A Brief Guide to Keeping Warm

A Brief Guide to Keeping Warm

It happens every year – the nights draw in, the leaves are on the floor and the cold is in the air. Winter.
A Cyclists nightmare? With this guide from Cycle Routes UK we try to make it a little easier for you to not only stay safe but also keep warm!


Fundamental clothing is a must for cyclists of all ages and levels. Although the clothing may seem expensive from the outset, given that we tend to have more cold months than warm in the UK, the necessary clothing is more of an investment that a luxury.


Starting at the top, you need to keep your head as warm as possible – this is where you lose the largest percentage of body heat. As well as wearing a helmet, for colder days you could look to wear an under helmet or even a skullcap. The under helmet will fit to the contour of your helmet against your head so you hardly notice it is on. The skullcap is an alternative as its a more generic winter head-warmer that will snugly fit against your head allowing the helmet to fasten on top as per usual.

Remember – a helmet is essential and should not be replaced by underhelmets or skullcaps!


There are a variety of types and styles of winter tops available ranging from base layer shirts to full waterproof jackets. The key things to look for are that the clothing offers suitable ventilation, is water/wind proof, keeps you warm and has good reflectivity so you can be easily seen when cycling in those early mornings or darker mornings!

Base Layers: These are like vests/t-shirts that look to soak up the sweat from your body so you do not feel a chill when you cool down. The important thing is that these layers should not be cotton – aside from not keeping sweat away from your body, they will get heavy. A decent base layer will cost around £20 upwards.
Mid Layers: This is a top that sits between your base layer and your jacket. If you are eating up serious miles on a daily commute/long ride in winter then a decent mid layer should be long sleeved and provide a decent amount of warmth. A fleece-style cycling jersey such as the Altura Airstream would be ideal as this also has long front zip (to provide decent ventilation when needed), reflective areas and pockets.
Jackets: Winter Cycling jackets are for when the going really gets tough. Again, these should provide warmth, be water and wind-proof, provide ventilation and be reflective. One of the key warmth-areas to look out for is a high collar that will keep your neck warm but leave suitable flexibility (for looking over your shoulder, etc). Specialist winter cycling jackets can cost upwards of £40 and come in all styles and weights. If you have a base and mid-layer equipped, a lighter jacket is advisable in case the weather picks up and you can fold the jacket into a bike pocket.


Good gloves will keep your fingers warm and responsive to the brakes/gears. Make sure you can comfortably handle the bike while wearing any gloves to keep safe. The gloves should reach up your wrists so your long-sleeved top covers the top of the gloves. Without this, rainfall can get into the gloves! Make sure your gloves allow for ventilation otherwise the rainfall/sweat generated by your hands can chill your fingers and affect your handling of the bike.


As with tops, a variety of styles of bottoms are available, each offering their own level of comfort/suitability to the occasion.

Leg Warmers: Effectively the base-layer for the legs. These can fit snugly against your legs with your regular cycling attire on the outside. Because the leg warmers are against the skin, they will keep you warm while the outer layer protects against rain/mud, etc. Expect to pay around £25
Cycling trousers: A more general style which acts like a standard pair of trousers but are more suited to cycling (such as less ‘flair’ on the legs to help against catching the chain). Not as common but offer a decent amount of warmth and protection.
Over-trousers: Popular with a lot of commuting cyclists who wish to keep their backpacks free of a change of pants. The over-trousers act like a jacket for your legs. They easily fit over the top of shorts/trousers you may already be wearing and keep your legs covered from rain/wind and mud!


For cycling in the winter you don’t necessarily need specialist shoes, although some are available. You could opt for an overshoe. These are made from fabric or a neoprene material which mainly keep the feet warm (but are not necessarily water-resistant so check before you buy).

If you do opt for a winter shoe, make sure it is a generous fit to allow for two pairs of socks or has a thermal internal sock to keep the feet cosy. Ventilation and reflection are less important here as our feet will sweat throughout the day regardless of the activity.

Tips for the Winter journeys:

As with any journey on the bike you should take as much care as possible. Cycle Routes UK endorses the use of a helmet at all times. You can also follow these helpful basic tips whether you are planning a long cycle journey or a short ride one afternoon:

- Mudguards: Fit mudguards to keep the cold, wet mud away from your clothing. As well as getting clothes dirty, the mud will feel heavy as it drys
- Be careful in frosty conditions. Black ice is difficult to spot so stick to well-trodden areas and stay away from the shaded patches (where the ice may not have thawed)
- Check your lights: always check your lights work before a journey and change the batteries regularly. It is advised you carry spare batteries with you just in case!
- Food & drink: For the longer journeys you should look to carry some food and a drink with you. Sugary foods will provide a hit of energy (such as chocolate) and a warm drink in a flask will keep you hydrated and feel warmer. If a hot drink is not possible, water is recommended to at least keep you hydrated and refreshed.
- Clean your bike after use: Not only to keep your bike looking good and stop rust but any mud that gets in the brakes or tyre treads can be a hazard. A quick hosedown afterwards is all it should need although specialist cleaning equipment is available.
Go on get out there and have fun…

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