Plan Ahead1 of 12
Choosing what to wear on a ride should always include looking at the weather forecast. Consider how warm it will be mid-ride and where you're headed, as well as the weather conditions towards the end. A lot can change in a couple of hours; don't be caught in a headwind with no wind breaker.
Pro Tip: Try to plan your ride so you can take advantage of both daylight, warmer temperatures and even wind direction.
Headwear2 of 12
Did you know 30 percent of body heat is lost through your head? On the coldest days, a sweat-wicking winter cycling cap, like Castelli's Difesa 2 Cap, will make a huge difference in keeping warm on the bike.
On milder, yet still cold, days, you might be OK with just an earband. A good ear covering makes it so you don't overheat but still protects your ears from windburn. Our favorite earband is Pearl Izumi's Barrier Headband, which is lightweight and water resistant, keeping you warm, but not hot, on longer winter rides.
Don't forget to shield your eyes as well; performance eyewear is ideal to prevent tearing up from cold wind.
Cover Your Face3 of 12
If you're riding in a really cold environment, a balaclava will keep your face warm enough. However, for some, it feels constricting and can make hydration slightly more challenging. But Pearl Izumi's Barrier Balaclava, offers more comfort and includes ergonomic layers that fit easily under your bike helmet.
Or you could opt for a scarf, like this one from Rapha, which offers more freedom and breathability than full headwear and can also be used to cover your neck.
Base Layers4 of 12
A thermal, long sleeve base layer is the foundation on which to build protection from the cold. A base layer should wick perspiration from your skin to keep you dry, offering the first layer of insulation from the cold. Assos' Skinfoil Winter EV07 is made from breathable materials and is insulated to ensure you stay warm even when the temps dip below freezing.
Long Sleeve Jersey5 of 12
A thermal, long sleeve jersey will offer yet another layer of warmth. One that's full-zip will allow easy temperature regulation. We're loving Giro's Chrono LS Thermal Jersey this season. The fabric is designed to move with you, so you're not constricted while you ride, and there are a number of "Expandable Storage Pockets" perfect for holding everything from your phone to snacks. Plus, it comes in classic charcoal and a nice bright red as well.
Outerwear6 of 12
For extremely frigid days, a vest under a jacket adds another layer of defense against the cold. Vests help block wind and offer temperature moderation without adding too much bulk. If you opt for no jacket on a slightly warmer ride, pair a vest with a warm long sleeve jersey on top of a base layer. Add thermal arm warmers if desired. A perfect option is Garneau's Alpha Cycling Vest, which actually pairs Polartec Alpha Insulation technology with Polartec Drytex 6000 fabric to keep you warm yet dry during your ride.
If you opt for fewer layers, look for a winter cycling jacket that blocks wind, is water repellant and also allows for breathability, like Trek's Bontrager Velocis S2 Softshell Jacket, which checks off all the boxes for things you want in a winter jacket: designed to be worn while in a cycling position, tall collar, elongated back panel, sleeves that are long enough when your arms are extended and snug cuffs around the wrists to keep the chill out.
Gloves7 of 12
Even if your core is warm, if your hands are cold, you'll be uncomfortable. Glove liners—such as Giro's Westerly Wool—offer an extra layer of insulation and help wick moisture to keep your hands dry. However, make sure your hands aren't too constricted; allow for some breathing room for your fingers, or it may result in even colder hands. Try Giro's Proof gloves for "near-freezing rides and commutes." They might be more on the pricey side but are guaranteed to keep your fingers thawed for hours.
If your hands are susceptible to cold, try lobster gloves, which allow your fingers to share warmth yet still allow you to have full control over your bike handling.
Thermal Bib Shorts with Leg Warmers8 of 12
If weather permits, consider thermal bib shorts, such as Giordana's G-Shield Bib Short, for additional flexibility while riding. You can wear them paired with thermal leg warmers, allowing you to use the bibs on more temperate days with only knee warmers or without any leg covering at all. Look for thermal bibs and leg warmers with brush piling, which traps warm air but also allows for moisture wicking. Many winter-weight bibs and leg warmers also have wind-blocking front panels.
Bib Tights9 of 12
For the coldest days, you'll want full tights with wind blocking properties and a thermal lining. Bib tights offer a superior fit and tend to stay in place better than standard tights. We love Pearl Izumi's Women's Pursuit Thermal Cycling Bib Tight, which have an innovative drop tail design that makes it easier to go on the go (especially when you're wearing several different layers). They also feature Pearl Izumi's new water resistant PI Dry technology and a 7-inch lower leg zipper that makes stripping down a breeze.
Socks and Shoe Covers10 of 12
Just like protecting your hands from the cold, keeping your feet warm while riding will do a lot in terms of comfort. Doubling up on socks may seem good in theory, but it might actually squeeze your feet and toes, making them colder. Instead, try double layer cycling socks (we really love Giro's HRc+Merino Wool cycling socks).
You'll also want to look into shoe covers that have a wind and waterproof shell or are made of neoprene with a zipper and Velcro closure. Plus, they add another layer of protection from the elements with thermal insulation. Giro's Proof Winter Shoe Cover is a good option, as they are both water and wind resistant, flexible in just the right places and have an interior fleece with anti-microbial thermal fabric that actually holds heat, keeping your toes toasty for longer.
Shoes11 of 12
Shoe selection can also be critical to successful winter riding; go with something too insulated and your feet can feel heavy, but too light and you'll spend your ride cold. Shimano's new XC5 is perfect for mixed terrain riding this winter; the synthetic leather upper features perforated venting but retains enough warmth for cold days in the saddle.
The full rubber Michelin outsole is extremely high traction and works equally well on gravel, singletrack and even on a muddy cyclocross course. Added bonus: The lace-up design isn't just on-trend—it provides a highly secure fit with a mini power strap that allows for max adjustments.