By Jasmin Welter
“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.
Deep winter riding
With deep winter, I refer to those days that really make you believe that riding your bike can’t possible be any worse than waiting for the bus or the train alongside many shivering commuters. With temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, I really make sure I am dressed well for my commute. My commute is a mere 6 miles, but with Chicago traffic, it takes just enough time to make me painfully cold if I don’t put on the right layers. As soon as temperatures get up to the 30s, I try to take some of my training ride outdoors as well - oftentimes, spending more time outside requires for some chemical hand/toe warmers on top of the right gear.
Here’s a little guide for the right gear in different temperatures:
Part 1 - The Bottoms
I usually commute in a pair of jeans, but if it’s freezing, I sight to thermo tights and leg warmers. This combination is much more comfortable than trying to fit another layer underneath my office pants.
Some of my favorite thermo bibs come from Isadore. Isadore is a brand created by pro rider Martin Velits. They source their materials for both products and packaging sustainably, “so the world will still look pretty from a bike in the future to come.” - An approach that really resonates with me. Their women-specific winter bibs are made from water-repellent Thermoroubaix materials, which is incredibly soft due to the brushed fleece on the inside. The fabric is also treated with an MITI DWR™ Fabric Protector to enhance the ability of the fabric repel water and dirt - which I have tested over and over again riding through mud, snow, sleet and puddles. The tights feature single stirrup to protect the sensitive achilles and keep the bottom part in place while I am moving. I also really enjoy the TMF® chamois, constructed of Airmesh, a 100% recyclable material, which makes this the world’s first totally ecological chamois. The reflective signs and logo on both legs enhance visibility in traffic - don’t be a bike ninja when riding in low light!
If you don’t like bibs for the hassle of getting them off during rides, there are some pretty great winter tights options as well. One of my staples comes from Caifornia-based company Voler. and they are perfect not only for commuting but also for longer winter rides. The Caliber Mariposa Thermal Tight is one of the most comfortable cycling bottoms I have ever worn, and its Yukon thermal fabric is warm and durable. It comes with zippers at the ankles for easy changing, and with reflective accents, which I really appreciate during my commutes. Voler also issues a winter layering guide, which comes in helpful when deciding how to dress properly for the elements for the first time around.
A tight that’s not quite as warm but ideal for 30 to 50 degrees F weather is one of my favorites for commuting by Aero Tech, a company that focuses on USA-made cycling gear and comes at a pretty attractive price point. The 3M Reflective Elite Slasher Padded Cycling Tights comes with bright reflective elements that make for enhanced visibility in low light conditions in traffic during my morning and evening commutes.
Sugoi’s Women Pro Bib Knickers are a blessing when nature calls on those long rides - or when you’re getting ready to race. With their patent-pending “Pitstop clips, there’s no more need to fully undress before using the restroom - the bibs detach with an easy two-clip system. The bibs are definitely designed for a more competitive use. The 3-way fabric used increases breathability on the front of the legs for increased moisture management, a more robust fabric on the inner legs that improves durability around the chamois, and using an Ultra Aero fabric on the outer thighs for maximum aero efficiency. Needless to say, those knickers also feature reflective elements and a chamois that keeps you comfortable for hours on end. and All in all, Sugoi produced some top-notch knickers with this model, especially due to the female-friendly halter system that I’m missing in so many other bibs.
If one layer isn’t enough, or if I’m out for a long ride, I throw some leg or knee warmers in the mix. When it’s cold, it’s important to keep your joints warm and smooth. Unlike regular leg warmers, the Aero Tech double knee leg warmers provide two layers of insulation against the elements where it’s needed most. The fabric engineers looked at mother Nature for inspiration and modeled the material after the polar bear's fur. It encloses a hollow core that traps air for additional warmth while keeping the warmers stretchy and light for maximum moving comfort.
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.