Cold Is A State Of Mind.


When the temperature drops below freezing, it’s easy to hang up your bike and call it a season, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you have the proper gear! For those of you who love to ride year-round, here is our handy guide to staying warm for cold weather rides.

The first step is to check the temperature and riding conditions. Based on these two factors, what you’ll wear will vary. If you’re new to cold weather riding, there is going to be a bit of trial and error. My suggestion is to wear more gear than you think you need. You can always take off layers if you get too hot, but if you’re underdressed you won’t last long. (BCS Bike Ninja Tip: on cold rides when you are not sure what the weather may bring, ride with a hydration pack filled with an extra set of gloves, head gear and an extra jacket….and $5 for an emergency hot chocolate!)

For the sake of this article, we are going to assume it’s 20 degrees outside, and the roads and trails are dry. Here’s what you need to wear:

Layer 1:

  • Shorts or bibs (Alternate option is a heavy duty wind-stopping thermal tight with a chamois)
  • Thin short sleeve or sleeveless base layer top
  • Wool socks (not so thick that your shoes won’t fit well)
    Swiftwick Pursuit Wool Sock
    Swiftwick Pursuit 7 inch Merino Wool Sock
    Craft Active Extreme Base Layer
    Craft Active Extreme Base Layer

Layer 2:

  • Leg warmers (omit if you’re using thermal tights as described above)
  • Long sleeve base layer (not too thick, but made of a technical moisture wicking fabric)
  • Long sleeve jersey (typically these jerseys are thicker than a traditional short sleeved jersey)Classica Thermo Jersey
    The Castelli Thermo Long Sleeve Jersey is a great option for layering on cold days. You’ll also get plenty of use out of this jersey in all seasons.

Layer 3:

  • Thermal weight wind-proof jacket to keep the biting cold off your torso
  • Tights: these tights have no chamois, but will add another layer of protection for your legs from the wind and cold. Some tights also have wind-blocking materials on the front for added protection (omit if you are using thermal tights as described above).
  • Booties: choose a thick waterproof neoprene style bootie. Combined with your wool socks, these should keep your feet quite warm (Additional sock options: Castelli Duo Wind Stopper Sock).
    Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Shoe Cover
    The Pearl Izumi Elite Soft Shell Shoe Cover

Head and Face:

When riding in 20-degree weather, you need to keep your head, ears, face, and neck warm. The best way to do this is with a balaclava and a hat with earflaps. This double layer of head protection will keep your head toasty warm. If you get too hot, just take one off and stuff it in your back pocket. You can also use the balaclava as neck gator.

The Pearl Izumi Transfer Balaclava will keep your neck, ears, and head warm.

Hands: Gloves are like ice cream. Everyone has a favorite flavor. I have a bin at home with about 30 pairs of gloves that I have accumulated over the years. Since I have been riding for so long, I know what glove works best for me in certain conditions. If you are going to ride in 20-degree weather, you need a set of “lobster claw” style gloves. These are almost like mittens, but allow you to operate your brake and shift levers with ease. You should also own a thick pair of full finger gloves, too. These look and feel as thick as ski gloves, but with more dexterity and technical features for riding. (Hint: I use my thick cycling gloves for alpine and cross-country skiing!)

When temperatures get above freezing, I suggest a mid-weight wind-stopper full finger glove. Glove options are endless. Ask your friends or the BCS staff what they use to help make your decision.

Castelli’s Estremo Glove is an awesome winter glove.

If it’s around 32 degrees and the roads are wet from melting snow, you can follow all the instructions listed above, but replace the tights described in Layer 3 with a waterproof tight or a wind/waterproof nylon (Gore-Tex) style pant. Also, install some clip-on fender on bike to keep the road spray from soaking your feet and backside. The key is to stay dry. Once you get wet when it’s this cold out, you’re not going to get warm again!


The SKS Race Blade or Planet Bike Clip-on Fenders are great for road and cyclocross bikes!


The SKS X Blade Fender is great for all bikes, especially mountain bikes.

The truth to cold weather riding is that you can ride in very cold weather provided you have the right gear. If you’re too cold, you don’t have the right gear!

Here is our handy checklist of winter riding essentials:

  • Thin short sleeve or sleeveless base layer top
  • Wool socks
  • Leg warmers
  • Long sleeve jersey
  • Thermal weight jacket
  • Tights
  • Booties
  • Balaclava
  • Hat with ear flaps
  • Lobster claw gloves
  • Heavyweight gloves
  • Mid-weight gloves
  • Clip-on fenders
Commuters, Cyclocross, Hybrids, Kid's, Mountain, Road, Women's