Top Tips : Clothes and Accessories for Winter Riding

Just because fall is over doesn’t mean you’re all done riding. Winter riding is really and truly a blast. From early season hero dirt conditions, to first tracks on your fat bike in the snow - if you’re planning on riding this winter you need to prepare yourself with the right gear. You’ll want to steer clear of denims and fleece in order to keep the stoke levels high.
 
( Additional Photo Credits: https://unsplash.com/@timberfoster )
Your local bike shop can help get your bike ready for a winter’s worth of riding. There’s also a lot of bike maintenance that you can do all on your own. We’ll cover Winter Bike Maintenance in our next article.
 
Before we get into the clothing side of things, we need to address the elephant in the room: darkness
 
It’s winter. The days are shorter and at the end of the typical 9-5 day it’s dark out. You need to light up your ride in order to get yourself outside. If you’re riding on the roads, you absolutely need to be seen. If you’re riding in the woods at night (which we can not recommend enough) you need to light your way. 
 
A typical rule of thumb is the faster you want to be able to go in the dark, the longer/brighter you need your light to beam. Our favorite place to start with lights for navigating is on your helmet. Mounted on your helmet, the light shines where you look. Compliment that with a handlebar mount light and you’re now also lighting up where the bike is steering. Anything more than that, and you’re risking being identified as an alien ship which is not necessarily a good thing.
 
With so many options available at such varying costs we recommend to consult your local shop or riding friends for some opinions. Bike Monkey carries Lezyne and Cat Eye brands and are happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. A good light system can be the difference between wanting to go ride and not wanting to go.

 

Here are our top tips to keep you comfy and warm while riding this winter:

Layer up for Success
Layers and Zippers
 
Let’s talk about layers, and zippers. It is our experience that having the right layers is step 1. For top-layers it is equally important to have zippers, and in the right places. A good ride is going to have you generating heat and sweating. 
 
We’ll start from the top and work our way down. From the inside, out.
 
Top Layers: 
 
There are two things I look for in a base layer. Wicking, and - yes you guessed it - a zipper. My favorite base layers unzip to about my belly button and no further. This keeps from completely unzipping the base layer. That might mean having to remove gloves in order to reassemble the zipper. I’m a huge fan of merino wool for my base layer. It wicks well, and dries super fast. As a bonus, you can generally wear it a few times with a light rinse and not have to worry about it getting smelly.
 
On colder days this is where a mid-layer comes in. I typically go for a technical fabric with a nice zipper. My favorite mid layer is a waffle style long sleeve shirt with a zipper also down to the belly button.
 
For my outer layer, I almost always start with a light, un-insulated shell. I find for most riding in the woods, insulation is simply too much. I like my outer shell to have a full zipper and hood. We’re huge fans of Gore-tex. It breathes while keeping you dry from the outside.
Winter riding gets wet. Being prepared is key.
Bottom Layers:
 
First and foremost: my butt’s going on a bike seat so step 1 will always be shorts with a chamois. If you’re not riding in a chamois, you’re missing out. A chamois helps to keep your personal business in check while adding some comfort and selectively placed padding for both men and women.
 
If it’s not too cold, I’ll opt for dedicated knee-warmers. If we’re getting close to or below -10 Celcius, I’ll reach for the long-john style pants. Sometimes a combo of the knee-warmers and long-john pants works. I like to opt for merino long-johns for the same reasons as the top layer.
 
Over that, I’ll sometimes wear long shorts and once again as it gets close to -10 Celsius I’ll reach for Gore Tex pants, or for more open rides I’ll totally pull out my insulated snowboard pants. 
 
Pro-tip: Wear a trusty pants-clip to keep your baggy pant-cuffs out of the greasy, hungry chain.
 
Footwear is so important. I’ve seen many rides ended with cold toes or hands. Hands are way easier to warm if they get cold. Cold - or worse-yet cold and wet feet can quickly put an end to a day of fun.
 
A solid pair of socks made of a material that wicks well is key. We’re a really huge fan of wool or wool synthetics.
 
There are generally two schools of thought when it comes to footwear in winter riding. Well, maybe 3.
 
  1. Boots - companies have really paid attention to this need as things like fat bikes have taken over our winter trails. There are a few fantastic options available for straight up winter riding boots, and they’re amazing.
  2. Over-boots - a slip-on neoprene layer to help keep snow and water away from your well insulated, comfy feet. Downfalls tend to be that they’re generally slippery flat and more suited for clipless pedals.
  3. Regular boots - We’ll admit it. We’ve done some awesome slow rides in our fluffy winter boots. If you’re headed out on a higher output ride, you’ll want something warm that vents a little, though.
Pro-Tip: If you’re having issues getting in to your clipless pedals, you might find an odd sense of enjoyment in riding flat pedals in the winter months. Find something with ample places for the snow to squish through, and sensible length spikes.
Hands need to be kept toasty warm at all times. You need a good grip on the bar and ample articulation. Mittens are generally not good riding apparel and three finger Ninja Turtle style gloves offer a really nice compromise between control and warmth. For colder rides I like something wind-proof, but I almost always keep a regular pair of riding gloves in my pack for when my hands warm up. If you’re susceptible to cold hands, I recommend at very least starting the ride with warming packs in your gloves.
 
Pro-Tip: If you’re riding in an area you might get wet hands or feet, pack an extra pair of socks and gloves.
 
Head - First and foremost - we recommend always wearing your helmet when you’re on your bike. There are various types of head warmers from beanies to balaclavas we recommend for under your lid. If you’re looking for a little more wind protection for your melon, we have helmet covers. Helmet covers can be purchased in high-viz with reflective materials adding an extra level of visibility and safety to your ride.
 
Pro-Tip: Winter is not the time to leave your backpack home. If you’re headed on a trail ride with all of these layers and options you’re going to want somewhere to stash them when you get warm. Use your pack to carry all of your basic tools, a tube and pump, snacks and water.
Photo Credits: https://unsplash.com/@timberfoster

The key to great winter riding is options and being prepared.

Be warm and dry so you can enjoy your ride.

Layers are key to max out your enjoyment levels and get you outside more.

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