Here’s a question I received from a London Cyclist reader:
Last year I followed my usual policy of riding fairly deep into winter, except for unusually wet or snowy weather, then woosing out and commuting by train. The reason for this was that I don’t have “proper” cycling gear, just a few bike shirts and shorts.
While riding to work in the rain this morning (I got wet, but not cold) I thought I should drop you a line and ask for advice.I do follow the blogs and postings on London Cyclist, but I need a simple shopping list for kit that will keep me dry, warm but not hot, right through the winter
I realise that I need a base and waterproofs, but would like specific advice as I am spoilt for choice on the web and price does not always reflect practical applications
I liked the question as I’ve always tried to demystify all the cycling gear options to make it easier for people to choose the right kit for their needs.
Let’s start from the top.
Hats and caps
Personally, I prefer cycling without anything covering my head, as I tend to get very warm and would rather feel the rain. However, for those of us with glasses, it can get irritating. This is where a cap can come in handy. Sealskinz sell a highly waterproof cap for £22.50. Alternatively, there are many options for Rapha and Vulpine for those of us looking to spend a little more.
When things get cold I generally opt for a simple wooly hat. That tends to keep my head warm and is a nice simple solution that means I don’t need to buy any special cycling gear.
You may also own a jacket that has a hood. This can be useful, but at times dangerous, as it narrows your field of vision when you try to look over your shoulder, so I try to avoid this.
I’m a big fan of these merino buffs for keeping my neck warm on cold days. The best thing is, it’s quick and easy to remove and stuff in a pocket as your body temperature rises the more you cycle.
In this area I’m a big fan of the DHB sync waterproof jacket for both men and women. Note that products such as Nikwax can help keep these jackets at their full waterproofing. If I was to recommend parting with any money, I’d say this was the area to do it. Cycling jackets tend to have a longer back to accommodate for the slight leaning forward position and to keep mud and water off your lower back. A good jacket will serve you for many years and can look great both on and off the bike.
In terms of getting warm, it is kind of inevitable. Fortunately, you can unzip the under arms of most jackets which allows more air to flow in.
Alternatively, you could opt for a cycling cape. These have the advantage of covering more of your body and can be highly waterproof.
One of the keys to staying warm but dry and not sweaty is a decent base layer. We’ve reviewed a number of them previously such as the one by Rapha featured in the picture above. Unfortunately, they can work out expensive so it’s not really a priority purchase for most cyclists. There are less expensive options such as the Craft Cool Tee Short Sleeve Base Layer which will do a good job of wicking moisture from your body as you sweat.
Trousers or shorts
Depending on how cold it is, you can make a decisions between a pair of trousers or shorts. A while back I bought a pair of DHB Minima Waterproof Trousers and if the rain is really coming down I’ll put them on. Alternatively, I find a pair of shorts are better at drying faster, especially the kind that you find in outdoor shops.
Keeping your feet warm and dry can be especially tricky, as they receive much of the water spray coming off the road. I’ve tried a few different solutions. Overshoes never worked really well for me, and they often ended up not standing the test of time. I’ve tried waterproof socks but my feet end up incredibly sweaty.
In my experience I’m better off buying a pair of shoes that are more waterproof than typical pairs. Teva sell a good range of these. The Links shoe being one option. Next week we’ll have a review of another pair of Teva shoes so keep an eye out for that. Alternatively, if you clip in to your pedals then you can get waterproof shoes.
I’d be interested in hearing from fellow cyclists about tips they have from cycling through the winter in keeping warm and dry. Please leave a comment below!