even find jackets that combine both water resistance and windproof features for maximum versatility.


It’s also important to look for outer shells with proper ventilation options. Look for jackets with zippered vents under the arms or on the back to allow for airflow and prevent overheating during high-intensity rides.


Lastly, pay attention to the fit of your outer shell. It should be roomy enough to fit comfortably over your base and insulating layers, but not so loose that it creates excess bulk or flapping fabric. Adjustable cuffs, hems, and collars allow for a customizable fit, sealing out cold air and moisture.


By investing in a reliable outer shell, you can ensure that you stay protected from the wind, rain, and snow during your cold weather biking adventures. It will keep you dry, comfortable, and ready to tackle any weather conditions that come your way.


Head and Face Protection

When biking in cold weather, it’s essential to protect your head and face from the elements. Cold winds can cause discomfort and even lead to frostbite if exposed for extended periods. Here are some head and face protection options to consider:

  1. Beanie or Thermal Hat: A beanie or thermal hat is a must-have for cold weather biking. It provides insulation for your head, helping to retain heat and keep you warm. Look for options made from moisture-wicking and breathable materials to prevent sweat build-up.
  2. Balaclava: A balaclava is a versatile piece of gear that provides full face coverage. It can be worn under your helmet and can be adjusted to cover everything except your eyes. Balaclavas come in various materials, such as fleece or thermal fabrics, and provide extra warmth and wind protection.
  3. Neck Gaiter or Scarf: A neck gaiter or scarf is perfect for protecting your neck from the cold air. It can also be pulled up over your face to provide some coverage against wind and biting cold. Look for options made from warm and breathable materials like fleece or merino wool.
  4. Face Masks: Face masks are designed to cover your nose, mouth, and cheeks. They provide warmth, protect against windburn, and can help prevent moisture build-up on your face. Look for masks made from breathable materials that allow for easy breathing.
  5. Goggles or Sunglasses: If you’re biking in snowy conditions, wearing goggles or sunglasses becomes essential. They protect your eyes from wind, snow, and harmful UV rays. Look for options with anti-fog features to ensure clear vision during your ride.

When choosing head and face protection, consider the severity of the cold weather and your personal comfort levels. It’s important to find a balance between insulation and breathability to prevent overheating and discomfort.


Remember to adjust your head and face gear as you ride to maintain visibility and ensure proper airflow. If you start to feel too warm, you can loosen or remove certain pieces to prevent excessive sweating. Similarly, if the wind picks up or the temperature drops, you can adjust and tighten your gear for added protection.


By properly protecting your head and face, you’ll stay warm, comfortable, and safe during your cold weather biking adventures. Stay conscious of the conditions and choose the appropriate gear to ensure an enjoyable ride.


Hands and Finger Protection

Keeping your hands and fingers warm and protected is crucial for maintaining dexterity and enjoying a comfortable ride in cold weather. Exposed hands can quickly become cold and stiff, affecting your grip and control on the bike. Here are some options for hands and finger protection:

  1. Winter Cycling Gloves: Invest in a pair of winter cycling gloves specifically designed for cold weather biking. Look for gloves with insulation, windproofing, and water resistance. Consider options with touchscreen-compatible fingertips so that you can still use your smartphone or cycling computer without removing your gloves.
  2. Liner Gloves: Liner gloves are thin and lightweight gloves that can be worn under your regular cycling gloves. They add an extra layer of insulation and help retain heat. Liner gloves are particularly useful during extremely cold weather or for those who are more susceptible to cold hands.
  3. Hand Warmers: Disposable hand warmers are a convenient option for boosting warmth during your ride. These small packets generate heat when activated and can be placed inside your gloves or hand pockets. They provide temporary relief and last for several hours.
  4. Mittens: Mittens are an excellent option for extreme cold conditions. They keep your fingers together, maximizing warmth and reducing heat loss. Look for mittens with insulation and a windproof outer layer. Some mittens may have a separate compartment for your thumb, allowing for better grip on the handlebars.
  5. Bar Mitts: Bar mitts, also known as pogies, are insulated covers that attach to your handlebars. They create a warm and protected space for your hands, shielding them from wind and cold air. Bar mitts are particularly popular among winter cyclists and are a great option for those who prioritize maximum warmth and control.

When choosing hand protection, consider the level of insulation, dexterity, and grip needed for your rides. Keep in mind that it’s essential to strike a balance between warmth and functionality. Bulky gloves, while providing insulation, may affect your ability to operate brakes and shifters effectively.


Remember to choose gloves that fit properly, allowing for easy movement and a comfortable grip on the handlebars. Ensure that they cover both your hands and wrists to prevent cold air from entering and trapping heat inside.


Additionally, if you tend to sweat in your gloves, look for options with breathable materials or moisture-wicking properties to prevent clamminess and discomfort.


By choosing the right hand and finger protection, you’ll be able to maintain warmth and dexterity, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable biking experience in cold weather.


Footwear Options for Cold Weather Biking

When it comes to cold weather biking, your feet need proper protection and insulation to stay warm and comfortable. Cold feet can be a distraction and cause discomfort during your ride. Here are some footwear options to consider for cold weather biking:

  1. Winter Cycling Shoes: Winter cycling shoes are specifically designed to keep your feet warm and protected in cold conditions. They feature insulation, water resistance, and windproofing to combat the elements. Many winter cycling shoes also have a stiffer sole for efficient power transfer and traction for walking on slippery surfaces.
  2. Overshoes or Shoe Covers: Overshoes or shoe covers are a great option to add an extra layer of insulation and protection to your regular cycling shoes. They are usually made of neoprene or other insulating materials and provide wind and water resistance. Look for options with reflective elements for increased visibility in low-light conditions.
  3. Wool Socks: Investing in quality wool socks is essential for cold weather biking. Wool offers excellent insulation properties and has moisture-wicking capabilities, keeping your feet warm and dry. Look for merino wool socks that are soft, breathable, and naturally odor-resistant.
  4. Toe Warmers: Toe warmers are adhesive pads that can be placed on the top or bottom of your socks to provide extra warmth. They generate heat when exposed to air and can last for several hours.
  5. Insoles: Consider replacing your regular insoles with specialized thermal insoles designed for cold weather conditions. Thermal insoles provide an additional layer of insulation and help retain heat. They are often made from materials like felt, wool, or synthetic fabrics.

When selecting footwear for cold weather biking, it’s crucial to ensure a proper fit. Shoes that are too tight can restrict blood circulation and make your feet colder, while shoes that are too loose may not provide enough insulation or support.


Remember to consider the thickness of your socks when trying on cycling shoes or overshoes. You want to ensure that there is enough room to accommodate thicker socks without compromising the fit or causing tightness.


Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind the type of pedals you use. Some winter cycling shoes are compatible with clipless pedal systems, allowing for efficient power transfer and control. If you prefer flat pedals, look for shoes with a grippy outsole that provides traction and stability.


By choosing appropriate footwear and layering with warm socks, you’ll be able to keep your feet warm and comfortable throughout your cold weather biking adventures.


Safety Considerations While Biking in the Cold

Biking in cold weather can be exhilarating, but it’s important to prioritize safety to ensure a safe and enjoyable ride. Here are some safety considerations to keep in mind while biking in the cold:

  1. Visibility: With shorter daylight hours during winter, visibility becomes crucial. Equip your bike with front and rear lights to enhance visibility and ensure you’re visible to other road users. Consider using lights with a flashing mode to increase visibility in low-light conditions.
  2. Layer Appropriately: While it’s important to dress warmly, avoid overdressing as it can lead to excessive sweating, which can increase the risk of hypothermia. Dress in layers and adjust accordingly as you warm up during your ride.
  3. Check Road Conditions: Cold weather can bring unpredictable road conditions. Before heading out, check for any road closures, icy patches, or other hazards that may affect your route. Be prepared to adjust your route or ride more cautiously to ensure your safety.
  4. Watch Out for Ice: Ice can be a significant hazard during winter rides. Be mindful of shaded areas, bridges, and low-lying areas that are prone to ice formation. Reduce your speed and give yourself extra stopping distance to avoid unexpected slips and skids.
  5. Maintain Traction: Slushy or wet conditions can affect your bike’s traction. Ensure your tires are properly inflated and have good tread for optimal grip. Consider using wider tires with lower pressure to increase traction. Additionally, avoid sharp turns or sudden movements that may cause your tires to lose traction.
  6. Protect Your Extremities: Keep your extremities protected from the cold to prevent frostbite. Wear appropriate gloves, socks, and headwear to maintain warmth and circulation. Consider using hand and toe warmers for added insulation during extremely cold rides.
  7. Ride with Caution: Keep in mind that cold weather may affect your bike handling and reaction times. Adjust your riding style accordingly and maintain a safe distance from other riders or vehicles. Be cautious of sudden gusts of wind that can affect your balance.
  8. Stay Hydrated: Cold weather can mask the sensation of thirst, but it’s important to stay hydrated during your ride. Drink water regularly and consider using an insulated water bottle or hydration pack to prevent liquids from freezing.
  9. Know Your Limits: Listen to your body and be aware of signs of fatigue or hypothermia. Take breaks as needed to warm up and refuel. If the conditions become too challenging or unsafe, consider altering your route or postponing your ride for another day.

Remember, safety should always be a top priority when biking in the cold. By taking these safety considerations into account and being prepared, you can enjoy your cold weather biking adventures while minimizing risks and ensuring a safe and enjoyable ride.



Biking in the cold weather can be an exhilarating adventure, but proper clothing and gear are essential for a comfortable and safe experience. By understanding the importance of layering, moisture management, and protection against wind and precipitation, you can enhance your comfort and flexibility on your cold weather rides.


Investing in a moisture-wicking base layer, insulating layer, and windproof or waterproof outer shell will help regulate your body temperature and protect you from the elements. Don’t forget to pay attention to head and face protection, as well as hand and finger protection, to prevent discomfort and ensure optimal performance.


Remember to take safety considerations seriously, such as maintaining visibility with lights, checking road conditions, and being cautious of ice and slippery surfaces. It’s also crucial to stay hydrated, ride within your limits, and be aware of signs of fatigue or hypothermia.


With the right clothing and precautions, you can embrace the winter cycling season and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors while staying warm and safe. So, layer up, gear up, and head out on your two-wheeled adventures, even in the coldest of weather!