Cold weather cycling gear?

Hello, all! I hope everyone is hanging in with this COVID madness. I am still here. I even made an actual fashion purchase recently -- but the goodies have not arrived so I can't show them off yet. Assuming they work.

My question today concerns gear. Specifically, biking gear for cool to cold weather.

A few weeks ago, I tore my medial meniscus on a run. Then, like a fool, I kept moving around on it, thinking it was a muscle pull and would just "get better." Reader, it did not. :(

Finally, I went to physio and was told in no uncertain terms to get off that leg! 

Well, you know me and my walking. This is not an easy order for me to follow. Especially during pandemic lockdown when going for a walk is not only a great form of exercise but the only allowable way to socialize! Yikes!!

Luckily, the physio also prescribed bike rides. So I've been out there every day for about an hour or so. But for now, I can't go for any kind of "power" ride -- I'm limited to low resistance and that means slower speeds.

Temperatures here have been hovering between 6 and 10 C...and oopsie! I have just figured out that I do not have proper cold weather biking gear.

What in heaven's name should I wear? So far, I've been layering merino base and second layer with my short puffer (not completely windproof and often too warm -- I get all sweaty even in supposedly breathable merino). My legs are in fleece tights (also not windproof, so my legs eventually get cold). My feet FREEZE even in double layers of wool socks. And my hands mostly freeze, too.

The only part of me that feels right is the head. The head is good. For the head I have a little merino cap that goes under the helmet and seems to do the trick.

I've ordered a few options to try. A reflective windproof waterproof jacket. A thermal jersey to wear over a merino layer. Thermal tights. And lots and lots of merino layers (but that's another post!) Deliveries here tend to take a long time, so who knows when they might arrive.

If anyone has ideas, I'm listening.

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Teresa replied 1 year ago

    I live in Portland, Oregon, and cycle year round.  So probably similar to your current climate, Suz? For cold and wet (40-45 degrees F)  I wear a smart wool base layer shirt under either a Patagonia nanopuff vest or an old, moth eaten cashmere sweater from JCrew.  Then a light goretex reflective coat on top.  On bottom, fleece cycling tights (got mine from Terry and REI).  On the hands, Pearl Izumi waterproof insulated cycling gloves, on the head, a smartwool beanie that fits under the helmet easily.

    For your feet!  Wool socks and then neoprene cycling shoe covers (or goretex waterproof ones).  They’ll keep you warm.

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Ah! Okay. Covers for the shoes! That should help. I probably should get proper cycling shoes in addition. I'm just wearing whatever. (Well, not high heels, but you get what I mean.) 

    It sounds like I'm on the right track but I'm not windproof enough. 

    I also ordered special warmer cycling gloves, so we'll see if those help. 

    Thank you, Teresa

  • Teresa replied 1 year ago

    You are welcome!  Proper gear always makes the activity more enjoyable:). Not sure how they are about shipping to Canada, but check out—women only cycling gear, which is a nice change from “unisex” which really means for dudes;)

  • Jaime replied 1 year ago

    6 to 10C and cycling? Umm, no advice but yes admiration. 

  • merwoman replied 1 year ago

     Hi Suz!  So sorry to hear about your knee, and wish you a fast recovery!

    I’ve been cycling regularly since April and have yet to put my bike away. I do not have cycling specific gear, but have been repurposing existing workout wardrobe.

    With weather between  0 and  7 degrees, I am absolutely loving my uniqlo ultralight puffer layered with lulu lemon long sleeved swiftly top, when closer to 0 ,add  uniqlo long sleeved heat tech top to the mix.

    The puffer is amazing, light weight and water resistant. So delighted with it I bought a second one.
    I’m happy wearing thick lulu lemon tights (ebb to street) or gap has a thick pair (blackout?) that work well. I haven’t found that my legs get cold ( it’s rather hilly) but I would layer with heat tech long underwear if they did.

    Happy cycling and keep warm!

  • Janet replied 1 year ago

    OK, you've gotten some advice already that I would have given. I'll add that the double socks may not be helping. If they are thick enough to make your shoes snug, that can actually hinder circulation and make your feet feel colder! I'd use maybe a thin sock liner and a regular hiking sock, but add those neoprene wind covers for your shoes. 

    Terry gear is nice! Consider a long cycling jacket (I find that it really helps to have a windproof layer that comes down over my behind when I'm cycling in the cold. But I'm really more inclined to ease off of the cycling in the fall and turn towards running or brisk walking in the winter, as I find my hands really get colder during cycling (Reynaud's). 

    I'm sorry about your injury! It would set me for a loop too. I hope you heal quickly! 

  • Karie replied 1 year ago

    Not a cyclist but a hiker here. I like Under Armour products. Their ColdGear line is designed to keep you nice and warm.

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Karie, one thing I've learned really fast is thatwhat works for hiking does not necessarily work for cycling. Who knew? I certainly did not! In fact, I used to chortle at my brother with all his special cycling gear....I am usually an avid hiker and I do have stuff that works for that. Actually, the base layers work well on the bike. It's just the outerwear that is a problem.

    I think what might be going on is the combination of damp and chilly and wind (it has been crazy windy) makes it colder than it would ordinarily feel if I were walking. And unlike merwoman, I'm not going fast or hard enough for my limbs to warm up much, due to my injury restrictions. Hmmm. That will change, of course, once I start to heal. I'm allowed to increase resistance until I experience pain. 

    Janet, I think you are right. The double socks are making me cold because the shoes are too tight. I need proper cycling shoes or at least a pair of those shoe covers. That will be next on my list. 

    Teresa, Janet -- I will check out Terry Gear and see if they ship to Canada -- thank you! And even if they don't, I can see their offerings and read reviews. We do have a couple of really good gear stores that might carry the same products. 

    Sue, is that Uniglo down? Or poly? And it's windproof? Mine's from Aritzia -- a packable down sweater type thing -- and I adore it for walks. But it is both too warm and/or not windproof enough for the bike. 

    Haha,, Shevia, but then I am full of admiration for you in the summer, going outdoors in 35 degree weather....

  • Jessikams replied 1 year ago

    My feet are always frigid even when exercising, so I hear you. I visit my in laws in Wisconsin/ Minnesota regularly so I’ve had to give it some thought. I use hand warmers in my shoes (the little chemical packets- yes I know wasteful). And I have two pairs of winter boots from Columbia that are made with a technology that captures foot heat and radiates it back into the shoe, if that makes sense. They are game changing, truly.

  • Jane replied 1 year ago

    I’m sorry about your injury. Very annoying.

    I cycle sometimes in the cold. The warmest my hands have been is when I’ve worn a pair of silk evening gloves and then cycling gloves. I turned up at my friends house without gloves so i piled on their ‘spares’ layers. I have a tight snood and a looser snood. My feet just get cold but I do try and keep my toes moving. I’ve not got round that one yet. I’ve also found the first 10 mins are the coldest because then you get warm. And I do my best to cycle on sunny routes too. I prefer wind to shade, so tend to cycle on open flat roads rather than the Sussex hills! At least that’s my excuse!

  • Runcarla replied 1 year ago

    Castelli gloves are my go-to for cold weather riding.  I also have inner soles in my cycling shoes that are supposed to keep my feet warm, and protective booties over cycling shoes.  I’m a fair weather cyclist these days, since Reynaud’s makes anything in outdoor temps below 15degC a challenge.  (I use activated charcoal packets in my mitts for walks or shovelling snow.)

    Wishing you a speedy recovery, Suz.

  • Cee replied 1 year ago

    " Cy-cling ? " ...I don't know what that means !

  • Minaminu replied 1 year ago

    In addition to the other suggestions, I'd also reccommend a neck warmer as wind and cold can cause some stiffness to the neck !

  • LAR101 replied 1 year ago

    A local cycling shop may be a good place to shop. They probably have cyclists who know what to wear in your weather.

    There’s more online:
    Comments came in that the recommended gear was for milder temperatures.

    My husband, a serious cyclist, likes Rapha’s merino wool jerseys.


    He cycles often and so the cost per wear is low. Rapha has some repair deal and he has sent back jerseys for repair.
    I think they are sized small and he had to order 1 or 2 sizes up.

    As you probably know, a cycling jersey will be cut longer in the back and arms so it fits well when you are positioned on the bike.

    He also likes DeFeet wool socks.

    The dilemma for cycling clothing is that
    you want air flow when you heat up from exertion
    AND also
    you don’t want air flow from the wind especially down hill.
    His general opinion is that technical clothing that is designed for cycling works best. A technical base layer might be a good idea.

    He has one of those reflective jackets but the one he has doesn’t breath. In our mild San Francisco climate, he heats up and can’t cool down enough. It may work well at slower speeds, colder weather or more breathable fabric.

  • suntiger replied 1 year ago

    I'm on Team Shevia! I find the wind the most problematic in cold weather, so stick to hiking. But I did get this little ear warmer that fits under a helmet, cause ears get really cold at 50 degrees.

  • Janet replied 1 year ago

    I definitely agree that hiking and bicycling gear needs are totally different! And running gear is different too. And then there is yoga gear... Yeah, my gear collection is pretty significant, considering the span of seasons and activities... 

  • merwoman replied 1 year ago


    Here’s a link and description. I find it keeps out the wind and light rain. I  never intend to cycle in rain, but weather happens! My original jacket is 4 years old, and is so essential I thought I would duplicate.

    Made with a durable water-repellent coating that keeps out light rain and snow.
    - Compact, pocketable design for easy carrying.
    - Paneling at the back of the waist creates a fitted look.
    - Double elastic threads make the hem and cuffs more fitted.
    - Loop inside the left front to attach the carrying pouch.
    FABRIC DETAILS[03Gray, 07Gray] Shell: 65% Nylon, 35% Polyester/ Filling: Down (Minimum 90% Down) Lining: 100% Polyester [Other Colour] Shell: 100% Nylon/ Filling: Down (Minimum 90% Down) Lining: 100% NylonWASHING INSTRUCTIONSHand wash cold

  • RobinF replied 1 year ago

    Too bad about your injury! That has to be frustrating. No help here since I stick to indoor activities other than walks with hubby - weather dependent :) I can sure imagine that the wind would be the worst problem.

  • Glory replied 1 year ago

    Sorry to hear about the knee! I just stopped cycling two weeks ago when the weather dipped below 0. Plus  the snow on the ground made it feel too treacherous.
    Mr Glory cycles all year round, here in Ottawa. Yikes!
    The biggest issue for me was feet, hands, eyes and thighs.
    Here is a list of what I have;
    feet - wool socks, leather runners or even my snow boots. Columbia short minx which are lightweight. If I wear the runners I use neoprene covers which I purchased from Bushtaka.
    Hands - I have cycling gloves with two fingers and they work fairly well. But the best thing I have found are insulated nylons covered gloves from The Bay. They are not cycling gear but we’re a game changer. The other two finger gloves are from Mec.
    Body - I use an undershirt, then a base layer thin mérino wool or if it’s very windy a thermal top. My merino is from Costco Paradox brand. My thermal is from Patagonia. I have a hooded mid weight hoodie from Mec if it’s really chilly. The hood is snug and fits under the helmet. 

    I have a thermal cycling jacket from Garneau. 
    Legs. I have liner bike shorts from Mec. They are excellent and help to keep the pelvis warm. I have a couple levels of tights from thin to thermal. But the best thing I have are tights from Mec that are wind proof on the front. I’ve had these a few years and use them for many winter activities.
    eyes - I haven’t solved this but am looking at an eye wrap from Garneau.
    Hope this helps.

  • Laurie replied 1 year ago

    So sorry about your injury preventing walking. I'm nursing a calf muscle problem that seems to be getting worse not better, and I'm terrified I am going to have to lay off the walking. My stress levels will soar. Good for you for jumping on the bike.

    Just chiming in to say get the proper cycling items. It's all about the wind. I really dislike cycling in cold weather but I did some century training a few years back that started in March in DC/MD/VA and it was freezing. The neoprene shoe covers are absolutely essential, as are proper gloves, for comfort.

    I didn't read all of the responses carefully, but I fear that puffer coats, etc., that are not made for cycling will not breathe well enough. 

    I agree with earlier comment that most bike gear is sized really small, and I've always had to size up. Jackets are often particularly narrow at the hips. The major bike shop that I used to get most of my gear from has gone out of business, sadly, but looks like lots of good suggestions above. Ride happy!

  • Teresa replied 1 year ago

    I’m back to make one more suggestion—a good neck gaiter.  You can pull it up over your mouth to keep your face warm, and it can be an impromptu Covid mask if you’re passing close by other people:)

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Thank you all so much. These are really helpful suggestions, warnings, and ideas. I've taken them all to heart. 

    Merwoman, thank you for the info on the jacket. I will check it out. But I think maybe the problem is that down is too warm for my temps here when riding...hmmm. Different conditions in the west. 

    LAR 101 and Glory and Carla, thank you for the specific product recommendations -- super helpful. I can look and compare to what I have and see what the differences are. 

    The current plan: 

    1. Wait on delivery of the items I have ordered (thermal tights, jersey, gloves, and reflective jacket) and see if these are going to work. Size, wise, I may have ordered wrong -- if things fit smaller I might be in trouble, I went with reviews and sizing charts but who knows??? And the items may not be what I imagined in other respects. So we'll see. 

    2. Consider purchase of a neck gaiter and shoe covers. So far, my neck/ mouth/ face have not been cold at all. My base layer has a turtleneck (half zip) so that protects the neck area. But  I notice lots of other riders wearing these things. I guess in a pinch I could use it as a COVID mask, ha! Also, possibly, as per Glory's suggestion -- liner bike shorts. I don't have any but maybe that added layer would be useful. 

    3. I certainly need better footwear and or shoe covers. 

  • Liesbeth replied 1 year ago

    I have two 'issues' when cycling in the cold:
    Generating heat in my core as soon as I've really got started. This means not wearing as warm a jacket as I would for hiking.
    Cold extremities (as you rightly point out). Gloves, a well fitting hat, good socks etc are necessary... BUT bundling up like that further increases body heat retention too so it's hard to find a balance and I've been known to shed my gloves after a while at 10C.

  • Angie replied 1 year ago

    I have zero tips because I don't bike, but am sending healing thoughts to your knee. xo

  • JAileen replied 1 year ago

    Yesterday I really saw a cyclist.  He was wearing hi viz clothes, including his knapsack.  Also he had big mittens that must be special for cycling.  The color is important.  I haven’t been riding lately, but I always worry about cars.

  • Firecracker (Sharan) replied 1 year ago

    My favorite cold- and wet-weather cycling cap is from Louis Garneau, a Canadian company! I also have a spring/fall windbreaker from them that I love. I wear the cap under my helmet. I love having the visor on rainy days, to keep the rain off my glasses, and the cap really covers my ears securely, which is key for me. I can't stand having the wind sneak in by my ears. (I wear my glasses OVER the cap, with a sport strap to keep them on.) Oh, and I have cycling glasses (prescription sports glasses), to which I clip a rear-view mirror. My cycling glasses have transition lenses, so they become sunglasses when needed.

  • celia replied 1 year ago

    Hi Suz, I have no advise but just want to wish a speedy recovery and say that your profile picture looks awesome :)

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