Spoked Mountain Biking & Cycling News

7 essentials for cool weather cycling

Cycling in the cold with the wrong gear can be so miserable you'll start to feel tears running down your face, so consider these options to keep you warm—and riding into the winter

Thanks to advancements in fabrics and clothing design, cool weather cycling doesn't have to mean frozen hands and feet. Photo courtesy of Hincapie

Thanks to advancements in fabrics and clothing design, cool weather cycling doesn’t have to mean frozen hands and feet. Photo courtesy of Hincapie

When the temperatures start to drop below 50 degrees, many cyclists think about heading indoors. But thanks to advancements in fabric and clothing design, temperature changes don’t automatically mean it’s time to pull out the indoor trainer. Consider adding these seven items to your kit drawer and you’ll be cool weather cycling long after the leaves fall.

1. Quality base layers

Cool weather cycling tips: a good base layer will keep you warm in every condition. Photo courtesy of Rapha.com

Cool weather cycling tips: a good base layer will keep you warm in every condition. Photo courtesy of Rapha.cc

If you want to stay warm in the cold, you have to start with what’s under your kit. There are a few different base layers on the market these days, but if you want to be truly comfortable on your bike in lower temperatures an extra layer is key and a cycling-specific cut is the way to go. Rapha has been outfitting Tour de France winners Team Sky for the past few years, and the company is known for putting high quality into understated and classic looking garments. The Rapha Merino Base Layers are no different, and will help you stay warm in all kinds of weather without overheating. There is a variety of sleeve types and neck options available in both men’s and women’s cuts with prices starting at $80 for the sleeveless shirt.

2. A vest

Cool weather cycling tips: a vest will keep your core warm without adding bulk around your arms. Photo courtesy of Castelli.com

Cool weather cycling tips: a vest will keep your core warm without adding bulk around your arms. Photo courtesy of Castelli.com

If you want to stay warm without doubling down on another arm layer, spring for a vest like the Castelli Isterico Vest. Designed to keep your body’s core heated up while still allowing for movement around your arms, vests are perfect for fall days or warm winter outings. This Isterico vest from Castelli is made using a two-way stretch, water-resistant Windstopper fabric. The company says the fabric works best in temperatures ranging between 46 to 61 degrees Fahrenheit. With plenty of reflective tabs and trim and three rear pockets, the vest will keep all your essentials in reach while keeping you visible on the road. It is offered in a few different color options in a men’s version only.

3. A mid-weight jacket

Cool weather cycling tips: try Hincapie's Arenberg Zero jacket. Photo courtesy of Hincapie.com

Cool weather cycling tips: try Hincapie’s Arenberg Zero jacket. Photo courtesy of Hincapie.com


If the weather is too cold for a vest, then you’re going to need to pick up a good mid-weight jacket that can go the distance in a variety of weather conditions. The Hincapie Arenberg Zero Jacket offers a textured, four-way stretch fabric with a wind-repellant fabric. With three back pockets and a stretch style back panel, this piece is as comfortable and functional as a longsleeve jersey but keeps you protected from the elements like a jacket should. It is available in both a men’s and women’s style in black for $200.

4. A rain jacket

Cool weather cycling tips: Try the Pactimo Ultra-Lite cycling rain jacket. Photo courtesy of Pactimo.com

Cool weather cycling tips: Trye the Pactimo Ultra-Lite cycling rain jacket. Photo courtesy of Pactimo.com

When it comes to cycling and rain, there are two schools of thought: toughen up and get out there, or forget it. If you fall into the former category, you’re definitely going to find yourself looking for a good rain jacket. While many cycling companies only sell clear rain-specific plastic jackets for the worst of conditions, the Pactimo Ultra-Lite cycling rain jacket is made out of a breathable, stretchable, and waterproof fabric and comes in black and white as well as clear. It’s fully vented so you won’t feel like you’re sweating inside a plastic bag, and it packs up small enough to fit inside a jersey pocket. It will only set you back $70, and it’s available in both men’s and women’s designs.

5. Leg warmers or full tights

Cool weather cycling tips: leg warmers or tights are a good option for keeping warm on cool days. Photo courtesy of Sugoi.com

Cool weather cycling tips: leg warmers or tights are a good option for keeping warm on cool days. Photo courtesy of Sugoi.com

If you live in a climate where full pants aren’t worth the splurge, leg warmers are a good go-between. They’re perfect for morning rides below 50 degrees, and if you buy a good pair, like these Sugoi Subzero leg warmers with a water-resistant coating, they’ll keep you warm in rain, wind, and cold. These also have locking ankle zippers so you can take them off at a stop on a long ride when the day warms up.

If full pants are more your thing, you can go two routes: with a built-in chamois or without. Tights without are made to be worn over the top of your regular riding shorts, and the ones with a chamois built in can replace your shorts altogether during colder months. The best way to get a pair you like in a fit you can trust is to find out if your favorite shorts, bibs, and corresponding chamois from summer are offered in a longer pant version. Brands like Pearl Izumi, Castelli, Rapha, Sugoi, Pactimo, and others all offer full tight versions of many of their most popular shorts. These Midzero RC Pro tights offer Sugoi’s RC Pro chamois.

6. Gloves and a hat

Cool weather cycling tips: just like your dad always said, even on a bike you should put on a hat and some gloves. Photo courtesy of Hincapie.com

Cool weather cycling tips: just like your dad always said, even on a bike you should put on a hat and some gloves. Photo courtesy of Hincapie.com

When the going gets tough, you’re going to have to bust out the real gloves and even a hat for under your helmet. Clipping along at 25 mph in temperatures below 50 degrees will have your fingers frozen in a few minutes, plus all those vents in your helmet aren’t doing anything to keep you warm this time of year. We prefer these two options from Hincapie: the Arenberg brim cap and Power Winter glove. The cap covers our ears while the brim shades out the sun, and the mid-weight gloves with fleece lining keep our fingers warm while still allowing us to grip the bars.

7. Good socks and shoe covers

Cool weather cycling tips: shoe covers and a warm pair of socks will keep your toes from turning into ice cubes. Photos courtesy of pearlizumi.com and smartwool.com

Cool weather cycling tips: shoe covers and a warm pair of socks will keep your toes from turning into ice cubes. Photos courtesy of pearlizumi.com and smartwool.com

Cycling shoes are notorious for being cold once the temperatures start to dip. All of those wonderful breathability panels that you love so much during the summer start to become your toes’ nemeses. A good pair of socks will ward off most of the chill during the fall, but once winter sets in it may be time to splurge on a pair of shoes or toe covers to seal up those vents completely. Pearl Izumi has been a big name in the cycling world since the ’80s, and if you want a variety of options for gear they are a great place to start. Currently the company offers 10 different types of shoe or toe covers for cycling shoes with prices ranging from $18 to $100. You can check them all out right here.

In the sock department, you can get overwhelmed by options, but for a good pair of trusty standbys that can hold up in any condition check out these cycling specific options from Smartwool.