Cycling in winter - especially in Europe - can be a bit of an acquired taste. When most people start cycling, it's a way to enjoy long lazy summer days, and more of a fair weather hobby. But once you are in deep, the thought of leaving your bike to gather dust for 5 or 6 months whilst you slog it out on the turbo is not really an option any more. And you begin to discover winter riding - a different kettle of fish for sure, requiring more planning, more kit, more hardiness and determination, but with it's own rewards in the form of riding into glorious late sunrises, cutting down misty lanes, and the feeling of conquering the elements.
Winter dressing is a bit of an art - but one that is essential to get right. Practice and experience help, but here are our tips for some items that will help you along the way.
Layering is key - by layering with lots of thin layers you trap air in between the layers, which keeps you warm without adding extra weight (just like a down jacket!) You also have the added advantage of being able to take layers off if you get too warm.
We recommend the Good Cycling base layer - it's mesh surface helps trap air, and also transfers sweat away from the body. When sweat cools on your skin it will make you cold, so it's important to have a close fitting wicking layer like this to keep you dry.
Having a fleecy lining inside your bib tights really makes getting dressed in the morning much more pleasant when it's cold outside, and will keep you nice and toasty on the bike as well. We also recommend bib tights instead of regular tights so there is nowhere for the air to escape on your lower back! These options from Twin Six are our best picks.
Merino wool in winter is a cyclist's best friend. A fine merino piece like this long sleeve jersey by Twin Six is an absolute staple for cold weather riding. Merino naturally transfers moisture outwards, without letting moisture come through inwards. Merino cycling jerseys are great for keeping you warm and feel a lot more cozy than a lot of man made alternatives. Plus, it's naturally anti-odour so it won't get stinky which is always a bonus...
WRAP UP YOUR HEAD!
It's true, you lose a lot of heat through your head, so to keep warm, the best thing you can do is put on a super cozy winter cap. The Le Velo cap by The Wonderful Socks is one of the most outstanding winter caps we have ever come across, made with top quality Italian fabrics, embroidered with beautiful details, and yep, it's seriously warm. So much so that we wouldn't recommend it for a mild autumn or spring ride, you'll get too hot! But when the deep freeze sets in there is no better alternative.
Weather can change, and forecasts can be wrong, so it's always worth packing an extra layer in case you've been too optimistic, or for cafe/puncture stops. We recommend a light jacket or gilet such as the Smoke Shell by God & Famous that packs away into it's own little bag, or a plain goes-with-everything packable gilet like this one by Angeles Creative or this one by Hills & Yonder!
Eat and drink as normal, you might find it harder with winter gloves on but your body needs the energy to keep warm - and bonking and getting cold is not a good combination. Keep your phone close to your body as cold temperatures can make the battery die extremely quickly and you don't want to get caught out in an emergency (or good photo op) And don't forget to enjoy the special moments on a winter ride, appriciate the beautiful frosty mornings, the quiet and and your warm breath clouding the air...
*photos from our attempt at the Festive 500, cycling to visit our families over Christmas with bags by Apidura and Restrap! We had great weather although it was cold and misty - highly recommended way to save money and spend time on the bike over the holidays if logistics allow it.