How to dress for winter riding

February 21, 2023

In a previous post, I shared my advice to keep riding in winter where we live in the Swiss Alps. In summary: you should ride on south facing roads to avoid ice, stay at low altitude in case of bad weather and moderate your efforts to avoid freezing in your sweat when riding down. Of course, “going on a winter long training camp in the Canary Islands” is also an option but it is less practical.

Since then, I’ve added to the “Winter riding in the Alps” guide, which gathers the favorite rides I do around my house following these recommendations. Check it out!

This project supported by Velocio also allowed Lillie and I to test different pieces of their range. Because of course, you have to dress properly to ride in winter. Based on our experience (and mistakes), here are some simple tips to avoid being cold… or too hot, because it can happen and it’s not pleasant either:

Layer up

The mandatory baselayer is crucial. If it is too light, you will not be able to compensate with the following layers. If it’s too warm, you’ll suffocate and every climb will be like hell.

Depending on the conditions, the jersey or jacket will come as a top or middle layer. Here again, you must choose the right thickness.

In cold and/or wet weather, an additional insulating layer should be worn. I’m partial to the Velocio softshell vest, which keeps my torso warm and I can open it up on the way up. Plus, the “open vest floating in the wind” look is very trendy…

Ah the “open vest floating in the wind” look…

Keep your legs warm

Bib shorts are like jerseys: they are made for summer or winter. Choose one with a fleecy interior to keep your thighs (and bum) warm. The same goes for leg warmers, there are different thicknesses. Or go straight for the bib tights!

Look after your hands and feet

In winter, extremities get cold quickly. Don’t compromise on gloves, your hands rarely get too warm but the opposite is very unpleasant. For your feet, choose thick socks and good shoe covers. And if that’s not enough, try heated insoles or socks! Or invest in winter shoes with insulating lining, I’ve been using these Scott shoes for gravel since this winter and I swear by them.

Cover your head

Protect your head and ears with a winter hat or cap (this is a bald man talking). And don’t forget your neck: a buff isn’t just a fashionable thing to wear, it’s also an accessory that will protect you from the wind, that you can wear over your face on the downhills (don’t forget to leave a space for your eyes, it’s useful) and that you can put in your pocket if it’s too hot on climbs.

And now, how do I do it?

Bulk is good

Last tip, perhaps the most important if you’re riding in the cold. You want to look aero when it’s 0°C? Big mistake: stacking tight layers is inefficient in extreme conditions. Only the pros can afford it in a race, because they generate heat by riding hard and have a team vehicle that allows them to adjust their clothing along the way. Don’t try this at home!

When it’s cold, you need air around your body to warm it up and act as natural insulation. This is the solution applied in mountain sports like skiing and mountaineering, and it works. Cycling is discovering it little by little and it’s so much better! The new garments are light, fluffy and soft, like the Alpha Merino Air Jacket (more on it below).

In winter: warm clothes, not aero

With all these options, how do you make the right choice? There is no magic formula, just test with what you have and you’ll understand how to best use your wardrobe. You can also check out this helpful guide on the Velocio website. And if you’re like me, you’ll still make mistakes from time to time…

Finally, here are the three Velocio pieces that have transformed our winter training, whether on the slopes of the Alpes Vaudoises or on the shores of Lake Geneva.

Alpha Merino Air Jacket

When it’s below 7°C, I don’t hesitate one second and I wear this jacket. Polartec’s Alpha Wool material creates a layer of warm air around the body, which Lillie calls her “happy place”. I personally like the fact that this jacket is lightweight and allows for a lot of freedom of movement, unlike many winter clothes.

Depending on the weather, I wear a light, short-sleeved merino wool baselayer or a warmer, long-sleeved version. With this jacket, there is no need to put on an extra layer for the descents because the outer membrane protects from the wind at 100%.

In short: the Alpha Merino Air jacket is my Swiss Army knife when I ride in winter! Like the whole Velocio range, it also exists in a woman version.

Alpha Merino Air Jacket on the Velocio website: women and men.

Lillie in her “happy place”

Overpant

“Rain pants” are not new. Worn over bib shorts, they promise to keep you dry in the pouring rain and are the favorite of mountain bikers as well as bike tourists. Not really road cyclists: they are bulky, uncomfortable and sweaty.

The Overpant launched this winter by Velocio is different: the fit is close to the body and the fabric is stretchy. The feeling was still weird the first time I wore it, but after a few minutes I didn’t think about it anymore. I was warm and much drier than with any winter bib tights.

If you want to ride in wet weather even in winter, I can only recommend the Overpant. It’s also available in a women’s version with the Flyfree system that allows you to satisfy a natural need without having to remove the straps, just like the men. And it comes with Lillie’s stamp of approval.

Overpant on the Velocio website: women and men.

The Overpant: a close fit and an effective outer layer

Alpha Gloves

I discovered these gloves last winter and they changed my life. At least, during my cold weather rides. They’re made on the same principle as the Alpha Merino Air jacket, with a warm and comfortable merino wool layer on the inside and a protective membrane on the outside.

They keep my hands warm no matter what the conditions, an unprecedented luxury for me who gets cold extremities easily. Plus, they are very flexible and provide great freedom of movement when it comes to braking or shifting.

On the Velocio website: Alpha Gloves.

Alpha Gloves: warm hands in all circumstances

Do you have a question about winter clothing or Velocio products? Don’t hesitate to contact me, I’m always happy to help my fellow cyclists to face the elements with a smile. I have a little gift in the form of a sweet discount code for those who reach out to me.

Alain

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