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You don't need to spend a fortune on a winter cycling outfit

Sometimes cycling can seem like a very expensive hobby, especially during the winter when you need to invest in suitable clothing to enable you to continue riding when it's cold, dark and wet.

Inspired by a forum thread on road.cc titled “winter road clothes on a budget” we’ve set out to show it’s possible to outfit your cycling wardrobe for winter without spending a fortune.

We’ve put together a complete outfit for £172.59. That’s not to say you can’t go cheaper, you probably can if you shop around and make the most of sales and end of season discounts, but these are all readily available garments in a range of sizes.

You might already have some cycling clothing though - shorts, base layer, jersey for example - in which case you are halfway there and can consider adding some accessories such as arm and leg warmers and a jacket, so you don’t have to rush out and buy all this kit at the same time.

It's also worth keeping an eye on value-for-money supermarkets Aldi and Lidl. Both have cycling gear on offer from time to time, including budget base layers and jackets, so with a bit of good timing you can kit yourself out for even less.

- Best cheap cycling shorts

- Best cheap cycling jerseys

Altura Merino Long Sleeve Baselayer — £19.12

Altura Merino Long Sleeve Baselayer

A good base layer is a solid foundation for any cycling outfit, and for winter a long sleeve base layer will provide the necessary warmth to insulate on a cold ride. Merino wool is a great fabric for base layers because it's light and warm, and because it doesn't get smelly easily, so if you can get away with wearing it several times before it needs washing. Handy if you're riding a lot.

If that's still too expensive, £7.99 gets you the B'Twin 100 Cycling Base Layer.

B’Twin 100 Warm Cycling Jacket — £29.99

 B’Twin 100 Warm Cycling Jacket.jpg

A jacket is an essential at this time of year, to keep you warm when it’s cold and protected from the wind and rack. It’s one of the most expensive items of cycling clothing, so spend as much as your budget will allow. This smart looking jacket from Decathlon is fleece-lined for warmth with a windproof fabric on the outside and a water repellent material on the front panels and arms. It’s finished with lots of reflective material and three pockets.

The British winter can be very unpredictable and the best approach to dealing with it is choosing clothing that allows you to adapt to those constantly changing variables. It's also ensuring you pick the right clothing for the type of weather as well, if you never go out in the rain then there's little point in investing in a waterproof jacket, for example.

dhb Flashlight Bib Tights — £45

dhb-Flashlight-Bib-Tights-Cycling-Tights-Black-AW16-NU0534.jpg

If you do want to put your shorts to one side and invest in a pair of cycling bib tights, you can’t go wrong with dhb’s offering, and these Flashlight Bib Tights provide extra safety by way of large reflective prints. The tights have a high-quality CyTech Elastic Interface padded insert for maximum seated comfort and the legs are made from a Ceylon performance stretch fabric.

Tad pricey? B'Twin's 100 bib tights are just £19.99.

dhb Aeron Rain Defence Leg Warmers — £30

dhb Aeron Rain Defence Leg Warmers

We haven’t tested this exact incarnation of dhb’s well-priced Roubaix leg warmers, but we liked the very similar Pace Roubaix model.

Those were excellent, with five separate panels to give an 'anatomical' shape - ie, they've got a bend half way down, to match the bend in your leg, and silicone grippers round the inside of the ankle cuff, and around the inside and outside of the thigh cuff so they don't slip down from under your shorts to reveal that annoying and very unstylish inch of bare skin.

These have an identical feature set, plus clever water-repellent fabric so you don't get soaked if it's a bit wet.

Read our review of the dhb Regulate leg warmers

Buyer's Guide to arm and leg warmers + 14 of the best

B'Twin 900 Winter Gloves — £19.99

BTwin 700 Winter Cycling Gloves.jpg

The B'Twin 900 Winter Cycling Gloves are designed for cold weather rides around the three-hour mark. For less than £20 and as an overall package, they are genuinely impressive.

Read our review of the B'Twin 900 Winter Gloves

dhb Classic Thermal socks — £5.50

dhb Classic Thermal Sock - Breton.jpg

dhb's Classic Thermal socks have kept our feet comfortable on some long and occasionally bitterly chill rides. They're decent value too. According to dhb, their hollow-core fibres are engineered so they'll trap air to provide warmth and comfort without additional weight or, crucially, density, which can spoil the snug fit of your shoes.

Read our review of the DHB Classic Thermal socks

Madison Sportive PU Thermal Overshoes — £22.99

Madison Sportive Aero overshoes.jpg

These are the least expensive overshoes to earn a rating of 4 1/2 out of 5 from our reviewers; they're a great option for wet weather riding, with the added thermal benefits providing some much-appreciated insulation.

Although described as a mid-weight overshoe by Madison, they don't struggle when the temperature gets down to low single figures. Featuring a fleece lining that fits snugly to your shoes in tandem with an unvented, taped waterproof top layer, these overshoes are surprisingly warm in all conditions bar freezing or below.

Read our review of Madison Sportive PU Thermal Overshoes
Find a Madison dealer


These are very much the basics that we reckon you need to tackle a bike ride lasting a couple of hours or more. The jacket will see you through most of the winter, the base layer will keep you warm and dry, and the tights and gloves will keep your legs and hands protected. From here you can add more accessories as you see fit, and things like overshoes, merino wool cycling socks and head and neck warmers are other items of clothing that you might want to look at adding to your cycling wardrobe.

And if you need some shoes (we're sort of assuming you already have some cycling shoes) then there are lots of affordable options, as this guide shows.

Hopefully, these recommendations will prepare you for winter riding. Do you have any good winter clothing that you use?

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Road.cc buyer's guides are maintained and updated by John Stevenson. Email John with comments, corrections or queries.

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

12 comments

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CygnusX1 [1099 posts] 2 years ago
3 likes

One more essential - overshoes. Keep the rain, road spray, salt and other crud off your shoes and add a layer of windproofing for your toes.

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Simontuck [202 posts] 2 years ago
3 likes

Skullcap. Preferably windproof and long enough to cover my ears and keep the wind out. Check it fits under your helmet comfortably, but most helmets are easy enough to adjust slightly.

Necktube. Doesn't need to be very thick or windproof (but these are available options) I use one I got free with a motorbike magazine years ago. It just plugs a few gaps, provides a handy nose wipe and can cover most of my face if its really miserable weather.

Avatar
urbane [100 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Simontuck wrote:

Skullcap. Preferably windproof and long enough to cover my ears and keep the wind out. Check it fits under your helmet comfortably, but most helmets are easy enough to adjust slightly.

Necktube. Doesn't need to be very thick or windproof (but these are available options) I use one I got free with a motorbike magazine years ago. It just plugs a few gaps, provides a handy nose wipe and can cover most of my face if its really miserable weather.

I've recently bought thin synthetic cycle skullcaps and balaclavas from Decathlon, and earlier bought thin motorcycle balaclavas from Halfords.   A balaclava is plain better than a skullcap and necktube because of full coverage and ease of use, and you can speak through them easily.  I prefer a balaclava to a skullcap when the temperature drops below 4C and they are great below zero.

Avatar
robertoegg [117 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
Simontuck wrote:

Skullcap. Preferably windproof and long enough to cover my ears and keep the wind out. Check it fits under your helmet comfortably, but most helmets are easy enough to adjust slightly.

Necktube. Doesn't need to be very thick or windproof (but these are available options) I use one I got free with a motorbike magazine years ago. It just plugs a few gaps, provides a handy nose wipe and can cover most of my face if its really miserable weather.

 

Interesting - I find I only need anything near my head / neck if it's sub-zero. Else I'm working hard enough that I get too hot with that lot on.

Indeed, the true budget option is to carry on uysing your summer gear with a non-breathable jacket! Plenty warm ta...

I agree on overshoes though - you can get the Planet X neoprene ones for about £12 - £20 depending on their sales. 

Avatar
abrooks [33 posts] 11 months ago
3 likes

Some great suggestions here and on the forum thread but if the clothing (or the process) don't make you feel dirty there is a steady market in second hand clothes from the pricier brands.  I have bought and sold jackets and jerseys from Rapha and Assos and would not hesitate to do it again.  

Colours that aren't popular or slight marks can precipitate some great bargains.  Maybe worth looking at for a jacket for example, which is probably going to be the priciest item on your list.

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peted76 [1214 posts] 11 months ago
2 likes

I've got a really thin lycra 'headband' which is just wide enough to cover my ears (about three inches I'd guess) but does not 'insulate' my head like a skullcap does.  It cost very little and does one job (keeps your ears out of the wind).  I've had it for about five years and although I've never really given it much thought.. is probably one of my most important items as it's great for 'most types of British weather' above about five degrees. Highly recommended.

Avatar
Grahamd [996 posts] 11 months ago
1 like
peted76 wrote:

I've got a really thin lycra 'headband' which is just wide enough to cover my ears (about three inches I'd guess) but does not 'insulate' my head like a skullcap does.  It cost very little and does one job (keeps your ears out of the wind).  I've had it for about five years and although I've never really given it much thought.. is probably one of my most important items as it's great for 'most types of British weather' above about five degrees. Highly recommended.

Have a Giordana one that is made of a very warm fabric. Ears and forehead sorted, which makes an enormous difference. Cost less than £10.

Avatar
Duncann [1443 posts] 11 months ago
0 likes
Grahamd wrote:
peted76 wrote:

I've got a really thin lycra 'headband' which is just wide enough to cover my ears (about three inches I'd guess) but does not 'insulate' my head like a skullcap does.  It cost very little and does one job (keeps your ears out of the wind).  I've had it for about five years and although I've never really given it much thought.. is probably one of my most important items as it's great for 'most types of British weather' above about five degrees. Highly recommended.

Have a Giordana one that is made of a very warm fabric. Ears and forehead sorted, which makes an enormous difference. Cost less than £10.

Likewise, I have an Aldi light fleece band from years ago and it's essential for properly-cold weather.

More recently I lashed out £5 on a pair of their winter gloves, which are also excellent.

Agree with others about overshoes - feet pretty quickly go numb otherwise on long, cold rides.

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BehindTheBikesheds [2619 posts] 11 months ago
0 likes

There are always bargains to be had even with the top names. My son bought me a Helly Hansen Freeze base layer for £29 xmas '16, I got a Mountain Warehouse soft shell 5 years ago for £25 which has been fantastic, LIDL were selling a great softshell for £15 a couple of years ago.

Showers Pass Skyline for £43 posted autumn just gone which I love (there are still some in Red in a small ebay no. 252743126379)

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PeterCee [13 posts] 11 months ago
0 likes

I too am a massive fan of the Decathlon Cycling Balaclava.

The material is very thin and stretchy, when you first put it on you think it's going to be too cold - but it's perfect. Your head never gets too hot even under the helmet and the lightweight material over the ears, neck and chin area is perfect in  0deg C to 6 degC conditions.

Its nice and cheap, superlight and packs away to nothing.

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Freddy56 [353 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

 

LG Gortex winter boots.

Galibier Mistral Pro jacket.

Sportful No Rain Tights.

Endura MT500 gloves.

 

What winter?

 

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MarsFlyer [18 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

I like the dhb Flashlight bib tights as they are one of the only ones available without a fleece fabric - perfect for our milder autumn/winters. Also the majority of bib tights seem to be totally black, the refelective parts on these are visibile in daytime and nighttime.