Winter is drawing in so it’s time to roll out that cliché so beloved by know-it-all riders the world over: “There’s no such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong kit.” Of course, such wisdom doesn’t help in the slightest when you’re caught out by the vagaries of the British climate. But, as infuriating as it may be to admit it, those smug folk do have a point.
The thing is, you probably wouldn’t head out on your bike without ensuring its tyres are pumped to something approaching the right pressure, and you also probably don’t go anywhere without a seatpack containing at least some puncture repair options. So it seems obvious that your clothing choices should be similarly well-prepared for the road ahead.
In fact, it’s not just about being ready for whatever the weather can throw at you. By choosing the right kit for winter riding, you can significantly improve your comfort and performance and, ultimately, your enjoyment of winter cycling. The right kit can even mean that even self-proclaimed fair-weather riders find that taking to post-October roads can be genuine fun.
But what kit do you need? Italian clothing legends Castelli very kindly offered road.cc’s Liam Cahill and Jamie Williams the pick from their fantastic range, so let’s see what the boys chose to keep them warm, dry and comfortable.
We are committed advocates of layering when it comes to cycle clothing, whatever the weather. However, winter rides – perhaps more than at any other time of the year – do place particular focus on one specific garment: the jacket. Modern winter cycling jackets really can do it all: waterproofing, windproofing, insulation and breathability. So pick a versatile jacket and you’ve made a fantastic cycling investment.
“The Flight Air is the lightest jacket in the Castelli range. Inside it has Polartec Alpha fleece lining that feels luxurious and is very warm. It blocks most of the wind but it also lets through just a little bit of air to help with breathability for when the going gets tough. That means you stay dry because you don’t sweat so much, which actually keeps you warmer. And for practicality purposes, the Flight Air’s three large gusseted pockets at the back are perfect for securely essentials, like your phone.”
“I think this is one of the best jackets on the market; it has pretty much everything that you need. The Perfetto RoS has Gore-Tex Infinium fabric front and back. At the front, the material is slightly brushed which is a little better for keeping yourwarm, while the fabric at the back is better for making sure you don’t overheat. Side zippers help to let heat out without affecting the jacket’s nice and close fit, and taped seams on the shoulders ensure rainproofing. It's also got a fab high collar for keeping the chill out.”
If you need just a little more protection and insulation, especially to maintain essential core temperature, there’s really nothing better, simpler - and easier to stash away afterwards - than a gilet. This sleeveless wonder will keep the heat exactly where it’s needed, as well as potentially offering added wind and rain resistance.
“This is a really nice bit of kit with reflective detailing around the arm openings and a double zip down the front. This really helps if you’re trying to access something in your jacket pockets: simply unzip from the bottom.”
Whether you prefer bibtights or bibshorts (with the option of removable leg warmers), keeping your legs warm and dry is key when it comes to cycling performance. There's no avoiding it: wind and rain protection is super important when it comes to pumping out the mileage on a long wintry day in the saddle.
“These are the winter versions of the bibshorts I wear in the summer and I love them. They’re very comfortable but they also have a bit of rain protection built in.”
“These bibshorts are fleece-lined for comfort and also come with a DWR water-resistant coating to keep off the worst road spray and stop you getting a soggy bottom. I use these along with Castelli Nano Flex 3G Kneewarmers (£52) to make sure I get lots of use out of the shorts in autumn and spring, too.”
So you’ve got your main body and legs sorted, now time for some other hugely important parts: your extremities. Forget lung-busting climbs, the most painful thing you will ever feel on a bike is cold, wet, numb fingers (or toes, come to that). Let’s see how you can keep your digits completely cosy.
“This glove has fantastic dexterity that allows you to feel the bars nice and securely, with grippy sections really serving to enhance contact. The gloves are windproof and waterproof, and they have reflective accents on the palm so that cars can see you when you are indicating. Finally, touch-sensitive sections on the forefingers and thumbs mean you can use your phone without having to get your hands cold.”
“Because my hands freeze easily, I’ve got Castelli’s very warm Spettacolo RoS gloves. I particularly love them because, with their zip, they are easy to pull off or put back on over a thicker jacket to really keep the cold air at bay.”
We said that cold, wet and numb extremities are possibly the most painful thing you can experience on a bike – anybody who has suffered such wintry feet will probably never forget the sensation. And those people will need no convincing that overshoes are an absolute must if you go riding this winter.
“Along with the Spettacolo gloves, these Castelli Perfetto overshoes are some of the thicker options in Castelli’s range. If I pair them with some woolly socks, nothing is going to stop me from riding.”
“These are a bit more aero than Liam’s Perfetto overshoes but they’re waterproof, windproof and they also have reinforced bottoms to help prevent tearing.”
Six golden rules for winter ride layering
- Start with the right base layer
- Keep your core and head warm first
- A versatile jacket (like Castelli's Perfetto RoS 2) is a sensible investment
- Focus on breathability for faster riding
- Use more layers on easier days
- Take a rain shell on every ride
And if you really can’t face the weather…
For fair-weather riders who just can’t bring themselves to take on the conditions and who would far rather get their winter miles in via the turbo-trainer, don’t worry – Castelli has some perfect options for you.
The Castelli Insider Jersey and Insider 2 Bibshorts are designed to wick sweat away from your skin and keep you cool. The Castelli Insider Jersey (£90) is made from very thin fabric – almost base layer-like material – but with rear pockets and a full-length zip for easy removal. Meanwhile, the Castelli Insider 2 Bibshorts (£140) come with the Progetto X2 Air Skin seatpad for enhanced comfort during long sessions in the static bike saddle.
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