Winter Survival Guide: Choosing apparel

From baselayers to jackets to headbands, here's what you need to know

 In order to beat back the wet roads and frigid air of Winter, proper selection of armor, both for yourself and your bike, is imperative. Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

In order to beat back the wet roads and frigid air of winter, proper selection of armor, both for yourself and your bike, is imperative (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

Editor’s Note: This article is courtesy of the team at Art’s Cyclery. The original post can be found here.

Winter presents challenges to cyclists that CrossFitters will never have to deal with. There is never rain inside The Box, making it possible to flip the same tire over and over, all year long, with no need for all-weather tread or puncture protection during the wet months. Plus, the same pair of gloves will do for any condition encountered in The Box; there’s no reason to own summer gloves, fall/spring gloves, winter gloves, rain gloves, and maybe even snow mitts.

Judging by the outfits, this must be a Summer-specific tire. Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Judging by the outfits, this must be a summer-specific tire (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

But we cyclists don’t live inside a Box. Instead we have to use every means at our disposal to maintain motivation and fitness when the weather turns cold and wet. When the weather is foul enough to chase even the bravest souls inside, we do have the option of indoor trainer workouts, but still, nothing beats riding en plain air, feeling the (biting) wind, enjoying the (heavily cloud-filtered) sunshine, and hearing the sound of tires (splashing) across the pavement. Even though CrossFit has a huge following of rabid exercisers, cycling has centuries of evolution, leading to the vast array of knowledge and products available to keep you riding, out of doors, throughout the coldest months of the year.

As this winter is forecasted to provide plentiful amounts of precipitation, along with cold temps in the appropriate parts of the country, we present our Winter Survival Guide: Apparel. In order to beat back the wet roads and frigid air of winter, proper selection of armor, both for yourself and your bike, is imperative. Hopefully this edition of the guide helps empower you to get your miles in and resist the disease of corporal softening and swelling so prevalent during the winter season. With the proper gear, not only will you be riding comfortably all winter long, you’ll actually be looking forward to the opportunity to ride on the coldest days of the year.


Building a winter cycling kit with several layers will keep you on the road (or dirt if your trails can handle the wet) even when conditions are at their worst. As the air gets colder, just add an appropriate layer. You may or may not be hardcore enough to need an insulated, waterproof, fleeced jacket, but if you have a couple base layers, a thermal jersey, and maybe a vest(all of which will get plenty of use), then a light rain shell will top that off nicely, keeping you dry without costing much.

Stay warmer by wearing fitted apparel, as looser cut garments move around more, letting warm air escape and cold air to replace it.

Craft long sleeve base layer. Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Craft long sleeve base layer (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

Base Layers

Base layers are the foundation upon which your insulation shell is built (there are warm weather base layers also, intended to enhance ventilation and sweat evaporation, but for our purposes any references made to “base layers” indicate the cold-weather variety). A good base layer garment has a high warmth-to-weight ratio, keeping you toasty without introducing much bulk, weight, or restriction.

Fitting snugly and worn against the body, cold-weather base layers are made from fabrics that are designed to trap heat and wick moisture off the skin. This is accomplished through fabric construction, type of fabric used, and coverage area of the garment. Base layers add temperature range to any apparel piece, though exactly how much temperature range is added depends on the base layer’s thickness and coverage.

Select your base layers according to the weather you’ll encounter on a ride. Sleeveless base layers are versatile and quite effective when paired with arm warmers. This combo provides crucial core warmth but leaves open the possibility for ventilation by removing the warmers. If it’s cold enough to wear a long sleeve jersey for an entire ride, then a long sleeve base layer will be much more convenient than a sleeveless layer plus arm warmers. If you need extra warmth without much more bulk, try combining a tank top-style over a long sleeve base layer.

Continue to page 2 for more tips on cold weather apparel »
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About the author: Arts Cyclery

This article was originally published on the Art's Cyclery Blog. Art's Cyclery is dedicated to offering free expert advice, how-to videos, and in-depth product reviews on to help riders make an educated decision when selecting cycling gear.

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