Dec 072010
How to stay warm on a bike

If you’ve been thinking how you can keep yourself warm whilst cycling this winter you are not the only one! We’ve been freezing our proverbials off in the recent cold spell. With all our “learnings” we have put together 5 top tips for staying warm whilst on your bike.

Tip 1 – Keep your ears, feet and hands warm

Cold ears, feet and hands are one of the quickest ways to ruin a nice winter ride.  A simple headband will keep your ears toasty and fit under your helmet comfortably. These can be bought for as little as £13 from stores like Evans. An alternative is a “Buff” or tubular garment. You can use it to keep neck warm, or wear as bandana or ear warmers or wristband or…the list goes on.

A good pair of thick socks will keep your feet warmer. However, if you wear cycling shoes you will notice the effect of a pair of overshoes immediately. I have just worn through my Pro Tarmac H2O overshoes. They lasted over two years and did a good job for the price. As a result, I’ve just ordered some more for under £30.

Gloves are a bit tricky. A good fit is essential and I don’t want so much insulation that my grip on the levers is compromised. I’ve just ordered some Seal Skinz, on a recommendation.

Tip 2 – Stay dry

Getting really wet is the final nail in the coffin for me when it comes to cold weather cycling. A drenched bum or a soaked through jacket can take away a lot of a ride’s fun.

A simple rear mud guard can make a big difference. I like the removable ones that SKS make, around £30 at Evans, because they are lightweight, look nice and can be easily switched between my bikes. However, there are plenty on the market and, with a bit of creativity you can even create your own with an old water bottle!

Water bottle mudguard on bike

A great waterproof jacket is essential. You can get the fabulous Proviz Hi Visibility Waterproof jacket at £56, on Going Going Bike. It is not only waterproof but, like all the Proviz kit, is designed for cyclists who want to stand out in the traffic (you can also check out some of their other Hi-Vis kit in the Proviz Webstore).

Tip 3 – Keep your core warm

Keep the core of your body warm by putting on an extra layer. This can be another t-shirt or ordinary vest but will ideally be a cycling specific vest.

For me (rather peculiarly!) wearing a cycling vest makes me feel like a pro cyclist. I think it is something to do with seeing professionals slog up Tour de France mountains with their jersey open and their vest showing.

Anyway, they are perfect for summer or winter so I would recommend you have one regardless of whether it makes you feel professional.

My friends will only buy their vests on their annual pilgrimage to Alpe d’Huez. Not everyone can be so choosy. I have used this vest for the last two years (available at Wiggle for about £20) and it has served me well in both the hot and cold.

Tip 4 – Stop for regular warm drinks

The age-old answer to cold cycling conditions is to stop more frequently and have more hot drinks (and cake!). Coffee and cycling are natural bed fellows, and cold winter rides can be made far more enjoyable/bearable with the addition of an extra stop or two.

Tip 5 – Pedal faster and harder

You might not like me for this final suggestion! A sure fire way to heat yourself up is to pedal harder and faster.

Although, with a moment of weakness, I recently considered that going faster would in fact be colder, pedalling harder will really warm you up.

In fact, unless you decide to get on your bike in full skiing kit, you probably need to pedal hard in addition to wearing proper kit in order to stay warm when the temperature plunges!

Main image courtesy of Bicycle Images; photographer Matt Shaw

  6 Responses to “5 top tips to stay warm whilst cycling…”

  1. Yep, I’m just figuring out the layering options myself to stay warm. I’m either overheating in my cocoon of wool or freezing my extremities off. I wear regular clothes when I commute so I am having particular problems figuring out the shoe thing unless I just haul a pair of office-appropriate with me.

    Thanks for the tips. We’re not as wet as you are in London but we have to contend with snow/ice sometimes.

    • @Jennifer – my pleasure. Cold feet are a big problem for those of us who cycle in normal clothes!

      I think the answer is in the sock and will be doing a review next week with my findings.

      Hopefully I can report back with good news then!

  2. Good tips, but: “as little as £13″!! I got a perfectly good headband for £2.99 from Decathlon. Evans is extremely expensive, especially for clothing / accessories. I’m sure most cyclists ride bikes for economic reasons as well as all the others, so how about some tips for a those of us on a modest budget. Thank you.

  3. Point taken @The Girl From Clapham. We will try to suggest kit for all price brackets…with your recommendation in mind (and as a lifelong fan of decathlon kit)…I would add their headband into the mix £8.99

  4. Ooh, thanks for this. Any tips on when it’s not safe to ride / what to watch out for in inclement weather? I’m originally from California so icy / snowy conditions are new to me!

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