I like to ride my bike every day but sometimes it’s a challenge, staying warm, dry and not looking like crazy cycling flouro person, although if looking like crazy cycling flouro person is your bag, then go ahead. It’s just not mine. I only wear that stuff when I’m cycling for sport, but never flouro!
When I first started commuting by bike I wore layers, as I’d always been told to. Thin layers, and layer upon layer, depending on the temperature. After I had been cycling through a winter and spring dawned, I realised I’d been wearing them all the wrong way round. I used to wear a thermal vest under a long sleeved top and a cashmere polo neck, with black skinny jeans, a down jacket or long down coat and normal fashion boots. I kept a skirt at the office to change into. My gloves were never warm enough and my feet were always cold. When I got to the office, my smartest layer was my cashmere polo neck, which I couldn’t take off, nor did I want to divest myself of my underlayers because….well I don’t know why….I just didn’t.
When riding, I was always too hot or too cold, my feet and hands were always cold and the tops of my thighs were too. It was a wonder I kept going. And jeans aren’t very confotable to cycle in.
When spring dawned, I bought myself a windproof cycling jacket and that was the start of my clever layering. I realised that if I wore the windproof either over or under my regular clothes, it would stop the windchill, it would be light and I could just take it off when I got to the office. I could the wear my regular clothes instead of all of those layers that I couldn’t take off.
I also started wearing skirts again and I realised that if I wore skirts and dresses that were jersey or wrap around, a-line or had a deep split up the back, then I could wear my regular clothes and just layer up with another pair of tights if it was too cold and then pop the windproof on top and then my regular coat, I was good to go. I realised that jeans are just too cold for the winter. The thick cotton seems to hold the freezing air and they don’t provide any warmth at all.
Here are my top tips for winter dressing:
- Wear normal clothing on the bike if you want to. Start with a thermal or heat-tech vest, a shirt, and a dress or skirt. Wear a cardigan or jumper over that. I wear merino or cashmere. They are warm, don’t hug the odour and look good even though you may have been riding and sitting on a train for an hour or so. I’ve bought cashmere cardigans from Sainsbury’sthis winter for £25 so it’s not an expensive option anymore. Then you can take the cardigan off in the office if it get’s too hot, or just put it around your shoulders. Sometimes I wear a sleeveless Merino Baselayer from Rapha and the polo neck but I don’t layer up like I used to.
- Wear tights and if it’s too cold for one layer, wear two, or three or even leggings on top. Falke cashmere/merino blend are fantastic and very warm as are Icebreaker merino leggings. I wear socks and boots over so nobody can tell that I have two pairs or whether they’re leggings or tights. I take them off when I get to the office and just wear the one pair, putting them all back on to go home again.
- I find that a windjacket is essential. I have a couple of them. A Gore Bike Wear jacket which is supposed to pack own into it’s own pouch, and does, just, but the fabric is heavy, noisy, and it doesn’t stow into the pouch very well. It’s ok if you have a big bag and don’t mind the noise it makes while riding but at the moment, nothing beats my Rapha Wind Jacket. It’s light, the fabric is very soft, it’s cut close to the body so no excessive bulk under the coat and it looks amazing. The jacket has black cuffs which fit really snugly and stop the wind going up your arms and you can tuck them in or keep them out, depending on how it feels and what you’re wearing on top. And it stops the wind getting to your body. I’ve taken it up onto the South Downs on my road bike in the howling wind and it performed well so my commute is a cinch. I wear the wind jacket under my coat. Sometimes I combine outerwear and the windproof and wear my Bspoke Angel jacket which is fantastic, waterproof and windproof but only really looks good with jeans or trousers. So that’s for milder days.
- A thin cashmere scarf from M&S or Rapha’s merino winter collar tops the whole thing off. Enough length to pull up over your face if it’s really freezing or just keep the chill off your neck by keeping it on the neck.
- I wear my normal fashion boots (but no heels) unless the temperature dips below 2c or 3c. Then I wear a pair of fur-lined boots with thick soles and an extra pair of Smartwool socks. When choosing boots these days I try a pick ones with a welted sole or at least a ridged rubber sole that gives me some grip on the pedals. Clipless pedals and cleated shoes don’t do it for me on the commute, nor do heels. I like a thick sole to grip. I did have some toe clips with straps but they annoyed me because my shoes are all very different so I took them off. I bought some Powergrips to put on instead, but they’re still in my bikeshed. Hey ho.
- On top of all of this, I wear my normal coats. I have a great, and very cheap mac from Zara for rainy days and a wool coat from Jaeger for when I want to look smart. The Bspoke jacket fits loads underneath so I can layer without going mad and it’s windproof. I don’t wear down anymore. It’s just too hot. I have a great pea-coat that I wear sometimes too. Whatever coat I wear, I wear a windproof underneath.
So there it is. Winter cycling wear chez moi. Normal clothes, more tights and leggings, good winter boots with grippy soles, big gloves (and somedays, chemical hand and foot warmers), a wind jacket and a coat and scarf.
You’ll notice I don’t mention helmets or hats. And you’ll notice that my clothing is mostly black. I happen to think that reflectivity and visibility is best left on the bike, and I’ll do a post about that shortly. As for the helmet debate, unlike bad cycling or bad visibility, it doesn’t affect anybody but me. My choice varies depending on my whim. And I’ll do a post about that too.
In the meantime, you can add your top tips for winter dressing below.