What I Wear For Winter Cycling

It’s officially winter in Toronto. That time of year when many people believe outdoor physical activity grinds to a halt. It’s that time of year when excuses are passed off as reasons and it’s that time of year when I keep on doing what I do… riding my bicycle.

In the spirit of “how to do it” posts, here’s a look at my winter cycling wardrobe.

Let me state first that I tend to “run hot.” For some reason, I have a great tolerance to the cold. I don’t mind the biting wind on my cheeks and only once the temperature drops below -10 C do I add an extra layer to my legs.

That said, let’s look at outfit #1… the everyday ride:

1. Wool jacket with light lining (pocket handkerchief for running nose is essential).
2. Wool scarf
3. Toque
4. Merino wool sweater
5. Cotton shirt
6. Jeans (reflective strap since I don’t have a chainguard)
7. Fleece gloves
8. Merino wool socks

Not pictured: fleece long johns, leather boots.

My everyday rides take me to the grocery store, to the bank, to a new remote office (coffee shop), to the library. These are all short trips that see me on the bike for no more than 20 minutes at a time. In light snow, I’ve never had a problem with wet clothes and because I have a set of full fenders the amount of slush and grime spray on my shins is very minimal.

When I reach my destination I sometimes remove the pant strap and I’m ready to go. Easy as pie.

In addition to grocery hauling, errand running my bicycle is my only “exercise machine.” So, for longer, harder rides where I’m cranking up my already burning internal engine I dress differently… here’s a look at the active rider:

1. Waterproof/Breathable shell
2. Wool cap with ear flaps
3. Fleece half-zip
4. Merino wool base layer
5. Soft shell pants
6. Liner shorts
7. Lined water resistant gloves
8. Merino wool socks

Not pictured: Gore-tex hiking shoes, helmet

My goal on longer, harder rides is to have my outer layers block the wind and my inner layers fight to manage sweat. While I like the bright blue jacket for visibility, I bought it because the fabric is reliably wind resistant and waterproof and because it was on sale.

In the end, I suggest wearing what you feel is comfortable. I like my “advanced plastics” outer layers as much as I do my natural fibre one. Each outfit works for what I want them to do and finding the right mix that suits your body and your needs is how I feel you should determine what to wear on your bicycle in any weather.

Dottie Demonstrates Dressing for Winter Cycling

While waiting for the TTC last night at Dufferin and Bloor I watched several cyclists pedal by. Mostly, they were men. And mostly they were wearing cycling tights, and bright yellow cycling jackets, and thick gloves and goggles or glasses.

Then, with the wind blowing her hair, a woman cycled past in a long wool jacket, wool mittens and tall boots.
As demonstrated below, you don’t have to don the latest advances in plastics to cycle year round, even in Toronto. Never underestimate the power of wool to keep you warm.

Video via Let’s Go Ride a Bike