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Snow covered bike trail or street
July 16, 2020

What to Wear for Cold-Weather Biking

by Korrea Johnston

winter biking.jpg

How you dress for winter cycling is the key to comfort, but it doesn’t have to be expensive technical gear. As long as you keep pedaling, the activity of cycling generates a pleasant warming from within.  Hold just enough of this heat within your clothing and allow the excess to vent out and you have found the winter riding “sweet spot.”

Here are 7 tips for this season:

  • Start out with a wicking base layer on your torso (cotton is not the best), then a medium weight layer such as a light fleece or wool shirt. Finish off with a jacket. 
  • A light windbreaker will be enough for temperatures around 40 degrees Fahrenheit and a heavier jacket can be used for temperatures around freezing and below.
  • If the jacket is a bright color and/or has reflective strips, you will be more visible to others, which is important on dull winter days and dark mornings and evenings.
  • Legs should be covered completely in the cold, but thick layers are not usually necessary. Workout pants, athletic tights, jeans or slacks are generally fine.
  • Warm gloves are important, especially when the temperature dips close to freezing, since the hands do not generate much heat when cycling and extremities can have poor circulation.  Bike-specific “lobster gloves” are great for the coldest days, keeping some fingers together for extra warmth without limiting your ability to use your brakes and gears.
  • If it’s really cold, a thin fleece hat can be worn, and most fit beneath a bike helmet comfortably.
  • Be sure to wear your helmet to protect yourself. You can purchase a Capital Bikeshare branded helmet at any Virginia Commuter Store (Ballston, Crystal City, Rosslyn and Shirlington).

Experiment with clothing combinations, and don’t overdo it. It can be surprising how much heat is generated when cycling, especially uphill where efforts are higher and wind chills are lower. Have a great season and keep moving!

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