Sometimes riding a bike can seem like a very expensive hobby, especially during the darker months of the year when you need to invest in suitable winter cycle clothing so you can 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 get winter cycle clothing 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 winter cycle clothing 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.
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, and it means you can buy one base layer instead of several.
If that's still too expensive, £7.99 gets you the Triban RC 100 Cycling Base Layer.
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.
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. These tights are made from brushed fabric for warmth and have a high-quality CyTech Veloce padded insert for maximum seated comfort. Reflective patches on the thighs, rear and above the knees help with night-time visibility.
Tad pricey? B'Twin's 100 bib tights are just £19.99.
We haven’t tested this exact incarnation of dhb’s well-priced fleece-backed 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.
The Triban 900 Winter Cycling Gloves from sports megastore chain Decathlon are designed for cold weather rides around the three-hour mark. For less than £25 and as an overall package, they are genuinely impressive.
If they're still a bit pricey, take a look at Decathlon's Triban 500 winter gloves, currently on sale for just £7.99.
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.
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.
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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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.