Wearing the right clothing for a bike ride isn’t just about having a nice warm jacket for winter and a great short-sleeve jersey for summer — it’s about layering. Use the right combination of clothes and you will be able to cope with not just the weather but also how your body reacts to the ride ahead.
Before a ride, pop outside and see how the temperature feels. Also look at the forecast for the day ahead, so you know what weather to expect and how to be prepared. Once you have that information, you can start looking at all your available clothing layers.
The first and arguably most important item of clothing you’ll need is a base layer. This sits next to your skin and is often made of synthetic material or merino wool. Base layers can be long sleeve, short sleeve, or sleeveless and come in varying thicknesses. You’ll find all types of base layers here.
Over your base layer go your bibshorts. These are cycling shorts with a padded insert at the crotch and arm straps to keep them securely in place, and to get rid of the need for a waistband that will dig in. There are a few different varieties of bibshorts — such as thermal, fleece-lined or regular — but with all types you don’t need to wear pants. In cycling, going commando is positively approved of!
>> See our great selection of bibshorts on our website here. <<
Together, the base layer and bibshorts are your basic necessary garments required for all bike rides. Everything else you wear from here on will be dependent on weather conditions
On a sunny day, a short-sleeve jersey might be all you need. Although thermal insulated short-sleeve jerseys are available, on colder days your exposed arms will still feel the chill. To combat this you can use arm warmers.
None of the clothing we’ve looked at so far has any great wind-stopping capability, so you’ll still feel the cold breeze getting through. To combat this you could wear a gilet, which is effectively an armless jacket — such as these — which keeps your torso protected. The combination of arm warmers and gilet is particularly good on an early morning cycle ride where conditions will warm up, or on a day when you’re not sure what the weather will do.
On days that are definitely going to be a bit chilly the best option is to use a softshell in place of the jersey, arm warmers and gilet. Soft shells are just like a long-sleeve jersey except that they are made from relatively thick windproof and often waterproof or water-resistant material. You can find our selection of soft shells on our website.
If there’s the threat of rain, you’ll need to take a lightweight waterproof jacket with you, such as something made of Goretex. Goretex is a waterproof fabric that is also breathable, meaning that perspiration can escape. Lightweight waterproof jackets or rain capes can then be rolled up and kept in your soft shell back pocket.
Bottom half and extremities
Your legs will also catch a chill in the wind. You could either replace your bibshorts with full-length bibtights. Or, as with your arms, you can use leg warmers. Like arm-warmers, leg warmers can be taken off and put back on again as conditions dictate.
Now we get to your extremities. At your feet you will wear cycling socks and shoes whatever the weather, but on very cold days you can augment these with overshoes or oversocks. These stop wind chill making its way through to your feet and can be constructed of waterproof neoprene, too. Once you’ve experienced the unique agony of cold and numb feet on a bike we guarantee you’ll never forget overshoes again!
Now to your hands. Mitts are great for summer cycling, and thin full-finger gloves are good for spring and autumn. But when it’s very cold you’ll have to step up to seriously warm wind-stopper winter gloves. Your fingers are particularly susceptible to cold temperatures, so it’s important to protect them with cycling gloves.
Finally to your head and neck. The first thing to use is a scarf or snood, which will stop cold air reaching your neck and the top of your chest. Then you can wear a cycling cap underneath your helmet to keep your head warm. Our great selection of both neck and head garments can be found here.
Follow our advice and you’ll be perfectly prepared for any weather. And if you want to see at first hand how Toby dressed for different conditions, just click on the video.