Riding in cool and cold weather for female road cyclists

Winter kitI wrote about the subject of dressing for riding in cooler weather in April last year and while this post is not dissimilar, I’ve changed a few items and habits in my cycling wardrobe and I’m happy to share my updated preferences.

Firstly, I need to stress that I live in Sydney, Australia and we enjoy a temperate climate which affords me warm summers, and cool (not really cold) winters. I know many of you live in climates where you frequently experience sub-zero temperatures which thankfully I’ve never experienced on my bike so I won’t be covering that subject here.

I thought it would be useful to share with you how I cope with my cool winters and the autumn and spring temperatures in between.

Firstly, it’s important to still look good and be colour coordinated. In my first cycling winter I just threw on whatever seemed warm and I must have looked a mess. Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you need to lose all sense of style!

The secret rests with layers. Things you can take off and store in your pockets if you get too hot. The easiest way to test if you’ve got too much on, is if you’re already warm before you start your ride, you’ll be hot within a short period of time. You should be cool rather than cold before you start so you’ll be just right when you’re in the middle of your ride (despite providing this advice, I’m notoriously bad at over-dressing). Also, don’t forget to factor in the outdoor café at the end of the ride.

Autumn/Spring dressing

In Autumn (also known as Fall to many of you) and Spring the key to comfortable cycling is wearing layers so you can peal them off if necessary after you’ve warmed up and then put them back on when you reach the café and sit outdoors.

The first things I add to my standard summer riding kit (bib knicks, short sleeve jersey, bra, undershirt, socks and shoes) when temperatures begin to cool (for me this is usually 16 degrees Celsius or less) is add arm warmers, a gilet (also known as a windproof vest) and a headband to keep the wind out of my ears. Both the gilet and arm warmers can easily be removed and will fit in the back pockets of your jersey.

The next step (14 degrees Celsius or less) is to wear ¾ length bib knicks or to stick with short knicks and add knee warmers. I wasn’t a fan of knee warmers because the ones I tried before dug into my leg making them uncomfortable and ugly but I’ve discovered that the Specialized ones work well on my legs.

When it gets a bit cooler I also wear toe covers for my shoes which block out the wind from moving around your toes. Along with wool socks they keep my feet pretty warm.

Winter dressing

I’ve ridden my way through four winter seasons and each year I seem to add a few more items to my arsenal.

For those mornings that are around 10 degrees Celsius I don’t pull out my full winter kit I just go with a few layers like a thermal top under my jersey, arm warmers and leg warmers. Like the knee warmers I’ve discovered that Specialized make great women’s leg warmers that fit well and don’t dig into my thighs. I also wear long finger gloves which are still thin fabric but keep my fingers warm.

I save the really warm stuff for mornings that are 8 degrees Celsius or less. This includes full length fleecy lined bib knicks, a long sleeve thermal top, long sleeve jacket-style jersey (it still has pockets in the back), full shoe covers/booties, polar fleece headband and if it gets down to 5 degrees Celsius I also wear thicker gloves which I call my ‘toasty gloves’. I call this outfit the ‘sealed unit’ because the only part of me that’s exposed is my face and part of my neck.

I have to confess that I get cold pretty easily so this might all be a bit too much for people with a different way of dealing with being cold. I’m the person that only goes swimming when the temperature hits 35 degrees outside and turns the heater on at the first sign of cool weather.

Above all else if you live in a great climate like mine then you shouldn’t have any excuse for not riding all year round. The only weather I avoid is torrential rain. I find cold weather no excuse for staying in bed.