Dressing for road cycling in cool weather is all about the layers. I’m lucky enough to live in the lovely city of Sydney, where our weather is fairly temperate all year round, but it does get a little cool in the middle of winter. That means I’m a big fan of layers for colder temperatures, and I vary my layers depending on just how cold it gets. In the past I had a tendency to overdress, but I’ve been making a concerted effort to get it right this autumn and winter, and so far so good. A good rule to live by is – if you’re already warm before you get on the bike (when you’re getting your bike ready – in my case in the garage), then you probably need to take off a layer. Here’s my favourite layers:
Arm warmers are the best cycling apparel you’ll ever own. You can buy them in different weights and colours. I own quite a few pairs and choose them based on colour and warmth level. If you get part the way into a ride and get too warm, they are easy to remove and put in your pocket. Very versatile. I wear them in combination with a short-sleeved undershirt so I can overlap the arm warmers over the sleeve of the undershirt, then put my short sleeve jersey over the top. This means there are no gaps between the garments, keeping me nice and warm.
I also own a variety of undershirts of different weights and sleeve length. In summer I wear the light sleeveless variety, which helps keep me cool by wicking sweat away from my body. In cooler weather the undershirt keeps me warm. It needs to be fairly fitted to work effectively in the warmth department – nice and close to your skin.
The gilet or wind vest is also an excellent cooler weather garment. I have a number of them in different colours, some which match specific kit, and other plain ones. They have windproof material at the front, and mesh or breathable fabric on the rear. This protects the front of my torso from cool wind while riding, but allows me to sweat and shed heat on my back. I once bought a gilet that was the same windproof material on the rear, and I had to stop wearing it because it made me hot and uncomfortable.
I’m a recent convert to the neckwarmer. I have a lovely warm merino wool one for really cold weather, and recently picked up a nylon fabric one for the not so cold weather. They work particularly well because I have short hair, so my neck is fairly exposed. I tuck it into the collar of my jersey and gilet and it covers most of my exposed neck.
Toe warmers/shoes covers
Toe warmers are great for covering the air vents at the front of my cycling shoes. The vents in my shoes do a great job of keeping my feet cool in summer, but have the opposite effect in winter. I wear toe warmers when it’s cool and complete shoe covers when it gets really cold.
Through much of Autumn (Fall) and Spring I wear bib knicks with ¾ length legs. They are fleecy lined and keep me nice and warm, but not too warm. In winter I revert to full length bib knicks that are both fleecy and have a windproof layer. A lot of riders use knee or leg warmers with their short knicks but I’m not a fan. However, I do own some of each and wear them occasionally.
Long finger gloves
Long finger gloves of varying weights are also great for cooler weather. Most of the time I wear fairly lightweight ones because I find my hands get too hot, plus I feel like I have less control of my bike. In really cold weather (5 degrees Celsius or less for me) I wear thick gloves which keep my fingers from going numb.