Part 4: Winter clothing
It’s been a while since we chatted to our MD Nick about his cycle kit. With the onset of the ‘Beast from the East 2’ (aka winter weather), we thought it would be a good time to catch up to get some advice on winter commuting cycle clothing.
QUESTION: Hi Nick. How’s it going? Getting out on the bike much?
ANSWER: Morning Jon. Sadly not, I’ve had a pretty bad accident on the snowboard which is keeping me off the bike at the moment. However, my consultant has told me I can get back on it by the middle of February so I am counting down the days!
QUESTION: So you will need your winter riding gear then. Do you use anything specific?
ANSWER: Ha ha yes, for sure. In winter commuting conditions, I swear by the phase ‘no such thing as bad weather, just bad kit’. I tend to use cycling specific kit rather than ‘normal’ clothes in winter. Although this means I look like a ‘cyclist’, it’s no fun riding when you’re wet or cold. However, I do know of some brands who have developed more casual looking cycling clothes for all weathers. Maybe I’ll invest in their kit next winter!
QUESTION: So could you give us a breakdown of the type of kit you would wear then?
ANSWER: Sure, well for starters, you should remember that it’s better to layer up rather than wear bulky items. Layering is a better way to keep you warm. You can always remove a layer if you get too hot. The other thing you should look for is breathable materials. You will create body heat when you’re cycling. You don’t want it condensing inside your clothes and making you cold and wet.
In terms of the kit I opt for in the winter:
- High viz jacket. I use the Proviz Reflect 360 Jacket, which is not only 100% reflective but it is also water resistant, with a snug fleece lined collar, perfect for this time of year. At £79.99 it’s a good investment for keeping you illuminated like a belisha beacon this winter!
- Breathable mid layer. This is the layer to keep you snug and warm. They may not feel particularly thick but they don’t need to be, the fabrics are pretty techy and designed with warmth and cycling in mind. There’s lots of choice out there from brands such as Endura, Altura, Gore, Castelli, Rapha, even Aldi and Sports Direct. When it’s really cold, I opt for a ‘softshell’ mid-layer jacket, otherwise, I go for something like a winter cycling jersey or merino wool long sleeve top. I have had this Gore one for years and it’s still in great condition.
- Base layer. This just needs to be a long or short sleeve breathable layer that is designed to wick moisture away from your body. DON’T wear a cotton t-shirt. When you sweat, the cotton will stay wet and you’ll feel the cold. I just use a technical fabrics t-shirt that I can pick up from places like Sports Direct for about a tenner.
- ¾ length thermal bib tights. They look odd but they are super comfortable, great at keeping me warm and I wear them underneath shorts so no one really sees. As an alternative to ¾ tights, you can just opt for lycra knee warmers and a pair of cycling shorts.
- Waterproof shorts. No one likes getting a wet bum, especially in winter. Even if you have mudguards, these are a great bit of extra protection to keep you dry and comfortable. Again, these are available from lots of brands. I personally like the Altura 5/40 range https://www.altura.co.uk/products/detail/AL30FIV/five-40-540-waterproof-shorts/
- Waterproof socks. Avoid wet feet at all costs! I’ve been using Seal Skins water proof socks for years both for commuting and on my mountain bike adventures. However back in the day when I was a poor student I used a plastic bag layered between two pairs of socks. It wasn’t perfect but it was a cheap solution!
- Skull cap, buff and gloves. Skull caps are thin enough to wear under your helmet and keep your ears warm. If you don’t like to mess your hair up there are cycle specific headbands that cover your ears. Buffs (https://www.buffwear.co.uk/) are fantastic and can be worn as a bandana under your helmet or as a neck/face warmer to keep the draught at bay. In winter, full finger water proof winter gloves are a must for me as my hands get cold easily. You should get cycle specific winter gloves as thick ski type gloves are too bulky to properly use your brake/gear levers.
- Winter shoes. I use SPD pedals on my bike, so whether I’m commuting or mountain biking I like to use Shimano’s Gore Tex winter boot (which was originally used for Downhill mountain biking). However, I’ve also found the Shimano DX (now AM) shoe with the big flap on the front, surprisingly weather proof, especially paired with winter socks. You can also get a flat pedal version of this shoe.
If you want something less cycling specific, walking boots or walking trainers are pretty good as a winter cycling shoe given they are designed to keep out the elements.
QUESTION: Wow thanks Nick, that’s sounds like a lot of kit so you can quite easily spend a fair amount of money.
ANSWER: The money can certainly add up that’s for sure. However, as I cycle for fun [Ed: Nick is an avid mountain biker] as well as commuting to work, I have invested in my kit over the years (it also helps being in the cycle trade!). However, don’t be put off by the high prices of some cycle kit, there’s lots of good quality cycle kit sold at places like Decathlon, Go Outdoors, Sports Direct, even Aldi. You don’t need to spend the earth and if it’s your commuting kit, the chances are it will last one or two seasons before you need to replace it.
If you do choose to invest in expensive materials like Gore Tex, make sure you read the label before washing as you can inadvertently remove the waterproofing treatment.
If you do notice your waterproof kit is not as waterproof as it used to be or you have washed it, you can apply an aftermarket proofing treatment such as Grangers – https://grangers.co.uk/blogs/how-to (you can also use this on your snowsports kit!)