An Expert Guide to Winter Cycling Gear: Part IIPublished on 05/13/2023 · 4 min readWant to keep biking through the winter? Cycling Expert Jared Fontaine shares how to make the most of your deep winter cycling and how to stay warm while doing so!
Photo by Dmitrii Vaccinium
In part one of this article, I covered cycling gear and apparel for the early spring and fall as well as the mid-fall and early winter. Now the temperature drops more as we head into the deep winter!
Riding in the deep winter is for the dedicated and hardened, true cyclists. This section is for the cyclist who refuses to ride on the trainer and will deal with deep snow, ice, and bitter conditions.
Normally, you don't want to be out in the deep winter for too long. I plan my routes to be very short and hard, just to break up my time on the trainer. I get cold very quickly, so I like being within 10 miles of my house during this time period. I also like to ride a race called the Dirty Dozen — a race the week before Thanksgiving where cyclists ride the hardest climbs around Pittsburgh. Many other cities have a similar race, or you can create your own! Generally, I like to keep my rides under two hours in the deep winter or I will start to freeze.
The key to deep winter dressing is to layer so you can control your body temperature. For example, you may want to wear a merino wool base layer, a thermal jersey, and a thermal jacket. The Hunter men’s and women’s merino wool base layers are great examples. Instead of a softshell jacket, you will want to wear a heavy-duty thermal jacket. These jackets offer more insulation and are windproof and waterproof. They are also designed to allow your body to cool off during hard efforts.
Normally, I can ride with just a base layer and my winter jacket. When it is really cold, I wear a long-sleeve jersey to provide more warmth. I use heated gloves, but I also add a liner and sometimes a lightweight glove for added warmth. I like gloves that extend up the wrists so the cold does not crawl up my arm. For my head, I used a thermal fleece ski mask to protect my face from the cold.
For pants, I use the thickest thermal bib tights I can find. I like the ones that loop around your feet to cover the gap between your shoes and pants. I also use ski pants as an outer layer — the only problem with them is that the right leg will get caught inside of the drivetrain, so you have to be careful about that.
For shoes, I wear either winter cycling shoes or winter cycling boots with booties on. If I am riding on snow, I generally don't ride with clipless pedals but it is an option. I use mountain bike pedals instead — I recommend the Raceface Aeffect pedals. I like riding with a heavy boot and a flat pedal because I might have to walk over an obstacle. If I am riding on roads that have been scraped by the snowplow, I use a winter cycling shoe.
Winter cycling shoes have very few, if any, vents to allow air to travel inside. They also have fleece inside, a waterproof cover over the shoe, and a sock-like tongue that extends over the ankle to keep your feet warm and cover you from the top of your shoe to the bottom of your pants.
Pro tip: Buy larger-sized shoes so you can layer up your socks. I like having merino wool socks as a base layer and thermal socks as an outside layer. I generally don't have a problem with cold feet, but if you do, I suggest heated shoe covers. Just like for shoes, there is an electric heating element inside the bootie to heat your feet.
If it is snowing outside and I am riding on clean roads, I will use my gravel bike; however, if I want to ride in deep snow, I will use a fat tire mountain bike. With a fat tire mountain bike, you have a massive tire for grip that’s around four- to five-inches wide for extra traction. You can ride with five to 20 pound-force per square inch (psi) in the tires to get more grip in the deep snow. They are also fun in the sand — I used to ride them in Hawaii!
Also, you can get spiked tires for your winter or fat tire bike. Spiked tires are just like the ones you use for your car; they have small spikes to break through the ice and provide grip.
I am glad you made it to the end of my winter cycling suggestions! Although I hate snow and I never want to live in a climate that has snow ever again, I had some of my most fun rides in the winter. I love riding on Christmas Day, for example, because you can enjoy the road and nature without cars or anyone to bother you. Cycling in the cold air and having the road to yourself makes for some of the best rides of the year. Happy riding!