How to Survive the Cold on Your Bike - Part 1

Words by Sally

on 22/01/2015 14:38:00

How to Survive in the Cold on your Bike

Winter Riding Tip #1 - Dress properly

If winter turbo sessions don't quite cut it for you, here are our top tips for training in the colder weather.I'm not a masochist. I don't enjoy my fingers and feet going so numb that pedalling and changing gears becomes difficult, and I don't view winter riding as essential training for the early-season race or sportive ride. But I do think that with the right kit, preparation and mindset, winter provides some of the most beautiful riding available. So how do you survive the cold on a bike? In Part 1 of our guide, we outline how to dress properly, and how to prepare yourself and your bike. Stay tuned for Part 2, where we cover cold-weather training and riding tips.



I can't speak highly enough of baselayers. I'd deem them essential for winter cycling. I have three and I live in them all winter - they keep me toasty without getting clammy on the bike, I wear them in the office after my commute into work (they look pretty smart with jeans and a gilet), and they're cosy to pad around the house in at the weekend. When it's really cold, I wear two at once. I feel the cold, so I prefer merino baselayers, but other lighter-weight baselayers are available, too. Baselayers, especially merino, are also good at regulating your temperature in warmer weather, so while they're not suitable for high summer (whenever that may arrive), they're still a good choice for early morning rides in late spring and autumn. And they last forever - I've been chucking mine in the washer and dryer for over a year now, and they look as good as new.

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A good cycling jacket

For the winter, you'll want a heavier-weight jacket that's windproof and waterproof. Personally, I like to wear a hi-vis jacket in the winter - be safe, be seen, especially in the grey days of winter. Now is a great time to pick up a sale bargain, too, and invest in a top-quality jacket that will be your friend for a few seasons to come. I particularly like Gore jackets; I've also tested some Etxeondo jackets and was impressed with how lightweight, warm and comfortable they were.

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A buff

Buffs make a massive difference to your enjoyment levels on a bitterly cold day's ride. You know, those days where just breathing in gives you toothache? Wear a Buff and you'll protect your face and ears from the cold, and also keep the cold air from penetrating your chest.

Gloves, socks and overshoes


Cold extremities are a real motivation killer, so make sure you've invested in good-quality gear to keep your hands and feet warm. This year, I've been riding with Sealskinz all-weather gloves and they're among the best I've found. I also like the look of the Gore lobster gloves - like a mitten, but with 2 chambers and a separate thumb hole. Colleagues are raving about how good they are at keeping your hands warm on really chilly days.

For feet, thermal socks are a must. My two favourite brands are Sealskinz (their waterproof socks are amazing and extremely hardwearing) and DeFeet, whose DeFeet Woolie Boolies are another item I live in all winter, on and off the bike. And I always wear overshoes, partly to keep my feet dry and warm, and partly to protect my shoes.

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Winter Riding Tip #2 - Prepare your bike, and yourself

These days, powerful bike lights mean the short winter days are no longer a barrier for cycling. I like Exposure's Joystick, as it's bright enough for road and trail riding, is easy to charge, either via the mains or a USB cable, and is super reliable - its claimed run times are accurate, the battery life is good (my light is 2 years old and as good as new), and it's still going after I've dropped it countless times.

You'll also want to fit winter tyres and mudguards to your bike - mudguards will protect you and your bike from the worst the roads can throw at you, and winter tyres make a huge difference to your grip on the road in wet, slippery conditions. Ride in a group if you can - there's safety in numbers (if you live locally, we have regular rides you can join for free). Make sure you've eaten properly, as your core temperature depends on having food to burn. And take plenty of snacks and a drink out on your ride - staying warm requires even more energy, so don't get caught out. Tempted by a hip flask, or a pub stop half way round? Your body won't thank you for it: alcohol moves blood to the skin, through which 90% of your body heat is lost.

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