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. But you don't need to spend big; here's a selection of sensibly-priced gear that'll keep you going through winter
Premium winter cycling kit is undeniably expensive, but you can put together a decent outfit for less than the price of a somewhat posh civilian overcoat.
It's worth having a delve through the whole range of the brands here — there are bargains to be had.
Prioritise warmth – it's cold far more than it rains
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 £176.74 (plus £18 for leg warmers if you want to wear them with your existing kit). 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, £9.99 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.
Wear it round your neck to seal out collar draughts, pull it up over your ears or turn it into a skullcap — there are few pieces of winter clothing more versatile or useful than a Merino tube from Buff. There are heavyweight Merino and fleece versions too, but this is the one we always reach for when stepping out into cold weather.
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 £24.99.
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 RC 500 winter gloves for £14.99.
Galibier's Fire Feet socks have kept our feet comfortable on some long and occasionally bitterly chill rides. They're decent value too. According to Galibier, they're made from a wool/acrylic mix, with the foot bed made from Merino wool for warmth. They're toasty.
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 worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. 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, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.