10 Best Winter Cycling Gear Tested & Fully Reviewed

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Don’t let a little snow and dropping temperatures force your bike into storage. If you are loving your bike commute or weekend rides, you may not need to stop when the weather turns. Working out in the cold air gets your blood pumping leaving you feeling invigorated to take on your day. So, if you can handle the cold temperatures and precipitation, consider layering up and extending your cycling season.

What winter means to you will vary based on your location but everywhere from the snowy east coast to the frigid Midwest to the wet west coast can find cyclists fighting to stay outside. Each climate and area poses its own challenges to cyclists but a little preparation can keep you on your bike all year round.  We compiled the following list of the top ten pieces of gear to help you do so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

It is difficult investing in gear that is only useful for very specific occasions. We looked for versatile options that will come in handy in varying weather and may even work well for your other winter sports such as skiing or running. Consider the best use of each item and how it will fit into your life before stocking up.

Features

After determining the most useful gear for winter cycling, we looked for the best make and model of each item. Key features that make cycling gear reliable and easy to use are important factors when choosing the best option.

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

As tempting as it may be, fight the impulse to throw on every warm and waterproof layer you’ve got. Cycling will heat you up fast and be wearing too many layers that don’t breathe will cause you to sweat more. Once your base layers become saturated you will be at higher risk for developing hypothermia when you do stop for a light or walk into work. Similar to any outdoor sport, breathability, flexibility, and moisture management are key factors for your apparel.

Having reliable layering pieces is great for any riding but will come in particularly handy when the temperature is likely to change. Lightweight layers that are easy to remove or adjust are beneficial for helping you control your body temperature. You can layer up when you set out and shed or unzip items as you begin to warm up.

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.

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,