You've heard it before because it's generally true: there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. Cycling through the winter months—whether commuting or adventuring—is an exemplary situation where the adage is right on the money. There’s loads of gear and winter cycling clothing out there, but much of it was made to appeal to the spandex crowds. Thermal bib tights, winter cycling jackets, funky neoprene shoe covers, leg warmers, and arm warmers; there’s no end to how outfitted a weekend warrior can be for facing the lowest mercury forecasts.
If you’re one of our regular readers, it’s unlikely that you’re trying to go the winter road bike ninja suit route at all. To get your kit in order and looking good, we've rounded up a collection of our favorite winter-specific cycling pieces designed to keep you comfortable in the cold and happily pedaling all season long, all while looking pretty good within our own standard of style and design.
But before we dive in, it’s worth noting that at the end of the day a proper pair of low-tech rain pants—like these from Showers Pass,on sale for $39 and recommended by our rain or shine bike homie Ryan—paired with a waterproof poncho will beat most any combination of fancy kit when it comes to keeping dry. But as with everything we do, we're suckers for a better balance of form and function. And so, we present the following, selected with higher design in mind.
Field Mag's Top 10 Picks for the Best Winter Bike Gear and Cold Weather Cycling Apparel
Arguably the most fashionable road cycling apparel brand on the market, Rapha began expanding its understated design style to mountain bike wear beginning in 2021. For fall and winter wear, they’ve infused their close-fitting cycling jacket with Gore-Tex Infinium–a softshell material that makes for a highly water-repellent jacket with equal levels of breathability. Even if you’re not shredding singletrack on the mtb, the windproof softshell jacket fits comfortably for around-town rides and commutes in wet and cold weather with a helmet-compatible that adds comforting warmth on blustery days in addition to keeping light rain off your dome. But, for full-blown downpours, you’ll probably benefit from a true hard shell rain jacket with packability in mind.
A good base layer can make a world of difference in any winter weather cycling scenario. As their name might imply, BN3TH specializes in base layer and underwear products that bring extra comfort to their wearers. This moisture-wicking long sleeve base layer employs a mix of polyester, spandex, and a material known as Ionic+, which contains silver to kill bacteria and stave off the stank. According to Science, the use of silver to fight bacteria is nothing new. Anyone who’s ever got a good sweat going in a synthetic piece is likely familiar with how well they can hold unpleasant odors. The use of merino wool in other base layer options does contain natural antimicrobial traits, but they’re typically off the table for our vegan friends that don’t get down with wearing animal products. For cold legs, check out the brand’s Pro Ionic+ Long Underwear ($65).
Women’s: Unisex sizing
Montbell didn't design this 89-gram, 1000-fill down vest (aka “gilet”) with cycling in mind, but it’s definitely an easy piece to justify tossing into a handlebar or saddle bag for unexpected situations, or when your day will see fluctuations in temps due to sunlight and elevation. The vest’s slim cut is intended for layering (over a thermal fleece or long sleeve jersey, for example) but is duly convenient for a close on-bike fit. A super-thin, seven-denier shell helps make the ultralight vest land below the 100-gram mark but isn't ultra-durable, so take care in making sure you don’t rip it on brush.
The California cycling brand and Swedish outdoor outfitter got together for a pretty sweet collab collection that includes this lightweight moisture-wicking polyester flannel shirt and several other pieces of clothing that don’t look like cycling clothing (in a good way). Much like an artfully pieced-together dream bike, the devil lives in the details: articulated sleeves with elasticated cuffs, snap buttons, a secret stash pocket, and reflective yarn woven right into the shirt fabric to reinforce visibility alongside a good set of bike lights). Check out the rest of the collection for other casual, winter riding pieces like the puffy Thermo Shorts ($180) and wind-stopper Rider’s Wind Jacket ($180).
It's easy to use techy, moisture-wicking long underwear to convert any pair of pants into winter commuter pants. Though an effective (and thrifty) tactic, the combination doesn't do a great job of dumping excess heat, and sometimes requires removing said long underwear once at the office/commute destination. It's not an elegant solution. These California-sewn pants from Swrve however, are.
Lined with a low-bulk, high-warmth fleece to help keep the heat while the exterior face is both wind and water-resistant, so the pants are perfect for daily commuting and more adventurous use, too. High-quality pattern details like articulated knees, a diamond crotch gusset, and a raised rear waist spotlight how considered the pants are for the task at hand: riding bikes.
Call it a snood, buff, or gaiter if you prefer, but we dig cycling apparel brand Pas Normal Studios titling theirs simply “neck tube.” The lightweight neck warmer replaces scary winter face masks and balaclavas by using a soft and breathable, Italian-knitted fabric to keep wind chills off of necks, faces, and ears when the wind blows your way during cold days on the bike. Pair the tube with your favorite winter cycling cap to keep your noggin warm and cozy, mile after mile.
Believe it or not; this straightforward product name is a bit of an understatement. Tokyo-based PEdAlED took its design to celebrated Italian bootmaker Diemme to craft a classic hiking-style boot suitable for winter pedaling that earns considerably more style points than any single-purpose cycling shoe we’ve ever come across. The end result features reflective hits, a breathable lining, and a low-cut heel to account for the foot's movement while pedaling. And while the yellow laces aren't a technical feature, they look pretty great on the gray suede.
Regardless of the season, you should never underestimate the value of a good pair of wool socks. Defeet makes some of the best cycling socks around (and in the USA no less) with the Wooleator being the brand's cycling-specific merino wool sock that’s good for year-round wear. The sock is knitted at the brand's North Carolina facility from 61% merino that's blended to include 37% nylon and 2% Spandex for stretch and strength. We've worn some of our test pairs for over five years, and they're still going strong, so they're worth the investment. For the coldest feet during cold weather riding, opt for the brand’s thicker Woolie Boolie socks.
If you've gotten this far, you likely already know the virtues of keeping your hands warm while riding a bicycle in the cold. Minimal bulk is what makes this pair of winter cycling gloves from French brand Café Du Cycle so appealing. With a general-use winter (or ski) glove, finger dexterity is often sacrificed for warmth. Here though, a fleece lining and quilted outer layer trap heat just like your favorite puffy jacket, keeping your digits warm and fully functioning, which tends to be useful for things like operating brakes and shift levers.
San Francisco bike bag brand’s stem caddy isn’t exactly a winter item per se, but it’s a piece of bike gear that proves to be hugely useful when we can’t remember which one of our outerwear pockets our keys, phone, or wallet is stuffed into. The chalk bag-like bag mounts to your bike’s handlebar and stem, placing small possessions within an easy-to-actuate drawcord that even a single thick winter-gloved hand can manage. Our favorite uses for the bag? A tall insulated bottle filled with local joe, followed by a bottle of our favorite pét nat.