5 Essentials for Cold Weather Riding
It’s miserable outside, but that’s no excuse to not be on your bike
When it’s constantly cold and wet—like it’s been in New Mexico thanks to the Godzilla El Niño—there are always rollers or the trainer. But long stationary hours can be mind-numbing and kill any motivation to ride. That’s why we’re thankful for the following gear, which gets us outside even in the foulest weather.
Rapha Pro Team Thermal Aerosuit ($440)
Sure, you could bundle up in jackets and bibs, but this one-piece suit is warmer and less bulky. The top is cut extra high, almost to the solar plexus, which prevents air leaks. The entire front of the suit is constructed from a waffle-weave fleece interior and a smooth windproof and water-resistant exterior, while the back is made with a lighter-weight fleece for ventilation. We carried a waterproof jacket the first few times we went out in this, but if you’re going hard, the onesie should be ample protection unless it’s drilling down rain. With Rapha’s excellent and very thick built-in chamois and three voluminous pockets, the Aerosuit is pretty much the only piece of apparel we’ve been riding in since late November. With a light base layer or nothing at all, it’s comfy to around 45 or 50 degrees. With a heavy base layer, like the Assos Skinfoil, we’ve been riding it on the road down to around 15 degrees. Our only complaint: the all-black scheme might look hip but does nothing for visibility on long, dark days.
Assos LS.Skinfoil_Winter_EVO7 ($139)
This woven base layer is thick but not bulky and incredibly warm, and it doesn’t retain moisture, thanks to the 85 percent polypropylene and 15 percent polyester construction. The piece is one long seamless tube with varying thicknesses body-mapped to maximize insulation where you need it (the chest) and allow for venting and moisture dissipation elsewhere (the back). There’s body-mapped insulation in the sleeves, too, which are thicker up front and thinner on the back. The neck is high to seal out wind, and the torso is long enough to make tucking easy. We tend to go with something lighter if the temperature creeps above 40, but when it’s very cold, this is the go-to insulator.
Specialized Defroster Trail ($200)
These shoes are not nearly as warm as, say, the 45Nrth Wölvhammer or the Lake MXZ303, but their svelte profile makes them better for the road. With Thinsulate built into the upper, they’re plenty warm for a couple hours in the cold, especially if you layer with a thick wool sock. The storm flap over the instep keeps out muck and ice, and the huge Velcro strap around the ankle and shin provides a great seal that’s easy to adjust while wearing gloves. Specialized also makes a road version without the lugged sole, but we prefer the MTB variety for its grip in variable conditions. And Rapha should take a cue from Specialized’s high-visibility orange.
45Nrth Sturmfist 4 ($130)
We love 45Nrth’s trim Sturmfist 5 gloves for a run-of-the-mill cold day, but when it’s truly frigid out (say, zero degrees), we bust out the big boys. With Polartec Alpha insulation wrapped between a wind- and water-resistant Polartec NeoShell exterior, these gloves are as toasty as you can get. There’s even gel insulation beneath the goat leather palms so metal bars and shifters won’t sap warmth. Inside, the shell lining and removable liner glove are constructed of soft merino wool, which retains heat even when wet. If it’s so raw out that your hands get cold in these gloves, you should consider pogies or perhaps just stay home and sit by the fire.
Lazer Dissent (From $160)
Your buddies may ridicule you for wearing this helmet on the road (mine did), but you’ll have the last laugh with a toasty noggin. In fact, our only real complaint about the Dissent is that it can be too warm for anything but the coldest days. Appropriated from Lazer’s ski line to double for fat biking, this extended-coverage lid has an insulated liner and removable fleece earpieces that wrap around the back of your neck. The switch on top opens and closes the vents, making it easier to regulate your temperature. And Lazer’s Roll-Sys adjustment knob at the crest of the head is probably the easiest we’ve found for turning while wearing thick gloves. There’s a universal GoPro-style mount for attaching a light, a channel and quick clip in back for holding goggles in place, and a rear-facing LED blinker on the Roll-Sys dial ($10). Though it looks heavy at 425 grams for a size medium, this helmet doesn’t weigh much more than many all-mountain lids. Best of all, it can double for skiing, especially now that Lazer is offering the Dissent with MIPS technology to protect against the rotational forces of a crash.