11 Best Winter Cycling Gear Tested & Fully Reviewed

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Dedicated cyclists don’t necessarily stop just because the temperature drops a little bit. Actually, a lot of them don’t stop in subzero weather and even harsher conditions. Whether you’re a diehard cyclist who does it to stay in shape and for the love of the sport, or you’re someone who likes to commute outdoors—there’s a way for you to enjoy it year-round. Cold-weather cycling is a unique experience that can be invigorating when done with the right gear.

As long as you can safely cycle, there are plenty of cold weather options for gear and apparel. There’s a big difference between cycling in an Alaskan winter and going out and riding year-round in Florida. For most of us, there’s a middle ground that involves colder temperatures and winter precipitation. If you can stand the cold, then there’s no reason not to layer up and extend your cycling season.

We’ve looked at some of the best cold-weather cycling gear on the market and found products that can allow you to comfortably cycle no matter what the thermometer says. Check out our review list and consider your needs when choosing your winter cycling arsenal.

Last Updated:
By Patricia Howard:

Check out the newest addition to our list, the Pearl Izumi Thermal Balaclava. Our research shows that this is a go-to piece of equipment for Winter cycling, and a favorite of professional athletes. Colder temperatures are coming, will you be prepared? Check back for new updates and for the latest info on Winter cycling!

Buff Lightweight Merino Wool
  • Buff Lightweight Merino Wool
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Warm & Versatile
  • Price: See Here
Timbuk2 Spire Backpack
  • Timbuk2 Spire Backpack
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Waterproof & Comfortable Fit
  • Price: See Here
Pearl Izumi Ride Pro Gloves
  • Pearl Izumi Ride Pro Gloves
  • 4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Insulated & Durable
  • Price: See Here

10 Best Winter Cycling Gear

 

 

1. Buff Lightweight Merino Wool Multifunctional Headwear

This versatile piece of head and face wear is the perfect addition to any winter wardrobe. It is easily adjusted on the go and can be worn as a cap, headband, balaclava, scarf and face mask. Merino wool keeps you warm even when wet and fights odor more than synthetic alternatives making this buff ideal for any winter activity. The lightweight, tube design is easily folded and packed away, making this an easy layer to bring along when you don’t know what the weather has in store.
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Utility:
Buff headwear is a versatile item that can be worn as a hat, headband, scarf or balaclava. The thin material fits comfortably under any helmet and merino wool keeps you warm even when the buff gets wet. Cyclists and runners love Buffs for their easy maneuverability on the go. You can start wearing it as a facemask when you get started and easily move it into a scarf as you begin to heat up.

Features:
The Merino Wool material fights odor and remains warm even when wet. The lightweight tube design makes it easy to fold into a pack or wrap around your arm for storage.

Durability:
Users report these Buffs are very durable. Some find they run a bit larger than the original style but they do not stretch out or develop tears through use. The Merino Wool does require hand washing but when cared for appropriately, this garment will last a long time.

Value:
Buffs are available in a wide range of colors and patterns and price will range widely depending on the popularity of each style. The Merino Wool Buffs can typically be found between 20 and 50 dollars. Users find the versatility and durability of brand name Buffs is well-worth the investment.
Pros

Versatile piece for cycling, running or skiing

Merino wool is warm and fights odor

Can be worn as a hat, headband, scarf, mask or balaclava

Helmet compatible

Available in a wide variety of colors and patterns

Cons

Runs large

Some users find the wool a bit scratchy

2. Timbuk2 Spire Backpack

When commuting through the winter, a waterproof backpack may be preferable to panniers. Carrying your bag on your back will keep you more compact so you can stay further away from cars when the side of the road is packed with snow or deep puddles. The Spire Backpack from Timbuk2 has everything you need during for your winter cycling commute. The rolltop design keeps gear dry while the ventilated back panel will not make you sweat. The sleek look is great for the office and the pockets are great for staying organized.
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Utility:
A waterproof pack comes in handy all year round and can be especially useful for winter cycling.

Features:
This bag from Timbuk2 has a sleek look that is perfect for commuting to work. The waterproof rolltop keeps all your items dry with specially considered pockets to keep you organized. The exterior pockets are perfect for items you need quick access to such as your lock and water bottle while an interior padded pouch protects your laptop or Ipad. A custom-fit strap design and ventilation in the back is ideal for cycling year round.

Durability:
This bag is designed to face the elements. It is sturdy and will hold up well over time.

Value:
At around 100 dollars, this sleek bag is reasonably priced and performs perfectly as a commuter bag.
Pros

Waterproof

32 liters

Compact

Comfortable fit

Sleek design perfect for the office

Convenient pockets

Padded laptop pocket

Ventilated back

Can be used year round

Cons

Straps are too narrow for some

3. Pearl Izumi Ride Pro AMFIB Lobster Gloves

If you are planning to ride into sub-freezing temps, you are going to want some serious protection for your hands. These lobster gloves from Pearl Izumi provide lightweight warmth that does not limit dexterity. P.R.O softshell material with DWR coating protects the backs of hands from the elements while reinforced leather palms create a firm grip with added durability. These gloves are a bit pricey but will keep your digits toasty and mobile into the depths of winter.
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Utility:
Lobster Claw gloves are a great idea when the temperature drops as they keep your digits toasty while still allowing for the dexterity to grip the handlebar and reach the brakes.

Features:
These Ride Pro AMFIB gloves from Pearl Izumi are designed specifically for cycling. The P.R.O. Softshell back with DWR coating protects the backs of hands from wind and water as you ride. Reinforced leather palms grip handlebars comfortably and PrimaLoft insulation provides warmth without adding bulk, so fingers can move easily from handlebar to brakes. Finally, the fleece lined interior has a soft skin feel so gloves can be worn without internal liners.

Durability:
Leather on the palms improves durability on these gloves so they will not wear as quickly when you place pressure on the handlebars.

Value:
These gloves retail at 75 dollars but may be found cheaper in certain styles and sizes. They may seem expensive but these cycling gloves are the best for keeping your hands warm during brutal winter rides.
Pros

Softshell material protects from wind

DWR coating

Lobster grip allows for dexterity

Leather palms increase durability

Insulation without bulk

Cons

Pricey

May be overkill in milder winters

4. Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap

4. Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap
Although your helmet will provide some warmth for your head, most are designed with ventilation to keep you cool. Not to mention they do little to protect your ears and forehead from strong winds. Many winter cyclists benefit from covering up with a wool beanie or skull cap to protect these vulnerable areas and manage moisture under their helmets. We love this Pearl Izumi skull cap because it fits comfortably, remains breathable and fits well under all helmets.
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Utility:
A skull cap is an important addition to your cycling gear when the temperatures drop. The cap keeps your ears warm and protects from wind coming through the vents in your helmet. Users find this cap works well for all kinds of activity and find the moisture-wicking fabric and streamlined design work great for running and skiing as well as winter cycling. The lightweight and compact size make it perfect for stashing in your bag.

Features:
This Pearl Izumi Skull Cap is a favorite for its anatomical design that fits seamlessly under any helmet. The segmented cap features a windproof front panel to protect the forehead from strong winds as you ride. The top, sides, and back are made from a breathable fleece material that will help your head manage temperature and wick moisture under your helmet. Users also love the opening in the back that accommodates a ponytail.

Durability:
Users report this cap feels very well made and have no concerns about it stretching out or developing holes.

Value:
This cap can be found for well below 30 dollars. It is well worth the money for its performance, ergonomic design, and versatility for winter sports.
Pros

Warms ears and protects forehead

Moisture wicking

Breathable

Fights odor

Close fit works with all helmets

Ponytail compatible

Can also be used for skiing and running

Lightweight

Cons

Small fit does not cover everyone’s ears

5. Gore Bike Wear Power Windstopper Softshell Gloves

5. Gore Bike Wear Power Windstopper Softshell Gloves
These Softshell Gloves focus on keeping the elements out and keeping your hands mobile. Flexible, softshell material allows for a good range of motion while still blocking wind and resisting water. The palms have rubberized areas for grip and padded areas for comfort while holding the handlebars. They will not do much to warm hands in very cold temperatures but they do an excellent job of protecting hands in the moderate cold or when you are creating your own heat.
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Utility:
These Gore Bike Wear Gloves aim at protecting the backs of your hands from the wind and keeping your palms protected and comfortable while grasping the handlebars. The softshell material and lightweight emphasizes flexibility and free range of motion while you ride.

Features:
Softshell material on the back of these gloves blocks wind and resists water while remaining breathable and flexible. Rubberized areas on the palms help you grip handlebars with confidence. Users report these gloves run short in the fingers. Most find that ordering a one or two sizes up makes them more comfortable for long rides.

Durability:
Gore prides itself on durability. Reviewers find these gloves hold up well and are reinforced in the right areas to avoid premature wear.

Value:
These gloves range between 40 and 50 dollars.
Pros

Wind stopping material protects back of hands

Rubberized area for grip

Padding on palm for comfort

Softshell material is good for flexibility

Breathable

Lightweight

Water Resistant

Cons

Run small

No fleece or insulating material to warm hands

6. Endura Road Overshoes

6. Endura Road Overshoes
Keeping feet warm through a wet winter requires some waterproofing. These Endura Road Overshoes are a fan favorite among riders in the Pacific Northwest. Theses Neoprene booties can be zipped over any shoes and do a great job of sealing out water.
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Utility:
There’s no need to invest in expensive winter cycling boots when waterproof overshoes can keep feet dry and protect your footwear. Riders living and commuting through rainy winters usually opt for overshoes to wear over their cycling shoes or even their work shoes. The covers are easy to pull on and leave an opening in the bottom so you can still clip in.

Features:
The Endura Road Overshoe is a favorite when it comes to waterproofing. These shoes effectively keep water out, and, despite the desired tight fit, users feel they are easy to zip on over their shoes. The reflective detail on the back also increases your visibility in wet conditions.

Durability:
The neoprene toes are susceptible to wear and tear over time. Most users get through 2 or 3 long winters before needing a replacement.

Value:
At less than 50 dollars, these overshoes are a great value. Plan to replace them every few years but they will still be much less expensive than getting another pair of cycling shoes.
Pros

Effective waterproofing

Easy to pull on

No need to buy new shoes

Reflective details for visibility

Cons

Only really necessary for wet winters

7. Oakley Jawbreaker Shield Sunglasses

7. Oakley Jawbreaker Shield Sunglasses
Between the rain, snow, wind and UV rays, your eyes need protecting in the winter just as much as they do in the Summer. These Jawbreaker Shield glasses from Oakley combine face the face protection of ski goggles with the lightweight of sunglasses. Users find these glasses perform best on long rides, the shades are easy to switch out depending on the lighting and they will not fog as you heat up.
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Utility:
Eye protection is critical through the winter. Ski goggles may work for some cyclists but most prefer the unobstructed peripherals, lightweight and exchangeable lenses of sunglasses. Standard dark frames are perfect for those bright and sunny days but clear or yellow tinted glasses are worth having when the sun sets early and there is rain or snow compromising your view.

Features:
The Oakley Jawbreakers have a very lightweight and flexible frame that feels as though it is barely there. The lenses are very easy to change out and provide 100% UV protection without fogging up.

Durability:
Despite the lightweight plastic on the frames, these glasses are very durable.

Value:
At well over 200 dollars, the price is a bit steep, and let’s face it, you will not likely be wearing these clear sunglasses for much else outside of cycling. Many users can get by with cheaper safety glasses or ski goggles that they already own making the price a bit difficult to justify for the casual cyclist.
Pros

Lightweight, flexible frames

Great performance

Resist fogging

Easy to change lenses

Stay on your face during activity

Do not obstruct field of vision

Durable

Cons

Expensive

8. Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Leg Warmers

8. Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Leg Warmers
In more mild or unpredictable winters, leg warmers are a great item to have on hand. Rather than investing in a new pair of full-length cycling tights, you can just pull these on over your summer bib shorts. Cyclists riding infrequently changing conditions love these thermal leg warmers from Izumi as the zippers make them easy to pull on and off. The fleece lining, breathable membrane, and anatomic design remain comfortable and keep you warm through long rides.
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Utility:
Legwarmers come in handy when the temperature dips or the winds pick up. You can wear them with the cycling bib you’ve already got and are fairly easy to pull on and off on the side of the road with changes in weather.

Features:
These Pearl Izumi leg warmers are a great option for leg warmers. The fleece lining and anatomic construction make for a comfortable fit while the P.R.O membrane protects from water while still remaining breathable. Zippered ankles make for easy removal and reflective details increase visibility.

Durability:
These leg warmers are well constructed and will last multiple seasons of winter riding.

Value:
At over 100 dollars these leg warmers are not that much less expensive than a full-length cycling bib. However, they do offer more versatility in coverage and are an easy item to have stowed away.
Pros

Versatile coverage for unpredictable weather

Easy to take on and off

Comfortable fleece lining

Breathable

Anatomic construction prevents bunching

Great for warm ups

Cons

Expensive

9. Cygolite Metro 700 and Hotshot 100 Bike Light Combo Set

9. Cygolite Metro 700 and Hotshot 100 Bike Light Combo Set
As daylight hours shorten and visibility worsens, making sure you are seen is critical. Having a reliable bike light could save your life on an evening commute. This combo set from Cygolite has you covered from both sides for optimal visibility. Cygolite Metro’s SteadyPulse mode is ideal for evening riding as it provides a steady spotlight for the rider to see the road while simultaneously pulsing to draw attention of passing motorists.
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Utility:
A good bike light can be used year round to improve your visual field at night and make sure you are seen by drivers.

Features:
This Cygolite set features a rechargeable headlight and taillight. With 100 lumens in the tail light and 700 lumens in the headlight, these lights will make give off plenty of power to light your way. With 6 modes on each light, you have plenty of options for finding the right amount of light for any conditions.

Durability:
These lights are water resistant, not waterproof, but they are solidly built and have a long battery life.

Value:
These bright lights are a great value when bought In the combo set. You can get both lights for around 55 dollars.
Pros

Bright

SteadyPulse mode lights your way and draws attention

6 light modes on each light

USB rechargeable

Great value for the set

Cons

Not waterproof

10. Planet Bike SpeedEZ Fenders

10. Planet Bike SpeedEZ Fenders
A good set of fenders is worth considering for any cycling commuter but may be worth extra consideration in the winter. When the roads are wet and slushy, fenders will protect your clothes from mud and snow. This set from Planet Bike is easy to set up on almost any bike and the polycarbonate build is lightweight but durable.
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Utility:
When the road is wet but there is no chance of rain or snow, full rain gear is overkill just to protect your workshirt. Fenders are a great tool for any commuter to protect your clothing and prevent that winter slush from spraying everywhere.

Features:
These SpeedEZ fenders from Planet Bike are easy to set up and work well on most bikes. Mudflaps extend their coverage and the carbon fiber build is lightweight so you won’t feel your being weighed down.

Durability:
The carbon fiber on these fenders is very durable despite its light weight.

Value:
At less than 50 dollars, these fenders are an easy and affordable addition to updating your bike for winter.
Pros

Keeps you dry without adding layers

Easy to assemble

Works with most bikes

Useful year round

Cons

Some users find them a bit wobbly for long rides

11. Pearl Izumi Thermal Balaclava

11. Pearl Izumi Thermal Balaclava
Every cyclist knows that traveling at high speeds in cold temperatures can wreak havoc on your face. A hat can save your ears and prevent heat loss, but a Pearl Izumi Thermal Balaclava protects every part of the face during the cycling ride. The full coverage layering prevents frostbite and allows you to breathe freely during your ride. It allows ample room for a helmet and comes with a detachable face mask for increased comfort.
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Pearl Izumi is a leading brand in Winter cycling gear and they've delivered again with their Thermal Balaclava. The full coverage keeps the head, ears, neck, and face protected in colder temperatures. Made with 90% polyester and 10% elastane, this balaclava provides superior moisture protection, and keeps the face and neck dry and odor free.
Pros

Superior facial protection against the cold

Adjustable for comfort

Made with durable synthetic materials

Cons

Can Slip off the nose at higher speeds

 

The Metrics We Used When Choosing the Best Cycling Gear

There is a wide range of gear that will keep you cycling through the winter. We evaluated each item based on the following criteria to help you figure out what gear will work best for your winter and cycling style.

Utility

With any gear that you purchase, you want the most bang for your buck. Purchasing accessories and apparel that can only be used at a certain time of the year may seem like a waste of money for some. This is why we looked at products that had multiple uses, and that were versatile enough to be used on other occasions. Many of the products that you can use for cold-weather cycling can also be used for sports like skiing, jogging, and other outdoor activities. Not everyone hibernates when the temperature starts to drop, and getting the right gear can keep you active year-round.

Features

There are a broad range of options available when it comes to cold-weather cycling gear and features. Every item may have a different set of customizable options that can make it a better fit for you. We tried to take all of these features into account when populating our list with the most useful gear available. All of these features should make the cycling gear more reliable and easier to use on the go. It’s also important that it be light enough and portable enough to allow you to maintain balance while riding.

 

Durability

Strong winds, water, dirt, and salt are all hard on any piece of equipment. We sought out pieces that were well-built and durable so you won’t need to replace them every time winter rolls around.

 

A Few More Things To Consider

Winter Cycling Wardrobe

Your first impulse might be to throw on every piece of warm clothing you own before going out on a winter bike ride. In truth, cycling is some serious cardio and can drive the body temperature up quickly. Too many layers made out of the wrong types of materials can cause sweat to accumulate on the skin. This means overheating and then experiencing a chill on the surface of the skin when you try to cool down. Not only is this a shock to the system, it’s also confusing to your muscles. If your base layers don’t have moisture wicking properties and your outfit isn’t breathable, you’ll increase your risk of developing hypothermia. Your Winter cycling apparel needs to be breathable, flexible,  and capable of managing a high moisture content.

Most cyclists have their go-to layering pieces for colder weather. How much you add on top of the base layers should depend on your location’s climate and the weather forecast. Some cyclists will remove layers when they start to overheat. This can be helpful to regulate your body temperature, but it can also be cumbersome if you have to remove too many. While it’s always better to need to take things off rather than to put something you don’t have on, you still need to plan carefully. Make sure that anything that might need to come off is easy to carry, lightweight, and won’t interfere with your ability to ride.

Consider the weather forecast when selecting your layers. Breathable, but moisture wicking base layers are a great start and will come in handy all year round. For days with little to no precipitation, softshell jackets or fleece layers are your best bet for warmth and breathability. These layers tend to have more stretch and are less likely to cause you to overheat than completely waterproof options. However, when the temperature really plummets or if you are biking through heavy rain and snow, waterproof layers do become necessary. Being wet puts you at higher risk for hypothermia so staying dry is important for longer rides. A lightweight, packable rain jacket and rain pants are easy items to throw in your bag and are great to have on hand when you don’t know what the weather has in store.

Your Winter Weather

When choosing the best gear to get you through the winter consider what your typical winter days look like and what kind of weather you plan to ride in. If you are not planning to continue riding when temperatures dip below freezing, stick with lightweight items that can be layered. Wet winters common to the Pacific Northwest mean you should focus on waterproof items such as overshoes and fenders. Ever changing and unpredictable weather may mean choosing versatile gear that can be taken on and off easily such as a Buff or leg warmers.

Safety

Cycling is a rewarding sport but it certainly has its risks. In the winter daylight hours are shortened and roads are slick creating an even more dangerous environment for biking. By taking the right safety precautions, you can reduce your risk of getting injured and still enjoy your weekend rides or daily commute.

Considering winter gear is a great first step for safety. Dressing appropriately and keeping your hands and feet protected will not only keep you warm but will also ensure you maintain good control over your bike. When choosing gear for your commute, it may be tempting to go with black but brightly colored items and reflective details are a better investment when it comes to making sure you are seen. Similarly, bike lights and reflectors are even more important in winter to make motorists aware of your presence.

Always keep your cell phone or GPS tracker on you and let someone else know your exact route. Tell them when you’ll be leaving, and when you expect to return. This gives you an additional safety net in case something goes wrong. If you fall off your bike and hit your head in colder temperatures, the risk is greater than if this happens to you in a temperate climate. You could develop hypothermia, go into shock, and potentially die if not found quickly enough. It’s also important to pack some sort of emergency kit that includes a protein bar, something to drink, and a light source. A reflective blanket can also be a good idea when you plan on riding far from home. No one wants to get caught 10 miles away from civilization with a broken bike chain and a long walk in the snow.

Finally, some small changes to your riding style can improve your safety during winter rides. Fight the instinct to tense up in the cold and try to let your body remain loose and relaxed to better absorb the shock from chunks of ice or debris in the road. The shoulder of the road may be blocked by snow or water so don’t stay too close to the curb. It is better to establish your riding space on the road than to dart on and off avoiding obstacles.

 

FAQs

Q: How warm should I dress?

REI experts recommend dressing in enough layers so you are slightly cold when you set out. After a few minutes of pedaling, you will be warm and thankful that you are not sweating under excess clothing.

Q: What type of bike should I ride in winter?

The colder the temperature, the simpler you will want your bike. When temperatures reach freezing, slush, salt, and dirt in the street can do damage to exposed chains and gears. Single-speed bikes or bikes with internal gear hubs are worth considering if you are riding regularly through the winter.

Q: How do I take care of my bike in the winter?

Do what you can to reduce rust formation by wiping down your chain and drivetrain after each ride to remove water, salt, and dirt buildup. Make sure to regrease when needed to keep the chain lubricated and moving smoothly.

Sources

  1. REI Expert, Tips For Winter Bicycling, Web Article,
  2. Holmes, Tyrone, 8 Tips to Survive Winter Cycling, Web Article,