A good winter jacket, warm shoes and quality tights or waterproof trousers will keep you riding more comfortably throughout the winter. However, some of these items can be costly, and if not teamed with the right accessories, you may not get the full benefit from your investment.
It’s not just the primary items you pull on each day that will keep you out on the bike over winter. Sometimes it’s the smaller pieces of clothing that make all the difference to the comfort and enjoyment of your rides. It’s great to have a dry and warm body, but cold hands, feet and face can cause you to lose a lot of heat, and a winter jacket will work much better when teamed with good under layers.
Here’s a round-up of some of the little things that will make all the difference to your riding over the next few months:
Start with your core, and the rest of your body will follow. A base layer sits close to your skin, trapping a layer of warm air for insulation, and wicking sweat away from your body. That means cooling moisture won’t lie on your skin and cause you to feel chilly every time you stop.
For ultimate warmth and practicality, look for merino wall – it’s a very warm fabric which doesn’t hold odours.
Cold feet will have you shivering in a second, and obviously wet extremities are going to become cold pretty quickly.
Cycling overshoes are one way to eliminate wet feet – but to go one step closer to the skin, try waterproof socks from SealSkinz. These really are the pinnacle of winter cycling socks, and their highly thought of amongst regular cyclists.
These come in a range of lengths and thickness’, but the most important element on them all is the waterproof membrane that prevents your toes from getting soggy. Made for active lifestyles, they all have good wicking properties and are breathable, so you won’t be getting moist from the inside either.
Icy fingers don’t grip the handlebars that well, but with the right pair of gloves, you could have toasty fingers in no time.
Castelli have included a pair of gloves in their Diluvio range which use thin and stretchy neoprene to keep the body heat in as well as locking out the cold and wet. These gloves are made in the same way as a wetsuit – so they’re not breathable, and the idea is that you’ll sweat and moisture is warmed to keep your fingers from freezing.
If the idea of turning your hands into their own radiators doesn’t appeal, the SealSkinz Extra Cold Weather gloves might be more up your street. These bulkier, more traditional gloves provide layers of warmth and breathability to boot.
If you’re glove shopping in store and not online, take the opportunity to try them on. Thick gloves are great for some, but you may find you feel your hand movements are restricted – not great for gear changes and easy braking.
The Buff is a beautiful invention designed for multi use as a headband, hood, bandana – whatever you fancy – but for cycling purposes its best used to keep the bottom half of your face warm. When you’ve invested in a cosy jacket, good bottoms, gloves and everything else, it’s never good to step outside only to find your lips are chattering and your nose is feeling neglected.
This cosy tube of fabric is worn around the neck, and you can pull it up over your mouth and nose (we recommend you stop at the eyes!). The added bonus is that your own breath will be trapped inside the layer, and that soon becomes a lovely warm surround.
A few brands make them, but Buff owns the name, so here’s their selection of merino wool beauties.
Under helmet hat
Don’t let heat escape from your head! Cycling helmets are (usually) covered in lovely vents which keep your head cool in the summer. However, when the temperature drops, they just expose you to the cold.
Under helmet hats have the bonus of making you look a bit like a mole, and/or showing you what you might look like if you were bald – if you’re not already. Joking aside, you’re going to put a helmet on top of it, and this flimsy little garment will make a huge difference.
Usually made of thin material, these will usually cover the tips of your ears, as well – not impairing your senses, but getting them toasty.
The Gore Windstopper Softshell is a popular option and will set you back around £25.
These small accessories won’t set you back as much as the expensive jackets and tights that are available – but they can maximise the benefit. Choose the right pieces, and teamed with lighter and often cheaper outer layers, might well keep you just as warm.
Images courtesy – Michelle Arthurs & http://www.flickr.com/photos/gluemoon