Giant Bicycles

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What to Wear for Winter!

As you might have noticed, the weather has changed since the summer! What do you do if you want to keep riding your bike in the colder wetter weather?

Here is a quick guide as to the basics of dressing for wetter, colder weather.

First off, start with your summer kit, shoes, shorts, jersey and helmet. For any winter day this is a good starting point. Riding your bike generates a lot of heat, this heat will keep you warm most of the time. The main problems come when you get wet – water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air. Or when it is windy, the wind will blow away any of the heat you generate. So a lot of winter clothing for cycling is protection from the elements rather than insulation.

Insulation will become necessary if it is a very cold day, or if you are stopping at any point on your ride (think food stop or changing a flat tire, not always planned!). Or some people simply feel the cold more than others. Insulation is also good for your extremities; fingers, toes, the bits furthest from your heart. Remember not to use any cotton layers – cotton can hold up to 27 times its own weight in water (think lots of cold clammy sweat held up against your skin!). Always use synthetics or Merino wool – fabrics that have been designed to wick away moisture.

A lot of heat can also be lost from your head, so all those vents in your helmet that keep you cool in the summer are going to make you feel cold in the winter when you add a bit of rain or a cool morning/breeze.

Here we have Mark all ready for a summer ride, wicking jersey, padded shorts, helmet and cycling shoes. What do we need to add to get him ready for the weather?

Now he has some arm and leg warmers. These are going to extend his shorts into tights and his short sleeved jersey into a long sleeved jersey. These are a great way to take what you already have and winterize it economically! Plus the added bonus being that if the weather warms up he can simply remove the extensions and put them into a pocket in his jersey. We have also added a headband that is going to help keep his head and ears warm on a chilly day. You could go a step further and add a thin hat under the helmet, or even a helmet cover.

If you are doing a lot of cold weather riding you could also look at getting some longer tights, made from a thicker material to give some more insulation, and the same with the jersey. Many of this style of product will also include some wind proofing.

What is the difference between windproof and waterproof?

Windproof products such as Gore Windstopper, add a layer that protects you from the wind. Waterproofing means a layer has been added to protect you from the rain. All things that are waterproof are also windproof, not all things that are windproof are waterproof (although they will cut a lot of the moisture that comes through). Not all waterproofs are equal, some will breathe better and stop you getting so sweaty. Some will be more waterproof i.e. they can take more water and pressure before they leak.  A good way of checking if something is waterproof is to look for taping on the inside of the seams. Basically every needle hole equals just that, a hole. Add some pressure and this will leak hence the waterproof taping on the reverse. There are many different variations/brands/costs involved. Water resistant is also a common term, this does not mean waterproof. Another common term is DWR, more on this term later….


To get Mark properly ready for the rain we have added a Sugoi jacket and waterproof pants. This jacket from Sugoi highlights another important thing to consider when riding in winter – visibility. Most cycling clothing will have highly reflective accents which are easily picked up by car headlights. This jacket goes a bit further as the next image shows (this has been taken with the flash on). As it is generally duller/darker in winter using some good lights on your bike is only a starting point! We have also a paid of waterproof overshoes. Once you add a jacket and pants the water will run straight down the legs and onto your shoes. This allows you to use your existing shoes but stops your feet getting wet. They also add a bit of insulation, thus keeping your feet and toes warmer!

Here we have swapped Mark’s Sugoi outfit for the Gore equivalent. This is a more expensive outfit but it has a higher rating for waterproofing and a higher rating for breathability, meaning you are going to be less sweaty at the end of your ride! Again there are lots of highly reflective accents to help with visibility.

What happens if you are riding in the mud a lot – for example mountain biking? One way is to go for a nice breathable jacket/pants etc. A more economic solution is to just get a highly waterproof jacket. Bear in mind that on a muddy day all the breathability will become clogged with mud anyway. This Fox jacket is a popular choice for an early season run in the bike park but is also great for a winter ride on a budget!

If you don’t use cycling shoes and SPD style pedals then you can still get a shoe cover. This one from Sugoi converts any style of shoe!

Gloves are a big concern for winter, most people are looking for something waterproof and insulating. Here are a couple of options from Gore and Sugoi. The Gore is a traditional waterproof/insulated glove.

The model from Sugoi is a bit different. It works more like a wetsuit glove. You will get slightly wet on a longer ride but should stay nice and warm.

The final thing to remember is that your nice waterproof products need some care! Most waterproof/windproof/water resistant products will come with a coating on them called a Durable Water Repellency (or DWR). This coating encourages water to bead and run off the jacket. It is the first line of defence against water/rain. It will break down/wear off over time. For example if you wear a backpack whilst riding, this will wear the DWR quicker where it comes into contact/rubs against your jacket. Once the DWR has worn off it will mean that the face fabric of your jacket will now absorb water – it shouldn’t leak it just won’t breathe anymore. If your jacket changes colour when it rains and the water is not beading off then it means the DWR is not working any more. Do not worry, this is normal. All you need to do is ‘re-proof’ your jacket. This can be done in any washing machine using a product such as Nikwax or Grangers (available at any outdoor sports store). Some can be sprayed on, some are suitable for soft shells, some for waterproofs, some require a drier, read the instructions carefully and see which works for you. Do not use normal washing detergent on waterproof products. These work to get your regular clothes clean by encouraging them to absorb more water – this is the complete opposite of what you want to do, and might even damage them permanently! This advice applies to pretty much any technical waterproof/soft shell, windproof, highly water resistant product . The more it is used the more it will need this coating replaced.

Mark would only wear the men’s clothing, but we do have a full range of equivalent women’s clothing in stock too!

Please come by the Broadway store any time to have a look at our winter clothing (we also still have lots of summer clothing at 50% off). Or if you need any advice on anything cycling related we are more than happy to help!

Some further reading;

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Posted: Oct 27 2014
By: davidm
Store: Vancouver