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Michael Stenning's advice on how the best dressed cyclist might look this winter  


Riding through winter needn’t mean being a slave to the indoor trainer, although I’m the first to admit there’s something strangely rewarding about spinning along to a favourite playlist in the dry, watching rain and snow roll off the garage door. With the right kit and some imagination, the darker months can be practical and fun. 

Head, face & neck

As temperatures tumble, some form of headwear is imperative. The classic 3 panel racing cap will retain some warmth; a decent peak will shield eyes from strong sun and offers some defence from wind and dust. Waterproof models are also a good bet, so long as you recognise that nothing is completely impervious. Prendas Ciclismo Lisboa (now £19.99) has a durable water repellent coating and decent breathability. However, it must only be hand washed, which might be a deal breaker if you’re prone to bunging stuff in the machine. Models such as Showers Pass Elite Cycling Cap cost a bit more but can be tossed in the machine wash at 30 degrees with no problems and will still resist persistent rain.

Alternatively,    waterproof thermal hats such as this Seal Skinz can be really welcome when its bitterly cold but the membranes don’t breathe particularly efficiently, leading to a sweaty scalp especially after 90minutes, or should the temperature rise. The Buff is another, arguably iconic do-all that can be worn around the neck, face and of course, beneath a helmet. Buff also offer an adaptable cap.

Steve has become enamoured of the Showers Pass eVent Cap. Equally, in really cold weather he may well go for something like the ProViz Classic Under Helmet Skullcap.

Merino breathes and smells better but need a bit more care than their polyester counterparts and I personally, find the thermal versions a bit too toasty … Gore Tex helmet covers are another great idea for regular wet-weather riding, although check your intended purchase is a snug fit with your lids. More recent kids on this block are smaller businesses, such as Raval (review to follow).

waterproof cycling cap test review

My preference is for glasses with interchangeable (smoke, clear and amber) lenses, which cater for all conditions. Inexpensive, but very competent models, such as these Madison Eyewear Mission Glassses-3pack can be had for around £35. Amber is primarily to improve vision in low light but studies suggest they can also boost mood on dull days - a definite plus, even if we wouldn’t consider ourselves seasonally affected in the medical sense. 


Improved materials and UV protection tend to come with each price increment but never overlook fit. I’ve had budget pairs that have caressed my nose and ears faultlessly on day rides/weekend tours, while some £100 plus designs haven’t so try a few before making financial commitment. Prescription wearers are increasingly well served but obviously, these command something of a premium.


While availability of wallet-friendly children’s versions has improved quite considerably in recent years, machinist goggles can be bought for the proverbial song and arguably a better bet for younger protégé’s, especially those on tandems/tagalongs where windblast and flying particles can ruin an otherwise pleasant outing.  

Upper Body

Base Layers £10 upward


Long sleeve models are the obvious choice but many find short-sleeve designs such as the merino wool Smartwool NTS150 fine with heavier weight mid layers. Prices for wool have become increasingly competitive, closer to that of polyamide and more sophisticated polyesters, such as Altura's Thermocool. Whatever your preference, generally speaking look for a snug fit, flat locked seams to avoid unsightly branding and gender specific cut. 


Mid Layers/Jerseys 


I will often extend a summer jersey by wearing a long sleeve base layer beneath. Even though you may welcome some additional warmth, ideally look for designs with a ¾ or full length zipper, so you can easily tweak climate control.

Some riders with broader shoulders find a one piece “raglan” cut offers optimal movement over longer distances. Three fairly deep pockets are useful for stuffing water bottles, additional snacks and other essentials. A fourth, zippered stash point, for segregating “valuables” from sticky energy bar wrappers is also increasingly popular.

“Racing snakes” second skin fits don’t flatter everyone. From an aesthetic point of view, looser cuts are a better match with mountain bike/technical longs. However, this isn’t necessarily so. Jersey Cum Jacket Hybrids have become quite popular - I'm a fan.  Gravel specific models, such as this Pearson Red Adventure Long Sleeve Cycling Jacket


Hybrid jersey-jackets perform well between 3 and 12 degrees and, in this instance, employs a DWR (Durable Water Repelling) Coating, but you’ll still want a micro jacket, or better still, a model such as the Madison Road Race Super Light Men’s Waterproof Softshell Jacket for longer outings and/or heavier rains.


More basic polyester weaves start around £20 and can feel decidedly man-made but still comfortable enough for rides around the two hour mark.   Regardless of budget or materials, ensure it’s long enough in the back and arms to prevent gathering and chill being blown inside. 

cycling glove jacket sleeve

Another option are softshell jackets, which feel like a traditional winter jersey but have sophisticated windproof and water repellent layers, catering for most riding context, although again, a waterproof shell jacket such as the Madison will be necessary in prolonged, heavy rain.


At the other extreme, more basic polyester weaves start around £20 and can feel decidedly synthetic but still comfortable enough for rides around the two-hour mark.   Regardless of budget or materials, ensure its long enough in the back and arms to prevent gathering and chill being blown inside. 


Gilets are another effective way of layering and protecting the upper body from chill. There are those, which are basically like a sleeveless micro jacket. Arguably for those occasions when it’s turned unexpectedly chill mid-ride, they’ll pack down into a jersey pocket when not needed. For winter riding, I prefer something more substantial- windproof and with a selection of pockets. Oxford Venture Windproof Gilet is still a firm favourite of mine . 

Jackets £35 upward

The humble race or “Condom Jacket” still has its place, not to mention fans, as contingencies but are not what’s required for an everyday staple. Basic polyester designs sometimes have a curious, rubbery texture but fold remarkably small, offering decent protection from the elements when needed. 


However, Altura’s long-running Nevis Classic sports superior refinements (fleece lined collars, breast and poacher’s pockets, drop tail) not to mention pit zips for climate control/weather resistance.  With basic care (washing with proofing agents and drip drying) last several years, recouping their modest investment many times over.  Generally speaking, look for models with waterproofing and breathability ratings of 10,000 apiece. These will keep the elements out, without leaving you feeling like a microwave ready meal, i.e. boiled in the bag when riding at a reasonable pace.

cycling gar gilet body warmer test review
cycling jacket test review
test review cycling jacket castelli commute reflex

More sophisticated 2.5 Laminates such as this Showers Pass Men’s Elements Jacket   (above left) offer waterproof and breathability ratings of 15,000, meaning you’ll stay drier for longer and at higher efforts.  The Elements is also designed for mountain biking and with a slightly more relaxed cut, which may be a better fit for commuting and more casual contexts. Pro Viz Men’s Reflect 360  is another, arguably classic design, although better suited to commuting. Deeper pockets?  Steve has been impressed by Castelli Commute Reflex Jacket (above right).  There are some trail-inspired models that make good crossover from mtb and gravel to more general riding. Oxford Venture Jacket Fierce Red  is a nice option, featuring a detachable hood and giving change from £100.

Gore-Tex was once the holy-grail and remains justly popular at the top end, although other fabrics have challenged its hegemony, providing almost seamless wicking. This breed needs to remain (generally) clean - blocked pores restricts their technical prowess. Surprisingly, periodic tumble drying actually reinvigorates the fibres. 


This will depend on your style of riding and destination. Being a MAMIL I am usually spotted riding in Lycra bib longs/three quarter lengths, depending on just how chilly it is. Designs with elasticated waists are fine, though bibs are superior, not least as they improve protection to the kidneys and lower back. Roadside bladder stops were traditionally undignified. However, increasingly, stretch engineered into the braces and crotch make things  have ample stretch engineered into the braces and crotch, making things that bit easier, dare we say, more dignified.  I’ve been particularly impressed by the Madison Freewheel Men’s Thermal Bib Tights With Pad giving change from £60.  The Funkier Polar Active Thermal Microfleece Bib Tights, with pad, are another relatively inexpensive model that have performed well in varying conditions.  Again, those with a DWR coating will make wetter rides more comfortable but expect to pay a little more. Funkier Aqua Gents Pro Water-Repellent Tights, in black  were another good example, if you were on a budget. 


Mountain biking’s less conservative flavour has given rise to a wealth of technically advanced, looser cut trousers boasting copious pockets and tapered legs, which can be drawn tight for riding and relaxed when mooching around. Expect to pay £80 up and pop shorts/inserts beneath. While these are bang-on for smart casual scenarios, they might not foil the anti-bike contingent.


 ¾ lengths are a really versatile choice, plugging the gap between shorts and tights during autumn, winter and spring. I’ve been particularly impressed by the Primal Dawn Men Bib Knickers.  Longer waterproof socks can provide good overlap and in some contexts, offer similar comfort and performance as full-length tights 


Shorter scoots, maybe a couple of miles are reasonable in civvies but even mudguards can’t eliminate all spray/spatter, so invest in a set of waterproof over trousers to keep smart trews and image intact. Look for designs that can be pulled on over footwear and pack down small when not required.  Steve has been very impressed with Pro-Viz Nightrider Waterproof Trousers .

oxford cycling jacket tst review winter
cycling bike tights leg wear test review
Proviz Nightrider waterproof overtrousers


Each design has their advantages and limitations-sometimes this is down to materials, others construction methods and individual preference. 


Price is a good indicator, although the purchase power of some superstores means budget models are better value than ever. We’ve been particularly impressed with The Chiba Bioxcell Winter Warm Line Gloves (left below) and Castelli Perfetto ROS Gloves (right below). 

chiba bioxcell gloves winter warm
castelli perfetto ROS gloves

Neoprene retains water and uses this to insulate the wearer against chill, which is really helpful when battling biblical rains in temperatures below 6 degrees. However, their soggy feel doesn’t suit everyone.


Similarly, some versions with TPU linings capable of resisting full-blown (to the cuff line) immersion sound ideal but breathability can be decidedly pedestrian. Cheaper models also tend to have linings, which aren’t tethered to the finger tips. This means they often pull inside-out and pushing them back in is a pain. Aftermarket liner gloves are another neat touch for additional warmth, when it’s bitterly cold. They are also useful during changeable spring rides when it’s too warm for winter duvet types but chill still lingers.


Gender specific cuts aren’t simply gimmick. Many women find men’s gloves too long in the fingers and broad around the cuffs. Gear changing/braking and indeed pocket rummaging dexterity suffers; Mother Nature can easily find her way inside.


Old school leather palms have been superseded by low maintenance faux/Amara with silicone detailing for optimal purchase/control. Some are better suited to contemporary road STI/ergo systems than others, which is another consideration for those who flit between flat and drop bars. Most of us use some sort of touch screen tech these days too. Most manufacturers are on board but don’t take this for granted.


Blobby palms designed to protect the ulnar nerve aren’t an exact science and can induce, rather than alleviate discomfort. Ridges can also put/accentuate pressure on the ulnar region, so check inside for flat seams. Thicker padding insulates against vibration, though this may necessitate their removal when doing fiddly tasks. Not what you want when you’ve flatted 10 miles from home and it’s minus 5!


Other features to look for include machine-washable, terry panel for dignified runny nose wipes, reflective detailing which accentuates hand signals (especially since manufacturers have realised day-glow yellow doesn’t necessarily float everyone’s boat).


Aside from warmth and comfort, closures should not be overlooked. To some extent, this is down to riding style and personal taste. I love the boa system pictured on the Lake Booties and  below. The boa is a dial type thumbwheel that adjusts a metallic chord for optimal fit and easy removal-wearing gloves and even mid ride. Ratchet and buckle closures offer more security, especially on a fixed when you might be exerting a lot of force, especially uphill. 


At the other extreme, Velcro systems might seem a little low rent but are easily adjusted, don’t impair blood flow like laces can. Some say they’re also better suited to riders with collapsed arches.


One school of thought says carbon fibre soles, like full carbon bikes should be spared winter’s wrath. I’m inclined towards less exotic blends, which are still pretty stiff. I lean towards gravel models, which are still very stiff but have a little more compliance and grippier outer soles. The Shimano MT701 GTX SPD  and the Shimano RX600 shoes being good examples. More significantly, they will also entertain waterproof socks without hassle. 


That said, overshoes are a good precaution since the salt monster can taint them pretty quickly. Booties are still relatively expensive but ensure feet stay seriously comfy in bitter cold. The FLR Defender MTB Thermal Dry S-Tex Boot (now £129.99)  are still serving me well, three grotty winters on. 


For the most part, standard cool-max weaves and run of the mill road/trail shoes are pretty much fine through to mid-November whereupon overshoes start becoming a regular sight. Cold, wet feet are a needless morale sapper, leading to illness and related misery. Winter specific road/mtb booties such as these Lake are perfect for when the temperatures dip to single and minus figures


Longer socks, such as Oxford Oxsocks offer greater defence against cold but when it turns really wet and temperatures tumble, my preference leans toward those with waterproof membranes. These allow feet to breathe, while keeping them dry-to the cuff-lines. Mid-lightweight weaves shouldn’t present any compatibility woes with sportier audax/mtb slippers, trainer type commu-tour or indeed street shoes for those hustling to the office. Whatever your choice, ensure they don’t compromise the snug fit of your cycling shoes.  I have been impressed by these  Gecko Calf Length Classic All Action Waterproof Socks .


Overshoes offer feet and expensive footwear excellent protection from winter’s slimy, corrosive cocktail. More sophisticated waterproof types cost around £45. However, basic polyester types can be bought for as little as £10. Neoprene models are warm but don’t breathe and absorb moisture. This warm, wet sensation isn’t for everyone.


Zippers are a weak-spot on cheaper models and look for beefy tags, since this makes getting them on/off a lot easier.  Albeit a fashion faux pas, in emergencies, rolling plastic bags (with holes cut to accommodate cleats where appropriate) over shoes will work.



Visually check shoe-cleats too, ensuring mounting screws are installed with a healthy slathering of stiff grease. Inspect regularly for visible signs of wear and replace should entry/exit become less than precise.      





Garment Care



Aside from observing care labels, avoid temptation to leave soiled and feted clothing festering in a laundry basket. Lycra jerseys, tights, shorts et al, can be machine washed at a low temperature programme. Mild, non-biological detergents are fine but steer clear of any containing integral softeners. These will destroy their technical properties. Avoid tumble drying at all costs.

Synthetic chamois pads are virtually maintenance free but genuine hides will need regular post wash applications of chamois cream to moisturise and prevent cracking. Similarly, nourish leather accessories (shoes, gloves etc) using a good quality preserve every six weeks to keep them in rude health.


Wash polyester jackets in soap flakes at (30/40 degrees) before leaving to drip dry. Add some proofing agent approximately every fourth tour de Zanussi to retain the water repelling, breathable nature.


Gore Tex and Event requires similar TLC but wash individually, not with other soiled garments. Conversely, once line dry; rejuvenate their technical prowess with a quick twenty minute tour de tumble drier. Even so, these eventually lose their magic, demanding re-proofing. Thankfully, dedicated additives are readily available online or at decent outdoor/camping shops.  







Ryton On Dunsmore

Coventry  CV8 3FH


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