Jenson USA carries one of the most extensive selections of curated bike gear online. We’ve developed learning guides to aid you in making informed decisions and we have backed this up with our expert Gear Advisors who are available by phone, chat, or email 7 days a week.

 

HOW TO CHOOSE COLD WEATHER RIDING GEAR

When the sun dips lower on the horizon and the temperatures begin to drop, it can be tempting to hang up your bikes for a few months. But, riding through the winter months is fun, adventurous, and easy with a touch of proper planning and gear selection.

We’ve put together this cold weather riding gear guide to help you Keep Pedaling warm and comfortably all winter long. If you have more questions, please call our Gear Advisors at 888-880-3811 to get more help.

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TENANTS OF A COLD WEATHER KIT

This guide focuses on how to build a proper cold weather kit for either road or mountain biking. Your choice of helmets, jerseys, shorts and shoes will vary depending on your style of riding, so be sure to also check out our other guides that will aid you in choosing the right clothing options for both road or mountain biking.

Whether heading out on the road, exploring gravel paths, or pushing the pedals through miles of singletrack, managing your body temperature is extra challenging during cold weather cycling. This is because your body is working hard and producing a lot of heat from inside, while the outside of your body is being hit by cold from the wind and possibly from snow or rain. This is further complicated because cycling targets muscle activity (heat generation) from certain areas, like your legs, while producing little to no heat from movement for other areas, like your hands. This means that you must manage your body temperature differently for differing areas. The components that make a good cold weather kit can be summed up in 2 major tenants:

 

LAYERS

Weather conditions can vary widely during the winter and having an adaptable apparel setup will allow you to accommodate these changes with ease. Choosing apparel pieces that can be adjusted, removed, or open/closed easily will allow you to balance comfort, element protection, and warmth. As your ride progresses, you may find the need to add or remove layers, so we recommend considering ways to store items on-bike or in a pack.

A layered riding apparel kit allows you to add more cold protection to some areas and reduce it in other areas. Layering also allows you to tailor the specific types of materials of each layer to provide key performance characteristics and protection from the elements.

 

MATERIALS

Winter riding often means facing less-than-ideal conditions. To take on the elements with gusto, you will want to create a diverse material strategy to perfect your kit for any conditions you may encounter. A well-rounded setup will be built with layers that address these factors.

 

WINDPROOFING

Outer Layer: generally, a thin shell that provides a wind barrier in large areas to reduce wind chill while key areas are vented to manage overheating and sweat.

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WATERPROOFING

Outer Layer: not necessary in all climates, tends to reduce breathability, but keeps you cozy on rainy or snowy days.

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INSULATION

Base & Mid-Layers: uses body heat to keep you warm. Good insulation will also reduce moisture build-up to keep you comfortable

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BREATHABILITY

Crucial, All Layers: moisture is one of the worst culprits for cold because water’s thermal properties. Materials that breathe allow for sweat to dissipate to the outside and avoid cold zones.

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LIGHTWEIGHT

All Layers: a kit composed of lightweight layers will be more comfortable, provide more mobility, and be easier to store in your bag.

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BUILDING A COLD WEATHER KIT

 

BASE LAYER

  • Function: foundation of a good cold weather setup that manages moisture and warmth
  • Fit: Snug fit to conform to the body
  • Materials: Composed of breathable materials to keep heat in and moisture out
  • Pro Tip: A sleeveless torso base layer can allow you to moderate your temperature with arm warmers while keeping your core warm
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MID-LAYER

  • Function: create additional insulation, and secondary-outer layer when your primary layer is removed to manage heat
  • Fit: Slim, but semi-loose to not add a lot of bulk
  • Materials: Tech materials that can be on the thicker side designed primarily for insulation
  • Pro Tip: This layer should be a bit looser than your base layer as the air between the 2 layers is a great insulator
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OUTER LAYER

  • Function: Provides a barrier from the elements and cold
  • Fit: Semi-loose, sometimes you will need to size up to compensate for additional layers
  • Materials: Thin tech materials designed to keep water and wind off your skin. Breathable vents in key areas
  • Pro Tip: Jackets with removable sleeves or venting that can be opened or closed make a great option for managing heat throughout a ride
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ARM & LEG WARMERS

  • Function: Easily added/removed insulation to bolster any riding kit
  • Fit: Form fitting with grippers at the openings to keep them in place
  • Materials: Breathable materials with insulative properties like wool or fleece
  • Pro Tip: These pack easily and can be used with a standard riding kit to take on cool days or used to bolster a cold weather kit
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SOCKS

  • Function: Warm toes are happy toes
  • Fit: Thicker socks to provide more insulation
  • Materials: Composed of breathable materials to keep heat in and moisture out. Wool is a great option
  • Pro Tip: Do not use too thick of a sock, unless you size up your shoes. This will cause numbness and can make your toes colder due to poor circulation
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CYCLING SHOES

  • Function: Protect your feet from the elements while being comfortable and efficient for pedaling
  • Fit: You may want to consider sizing up your shoe if you will be wearing thick socks
  • Materials: Generally, shoes with minimal venting will provide better protection from wind and moisture. Some shoes can be found that are highly water-resistant or add insulating materials
  • Pro Tip: Adding toe covers or booties can often provide enough of a barrier from the elements to make your standard shoes winter capable
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GLOVES & POGIES

  • Function: Keeping your hands warm is crucial for comfort and control
  • Fit: Thicker than a standard glove to add insulation. Too tight can cause numbness, and too bulky will make bike control challenging
  • Materials: Exterior material should provide a barrier from wind and moisture while the inner material provides insulation for warmth
  • Pro Tip: Pogies (handlebar sleeves) allow you to use thinner gloves and increase dexterity
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HEAD & EAR WARMERS

  • Function: Modulate the heat loss from your head while protecting your ears from the wind.
  • Fit: Snug fit of thin to semi-thick material that should still fit under your helmet comfortably.
  • Materials: Lightweight tech material that breathes well to reduce moisture build up
  • Pro Tip: It is a good idea to have a full skull cap and a head band, so you can keep your ears happy and your head comfortable on everything from cool to cold days
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ADDITIONAL ACCESSORIES

Here are some other apparel accesories you may consider for cold weather conditions.

 

FLAT PEDALS

If you choose to ride in a normal winter boot or shoe, a flat pedal is highly beneficial for snowy days. When the trail surprises you with a spot of extra slipperiness it is easy to quickly foot dab and resume pedaling without skipping a beat, and you can pair just about any good snow boot with them. Further, you don’t have to worry about clogged up pedal mechanisms that might make it tough to clip back in.

  • Function: Provide easier snow clearance and can let you dab a foot in slippery conditions
  • Fit: Can be paired with cold-weather riding shoes or standard winter shoes
  • Materials: Composite pedals conduct less heat loss through the pedal/shoe interface
  • Pro Tip: The insulative properties of clipless shoes can be affected by the cleat interface. Flat pedals allow your shoes to be more insulating throughout the entire sole
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PACKS & ON-BIKE STORAGE

  • Function: A place to store your layers and any emergency gear
  • Fit: You may consider sizing up, so you can carry multiple layers and items
  • Materials: Adding insulation to your hose or around bottles can help keep the water flowing on extra cold days. Also, blow air into your hose to keep water from freezing in there
  • Pro Tip: Keep your phone in a warm and dry spot as cold temperatures can drain a battery down quickly
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CYCLING GLASSES / BIKE GOGGLES

  • Function: Protect your face and eyes from the cold and wind
  • Fit: Close to your face for good wind protection. Arms of glasses can be worn inside or outside of your head warmer to help regulate your temperature.
  • Materials: Interchangeable lenses allow you to accommodate gloomy conditions all the way to snow glare. Light adaptive lenses are a good choice, as well
  • Pro Tip: Goggles provide a ton of insulating protection, a wide field of view, and keep snow out of your eyes
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APPAREL CARE & REPLACEMENT

We recommend following the wash and dry instructions found on the tags on your specific mountain bike clothing items. We generally recommend hanging mountain bike clothing items to dry as it helps to improve the longevity of materials. If protective apparel items are damage or torn, it is often good to replace these items, so they can continue to provide the highest level of protection while riding.

 

SHOP WITH CONFIDENCE

We want to make sure you can go from shopping to riding as soon as possible. We’ve provided fit charts on all our mountain bike clothing products and have additional customer feedback in our reviews sections on product pages to help you choose the correct size. If the fit isn’t quite right, we’ve got you covered with free returns on all unused apparel and protective gear