“You rode your bike in this weather? - I’m sure most if not all year round cyclists have heard this question, often paired with a stare of utter disbelief.
While riding through the winter can be uncomfortable (think snow and hail) and challenging (think black ice), it is also still the mot rewarding way to get around and workout for many bike aficionados. And with the right gear, riding year round is not even as bad as many assume.
While my legs usually keep decently warm while pedaling, my torso and arms often feel like they are in a different climate zone. So here’s how I layer up on top with a little guide for the right gear in different temperatures:
Winter Is Coming
One of the pieces I have come to really like stems from Biemme, an Italian company relatively unknown in the US. Biemme was founded in 1978, and has developed products in cooperation with and for professional cyclists and teams ever since. The Biemme B-Wow Longsleeve jersey really feels more like a jersey-jacket hybrid. The jersey is made of superroubaix fabric, a ix of polyester and elastic. It also has a full covered front zipper - which you find out is pretty important when it gets uncomfortably windy. The one thing I don’t love about this piece is that it only features 2 half-moon side pockets, which make for a little less accessibility of your gear, but make for more secure storage when the ride gets bumpy. Being fabricated in Italy, the jersey comes at a pretty fair price point too.
Sugoi Technical Baselayer
Depending on jut how cold it is, I’d pair the jersey with a base layer. I really like the Sugoi RS Core Long Sleeve. Sugoi hails form Canada, so they might know a bit or two about extreme temperatures. This technical thermo base layer comes from Sugoi's Pro range, and it is not only thin enough to fits easily under the jersey, it really is somewhat of a universal protection piece. The fabric is from the FinoPro material, and it really has outstanding moisture wicking performance. I can’t stress enough how important moisture management is especially in the winter. And the quick-drying DriActive Core technology in this long sleeve does a pretty impressive job. While it performs, the long sleeve is barely noticeable when you wear it. It is super soft on the skin and doesn’t irritate or itch anywhere, which is especially important for a base layer worn on your skin directly.
Ok, Winter Is Here
OrNotBike Thermo Jersey
When the temperature drops in the 50s, OrNot has you covered. OrNot has been around since 2013, and like so many outstanding cycling clothing manufacturers, they’re located in California. Their minimal design, high-quality clothing hails from San Francisco and they focus on keeping their production domestic, parenting with companies across the US. While their HQ is luck enough to be in a milder climate, they do offer nice range of thermo gear. OrNot’s long sleeve thermal jersey is made of super soft Italian micro-poly fabric, and a brushed fleece interior adds warmth and coziness. It comes in classic black with just the right highlights in the form of turquoise accents, so that your style matches the crisp morning air.
OrNotBike Thermal Jacket
Once the temps drop lower than 30 degrees Fahrenheit, I pair it with OrNot’s Thermal Jacket. OrNot actually redesigned this staple piece of winter riding for the 2016 season, when adding new features such as a slightly lighter fabric along with a revised, and women-specific cut for better fit - and they nailed it. The jacket was a perfect mix between stretchy and snug, allowing for movement without just feeling too large. I really appreciate the work that was put in to make this a women-specific fit. Furthermore, it’s neither black or pink, which sometimes seem to be the only options available for women-specific clothing. Similar to the winter jersey, the jacket has a pretty minimal design with just some smart design elements to keep it from being boring. 3 layers of water resistant, wind proof, breathable material keeps you rolling on long, cold rides. he interior has a soft brushed face with a bit of stretch and the side panels are made of breathable 4-way stretch material to aid in fit and thermal regulation. This jacket kept me rolling on longer winter days as well as commutes. For a relatively light winter jacket, I was really impressed with how great the fabric was breathing while keeping me toasty. While I haven’t used the jacket in a torrential downpour yet, it remained pretty waterproof during the light rain showers and flurries I rode it in, which is excellent and necessary for a Chicago cyclist. One of the best things about this jacket is that the 3 rear pockets are actually design for their seasonal use - and are slightly larger than normally to accommodate your gloved hands. Gamechanger!
They are also trimmed with reflective materials for more visibility on the road. The high collar keeps your neck protected, and a longer backside protects from road spray, which is especially helpful since I don't have fenders on my road bike. #RideTodayORNOT
Winter is really here
Braver than the Elements - Rapha Winter Jacket
The Rapha Classic Winter Jacket is a piece that I can’t praise highly enough. Rapha claims it to be the “culmination of 12 years of development,” and you can certainly feel that a lot of thought has been put into developing the ideal winter jacket. Lightweight and stylish, it makes sure I can withstand the harshest conditions Chicago has to offer. Neither really a hard nor a softshell, the jacket comes with a fabric that is both breathable and waterproof. The taped seams provide additional protection from the elements. The jacket is kept sealed against water and wind with an adjustable hi-vis shock cord on the hem and elastane inner cuffs. I definitely put the label waterproof to the test, riding in snow and rain and hail for a few hours. A stowable drop tail has hi-vis detailing for rides in low light, and reflective elements on the shoulders and cuffs offer further visibility. For training, the jacket offers ample back pockets, and one waterproof zipper pocket for valuables. The underarm zippers come in handy during training rides and provide added ventilation, which prevent me from overheating during harder efforts during the winter. Rapha gear certainly comes at a higher price point, but in this case, the investment might just be worth the pleasure the jacket will give you.
Isadore goes Arctic
If it’s really chilly, I put on the Isadore Shield Thermo Arctic Longsleeve underneath the jacket. The jersey is made of Bi-Component Merino (53% Polyestere, 44% Merino Wool 3% Lycra), and is designed to keep you really warm. The jersey is not only well crafted and beautifully designed, it really does a great job at doing what it’s made for: Keeping you warm and toasty.
If I intend on going harder and don’t want to be quite as warm, the Isadore Wool base layer is a common feature in my daily choice of what to wear underneath it all. The slim fit is snug yet comfortable, so my movement never feels restricted on the bike. The piece is 100% Merino wool, and everyone who likes the thermoregulatory and odor control features of wool knows why this is a staple in my cycling outfits. The dense 140g/m of Wool makes the piece warm and yet highly breathable and moisture wicking. What I like most is that there are no labels or tags in the baselayer, so there’s no itching or chafing of any sorts while wearing it directly on the skin. The arms are nice and long and feature cuffs with thumbholes for full arm coverage up to your hands - which prevents wind from entering into the tiniest gaps between jersey and gloves.
Early Spring: When the air is still brisk, put a vest on it
Voler is one of those companies that pretty much always has you covered. They even published a guide on how to layer correctly. I really like their gear, as it is functional, high quality and accessible for me and my wallet. The Simplicity thermal LS jersey is a super versatile piece that I wear often to say the least. Luckily it comes in all kinds of colors and patterns, so it’s easy to mix and match with the gear you already own. As most classic cycling jerseys, it has three rear pockets across the lower back with elastic across the top edge and reinforced stitching for secure storage even on more bumpy rides. The jersey is made of GeoTherm Fabric with fleece backing, which essentially means it is breathable enough to be comfortable when breaking a sweat and still warm enough in colder temps.
Eliel Cycling Vest
The recommended temp range for the Simplicity Longsleeve jersey is 45-60˚F, but if it’s in the 40s, I usually pair it with a vest - I’m a woman after all, I get cold! I am not the biggest fan of vests in general, but I am learning to trust that a warm core makes for warm (enough) arms on most rides. My absolute favorite vest is the Eliel Dawn Patrol Palomar Vest. Eliel is a CA-based company started by cyclists that pairs their knowledge about riding with the latest technology. And you can definitely feel that they know what they’re doing when trying their products. Named after an epic climb in Southern California, the Palomar Vest is one of those multitaskers that delivers when needed. Its stretch performance front has a windproof membrane that keep you toasty in high winds, a 2-way zipper allows for adjustability, and the mesh back gives your back ample breathability. And in case you get a little too warm on your ride, it easily packs into your jersey’s rear pocket. My favorite thing about the vest is that its two large rear pockets are completely reflective - I love being visible!
Spring: When it’s fresh, but not quite cold anymore
Tenspeed Hero Longsleeve Jersey
I love when form meets fashion, and local cycling designer Tenspeed Hero is a force of its own when it comes to unique design. From oranges to stripes to #sprinklewatts, TSH smartly adds a dash of color and steez to your gear. The Blue Striped Jersey is one of the more tame designs in the TSH lineup, but that makes it so perfect for commuting. And despite its classic look, it alludes to the piece’s description by the designer team ”We come to the mountains because we came from the mountains. We come for the mountain light. The alpenglow.” You might not get scenery on your commute, but you might just as well dream of it :) The long sleeve is medium weight fleece with wind guarded upper and a chin guard, so it’s perfect for commutes at the turn of seasons. As most cycling jerseys, it comes with three bag pockets that might not be needed on a commute, but hold all the treats, keys and other odds and ends you might need on a quick training ride.
All about accessorizing right during the colder months
Jasmin Welter is a dedicated commuter and competitive cyclist and triathlete, riding her mostly pink bikes around Chicagoland year-round. Jasmin is an Ambassador for The Chainlink and is involved with several other initiatives and brands to get more women on bikes. Jasmin writes regularly about new products, women cycling, commuting and more. Follow her on Instagram: @tri.heart and @princess_layup.