What to wear while cycling in the autumn and winter months

Winter Cycling

The weather can be unpredictable, with wind, rain, and occasionally snow to cope with, and the daylight hours are getting shorter. But what cycling gear is the best to keep you riding through the winter? Here is our important guide on riding a bike in the winter.

Does what you wear while cycling matter?

OK. To ride a bike, you can wear whatever you like. Even pro cyclists are unlikely to put on lycra every time they throw a leg over a top tube. 

There's no need to wear specialised cycling gear if you're riding a short distance at a moderate speed and don't anticipate to break a sweat (except maybe a helmet - more on that later). Tucking trouser legs into socks or using trouser clips are both perfectly acceptable options for securing anything that might get caught in wheels or chains.

Cycling gear, on the other hand, make a lot more sense once you start riding for longer periods of time or wish to ride faster. There are four major reasons why cycling-specific apparel will improve your ride.

Cycling clothing

1. Cycling clothing that feels excellent in the riding position (and protects your modesty!)

There are very few situations in life when you will spend any considerable amount of time seated on a tiny saddle, leaning forwards, therefore it should come as no surprise that most of the clothes you own aren't designed for this type of activity. Cycling clothing is made to be comfortable in the saddle and to provide coverage where it is needed (no chance of revealing anyone behind you more than they wanted to see!).

2. Cycling equipment allows you to move freely.

Hours of pedalling can cause aches and pains in places we'd prefer not acknowledge. 

Cycling clothing is constructed with seams strategically placed to avoid irritation. Different textiles are also commonly utilised to provide elasticity, reinforcement, ventilation, or even weatherproofing where needed.

3. You'll feel revitalised.

Even in the winter, your favourite gym t-shirt and joggers will feel like a sauna suit if you speed up the pace. 

Cycling clothes are typically built from fabrics that magically whisk moisture away from your skin, keeping you cool and comfortable on the uphills while keeping the chill at bay on the downhills.

4. You'll look fantastic.

What about the MAMIL stereotype? So out of date. Dayglow uniforms from head to toe? It's entirely up to you. 

Forget about your preconceived notions about bicycle style. Whether you prefer a traditional block of colour, subtle designs, or eye-catching brights, there's a cycling outfit for you

What are the essential cycling accessories?

There's no need to go bankrupt right away. Building your cycling wardrobe from beginning can be intimidating if you're brand new to cycling. 

It's fine to take your time and combine your new riding gear with items you already own. 

Here are the essentials you should think about (along with some 'nice to haves') in order of importance so you can begin developing your bicycle arsenal from the bottom up.

Safety and visibility

Your first focus should be safety before purchasing anything else. Consider the location of your ride, as well as the light and weather conditions, and make sure you're prepared.

Do I need to wear a helmet when cycling?

Depending on where you are in the world, riding without one may be prohibited. Even if it is not required, a bicycle helmet will protect your head from hits in the case of a crash and may even save your life. 

Safety and visibility cycling

What should I wear to increase my visibility when riding my bike?

To get noticed on the bike, you don't have to dress like a highlighter on wheels, contrary to common perception. Fluro hues perform well in daytime because the sun's UV rays enable them to glow, making them appear brighter than traditional colours. They become less effective, however, in dim light or under artificial lighting. 

Combining bright colours with retro-reflective features is a more successful method. In natural light, retro-reflective materials appear silver or grey, but they shine in headlights or street lighting, making it easy for people to see you in the dark.

Color placement, contrast, and even colour selection can assist other road users recognise you as a human immediately (and therefore best avoided). Fluro colours and reflective decals on the lower legs, for example, are difficult to notice because your legs are always moving. 

Fluro green may stand out amid the concrete jungle, but it may have the opposite effect when speeding down undulating country roads through dappled tunnels of greenery. Consider where you'll be riding and when you'll be riding so you can adjust your outfit for maximum contrast and effect.

Do I need bike lights during the day?

If you live in the United Kingdom and cycle after dark, you must use a white front light and a red rear light with a minimum output of 4 candelas (around 50 lumens). Depending on the quality of your local roads and street lighting, many riders want something a little brighter than 50 lumens to help them see and be seen. 

Although it is not required by law to ride with lights during the day, more and more bikers are doing so for good cause. Weather, even intense sunlight, and shelter from trees and buildings can all impair visibility.

What to Wear While Riding a Bike

As previously said, what you wear is determined on where you ride and how long you ride. Off-road apparel, for example, will have a looser fit than road clothing because the riding position is drastically different, and a snug, aerodynamic fit isn't as crucial for mountain bikers as it is for roadies. 

Here are the essential pieces of gear you should look for while putting together your cycling attire.

  • Cycling bib shorts and tights
  • Cycling jersey
  • Cycling shoes
  • Cycling jacket
  • Cycling mitts
  • Base layers
  • Gilets
  • Warmers
  • Sunglasses
  • Neck tube
  • Socks
  • Overshoes or shoe covers

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