In recent years, bike-apparel companies have stepped up to build gear to keep you seriously warm and dry during the most frigid rides. Here’s the winter kit that keeps me pedaling through the worst weather the season has to offer.
Getting icicles in my beard sucks, which is why I’ve started packing one of these on any ride that’s below freezing. This Buff has a layer of fleece-lined Gore Windstopper on the bottom half of the tube, which keeps the soft fabric against my face and the tough outer material shielding me from the elements. No more icicles.
Sealskinz added a heating mechanism to an already warm, waterproof glove that’s stuffed with PrimaLoft Gold insulation. Two separate, rechargeable battery packs are hidden in the cuffs, and you can choose three levels of heat. Most winter days, the gloves are warm enough on their own, but occasionally, that extra boost of toastiness keeps me in the saddle longer. The goat-leather palms provide grippy contact with the bars, too.
My layering on chilly rides starts with a merino-wool base layer. This hoodie is step two. The majority of the Versa is soft shell, which lends a solid amount of stretch and mobility, but the chest panel is loaded with 133 grams of PrimaLoft insulation to keep the heat in. It’s all protected by a water- and wind-resistant poly face that keeps my chest shielded from any gusts. A rear stash pocket is big enough for snacks, while a zippered chest compartment can hold your phone. I find it burly enough to work as an outer shell if it’s snowing or lightly drizzling.
I’m picky about my pants. I don’t want to wear tights, but I don’t want baggy cargos either. I need them to be warm without suffocating, and they have to be able to shift from the bike to the bar with ease. The Haskell fills all my requirements and then some. It’s cut without being too skinny, and it’s made from a warm, tough, double-woven nylon that’s soft and stretchy. Kitsbow loaded it with pockets: a small cargo pouch for keys or a wallet, two deep slots on the side, and a dedicated one on the hip that can hold most phones. Reflective stripes on the back and cuffs enhance visibility to others, ideal for low-light sessions.
The wind is often the trickiest aspect of riding in the winter. Technically, you don’t need a bike-specific wind jacket. (If you’re willing to forgo a drop-tail hem, a normal rain shell will work most of the time.) But POC’s Resistance Enduro will convince you otherwise. A suite of sport-specific details make this my go-to bike top. The elbows are reinforced to withstand scratches and scuffs but also stretchy enough to accommodate elbow pads. The hood fits snug under your helmet, while a tall collar helps block drafts and rain from your face. It’s made from ripstop nylon with a DWR treatment that will withstand everything shy of a monsoon. The whole thing comes in at a light 170 grams and easily stashes in its own chest pocket when the sky clears.
Full disclosure: this shoe is overkill for winters in the southern Appalachians, where I do the majority of my winter riding. But if you’re looking for a clipless shoe that will keep your feet warm in the coldest temperatures, the XM9 is your jam. A completely waterproof Gore-Tex liner is matched with a nubuck-leather upper and padded high-top ankle cuff for a winter boot that eliminates the need for covers or gaiters. It’s basically a cross-country ski boot that’s compatible with SPD cleats. I like the power strap—tech borrowed from the nordic world—that tightens across the bridge of your foot to give you a super secure fit. With an EVA foam midsole and a half-length shank, these shoes offer support and make walking comfortable.