I swear the air actually bit me as I stepped out of the office today. But just because the weather is freezing doesn’t mean you have to. Here’s my list of essential kit.
What’s that old saying – there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment?
It’s perfectly true.
If you’re well equipped with the right gear, you can face any circumstances and get on with the task at hand, e.g. riding home from work, and still enjoy it. On the flipside, it can be painful and plain dangerous to go out in harsh conditions without appropriate kit. To read about such an epic, death defying experience, check out this post from Feb 2013.
The lesson learned there, was never go out in cold weather without one of these..
Insulate your head
We lose most heat through our heads, so one of the best ways to avoid getting cold is to prevent heat loss in this area. I do this in two ways, for maximum flexibility.
A fleece lined skull cap worn under the helmet keeps the top of the head warm, particularly the forehead area which can catch the brunt of the wind and get painfully cold if exposed. This should also cover your ears. This one from SealSkinz is only £16.00
To complement the skull cap, if it’s really cold (like around freezing point) my top tip is to get a buff. Some people might call it a snood. This is a tubular item which can be worn in various ways:
- around the neck, like a scarf, to keep draughts out
- pulled over your head to cover your nose and mouth. This is wonderfully comforting in sub zero temperatures, as you’ll feel the warmth from your exhaled breath on your face, instead of cold, biting numbness.
- on top of your head like a skull cap
- around your head like a bandana
- you get the idea
If you’re really very keen on avoiding a cold face at all costs, this Extra Warm Thermal Neck Tube might be more suitable, but personally, I can imagine getting far too hot in this.
Cold is one thing, but if it’s cold AND windy, you’re going to feel it. The answer here is many layers. Having said that, even in sub zero conditions I rarely wear more than 3 layers:
- A good thermal baselayer (long sleeve in winter). Under Armour ones are great. I got mine cheap from a special deal at SportPursuit, but it depends what they’re selling at the moment, as they specialise in pop up sales.
- A winter long sleeve jacket/jersey.
- For commuting, my Altura Night Vision Jacket is amazing. I have the bright yellow one. It’s good in daylight, phenomenal in the dark.
I think I have 4 pairs of gloves that I use for cycling. Fingerless lightweight things for summer, some full finger but fairly light Defeet Dura Gloves, perfect for autumn and spring, and two sets of gloves by SealSkinz.
The Seal Skinz All Weather Cycle Gloves are excellent, but to be honest I do feel the name is rather misleading. They’re not particularly waterproof in torrential rain, and they struggle (or I did) in temperatures well below zero.
In the winter, go for a fleece lined bib tight. I use these DHB ones from Wiggle. They’re about to enter their third winter, and they’re still in great shape. In fact, I reckon they’ll last another three, easily, and for just £50, they’re amazing.
If it’s lashing down with rain I will also use my cheapo £10 waterproof pants from Aldi, which do the job, but I’ve not had them long and I can’t vouch for their durability.
Some people seem more prone to it, but it’s horrible having cold, numb feet, isn’t it? You can buy winter-specific cycling shoes, such as these NorthWave GoreTex shoes for waterproof protection down to -10C, if you’re totally set on avoiding problems, but they are a bit on the dear side.
I just use my regular cycling shoes, with some thermal merino socks, and some neoprene overshoes from BBB. I’ve been through quite a few sets of overshoes, and they vary a great deal. The heavy duty BBB ones are made of a thicker neoprene and therefore have better insulating properties, as well as being water resistant.
It’s not just about your clothing. Mudguards are a god send for winter riding. Even when it’s not actually raining, the roads are often wet, and you’ll get sprayed up the back from your rear wheel all too quickly. If you’re commuting, it’s not nice having to pull wet pants back on for the return journey home. Last year I used the widely rated SKS raceblade longs, but they snapped into bits after about 3 months. Very disappointing.
So, there’s a basic run down of my winter gear. As I said, it was -2C (that’s just 28F) on my ride home this evening, and I never once felt uncomfortable. If anything, it’s easy to get a bit too warm, and then you start having to open zips etc to let some cold air in.
There really is no such thing as bad weather if you have the right gear to deal with it, so with a little preparation, it’s perfectly possible to keep riding all through the winter.
Did I miss anything?
What’s your favourite winter gear?