Cycling all-year-round helps to keep you sane, especially during the shorter winter days. Fortunately, there is cycling clothing for every condition. With a little know-how, you can be prepared no matter what the British weather throws your way.
This guide is here to help you plan ahead and be ready for each season so that you can maintain your regular cycling routine. As you know, here in the UK, if you use the rain as an excuse not to go, you would not be able to spend much time out on the bike. So plan ahead and embrace the Great British weather.
No matter what the season, you will need to invest in a few items that will allow you to fulfil your wildest cycling desires throughout the year.
In pole position, we find the most essential cycle wear and accessory combo you can think of, that’s cycle cap and helmet.
? Torso and arms
Cycling Jersey: They are designed to be a snug fit, have easy access pockets at the back and be long enough to cover your whole back (even when leaning forward). It does not have to be expensive and to be honest if you want something more relaxed then a sports t-shirt will do the job.
Waterproof cycling jacket: It will inevitably be wet or drizzly at some point this year when you plan to get out on the bike. Getting a good quality high visibility waterproof cycling jacket will see you through the year in style and comfort.
Cycling gloves: If you are going on longer rides throughout the year, you need to get waterproof cycling gloves.
? Legs and feet
Padded cycling shorts: It is up to you if you want to put another pair of less revealing shorts on top, but the important thing is to keep your bottom protected while sitting in the saddle for long periods. If you are not planning for cycling any longer than 30 minutes a time, you can give these a miss, but you will not regret buying them once you have tried them out.
Cycling shoes: Even if you do not have specific cycling shoes that clip in just yet, you should invest some good quality and comfortable shoes to cycle in.
Here in the UK, there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. You can quickly cycle all year round if you have the right protection for each season. Let’s look further into the specific type of cycling clothing and footwear you will need for each season.
Cycling in winter
Average LDN temperature range: 2oC – 7oC (however, temperatures can reach 0oC and lower)
Weather conditions to be prepared for: Rain, Fog, Snow, Sleet, Ice
Ideal cycling kit for Winter: Thermal baselayer, Long sleeve windproof cycling jersey. Waterproof cycling jacket, Leggings, Neck warmer, Winter cycling gloves, Overshoes, Thick socks, Cycling cap or headband
Let’s get the worst one out of the way first. To cycle safely in the winter, you need to be prepared for freezing temperatures and low visibility conditions.
Invest in high vis clothing. Whether that be a high vis cycling jacket or a vest, you want to maximise the possibility of other cyclists, road users and pedestrians being able to see you from far away. The winter months bring with them shorter days (less daylight).
Torso and Arms
You may have heard of the term “layering”. Rather than attempting to cycle in a hefty, warm and thick winter jacket, you should use layers to keep you warm. Generally, three layers on your torso will be enough to keep away the cold. The theory is simple; by keeping your core warm, you can maintain peak performance and not risk any severe implications such as hypothermia.
In the winter, your layers should consist of a baselayer. A tight-fitting top that is breathable and wicks away moisture. Merino wool is a great natural fibre that works with your body to regulate temperature, keep you warm and not let sweat stick around too long. There are also several synthetic options out there. You can choose between a vest, short or long-sleeved baselayer. However, when the temperature does get close to 0oC, you will be grateful for that extra layer on your arms from a longsleeved thermal baselayer.
Next up, you will want to have a long sleeve jersey, ideally one with a fleece lining or windproof properties. This will keep your arms warm and mean that if you do get too hot in your jacket (spoiler alert, that is the final layer), you will still be warm enough with just two layers.
Finally, finish off your layer sandwich with a high vis waterproof jacket. You can spend hundreds of pounds on the latest Goretex jacket. However, for beginners, you can get plenty of good quality cycling jackets at a fraction of the price. Look for a comfortable jacket with a mesh lining and vents on the armpits (to improve airflow).
You will need gloves. You must retain full mobility of your hands so that you remain in complete control of the bike. Avoid large thick winter gloves, the likes you would use while skiing. You need to maintain a tight grip on the bars and quickly reach the brakes when you need to. For winter riding you need waterproof cycling gloves to keep you warm if you are caught in the rain.
Legs and feet
Your legs will be kept warm by their constant motion. You can comfortably cycle in just shorts, even down to freezing temperatures. However, you should buy some cycling tights that will prevent wind chill on your lower legs. You can get thermal bib rights that are excellent for early morning winter rides. They have padding built-in, so they can be worn instead of cycling shorts.
Your feet will get freezing if left unprotected, especially if it is raining. You can get overshoes made of a similar material to wet suits; they will keep your feet dry and prevent wind chill. In addition, during the winter you should wear thick wool socks, to keep your tootsies nice and warm.
Do not neglect your head. Get a nice neckwarmer they are a versatile and surprisingly comfortable addition to your winter cycling wardrobe. It keeps your neck warm, but can also be lifted to cover your mouth and nose on particularly nippy rides. Also, a cycling cap or headband is worth considering, especially if you suffer from ear pain caused by wind chill.
Staying warm while cycling in winter
Master the art of layering. Not only will you be able to stay warm and comfortable, but as you will find out, a lot of the gear that you are wearing on top of each other during winter can be used throughout the seasons. Although baselayers may look thin, they are very effective at keeping you warm while you are out on the bike. You soon warm up once you get your body moving, just make sure you cover any exposed areas of skin to prevent wind chill but make sure you still let your body breathe.
Cycling in spring
Average temperature range: 6°C – 18°C
Weather conditions to be prepared for: Sunshine, Wind, Rain, Mist, Fog
Ideal cycling kit for Spring: Thermal Baselayer, Long sleeve windproof cycling jersey. waterproof cycling jacket, arm warmers, neck warmer, cycling gloves, overshoes, cap or headband
The sun starts making an appearance, the days are getting longer, and flora and fauna are bursting into life again. Cycling in spring is a real joy as you get to experience nature as it awakens and transforms.
Although we have made it out of winter, the mornings can still be very fresh, so do not pack all your winter gear away just yet.
Torso and Arms
Now that the temperature has increased slightly, you do not have to wrap up quite so much at the start of your ride. You will be able to get away with going out in a base layer and long sleeve windproof jersey. If you did not get a long-sleeve windproof jersey this winter, not to worry, a good quality cycling jacket would do the job. However, you may find yourself overheating, especially on afternoon rides or the later months of spring.
An inexpensive alternative to a long sleeve jersey is to get arm warmers. These are great as they allow you to cover up your arms when you set off, but are easy to take off mid-ride if you find yourself getting too warm.
Wind chill can quickly cause your hands to become painfully cold and lead to serious health if left for long periods without warming up. Still wear your cycling gloves in the spring, you can always whip them off and store them in your pocket if your hands start to get too hot.
Legs and Feet
Cycling in the spring should mean that you can pack away your cycling leggings. However, if you are commuting by bike and leaving early in the morning, you might need to cover your legs up for the first few weeks of spring.
During the spring you want to keep your feet as dry as possible. If rain is forecast, or the ground is wet, leave the house with your overshoes on. Even if it is not raining, your tires will spray any standing water all over your lower legs and feet.
Now that the bitter cold of winter is out the way, you can let your head breathe again. However, a neck warmer is still a must to keep you comfortable through until the summer months.
Staying dry and comfortable while cycling in Spring
Do not pack away all your winter cycling gear just yet. Spring mornings can be very chilly, leading to fog and mist. You need to focus on staying dry, while also thinking about remaining visible to other road and path users. Arm warmers are a versatile addition to your cycling wardrobe and are a lot cheaper than buying a separate long sleeve cycling jersey.
Cycling in summer
Average temperature range: 15°C – 23°C
Weather conditions to be prepared for: Sunshine, Rain, High Temperatures
Ideal cycling kit for Summer: Baselayer, Cycling jersey, Cycling shorts, Fingerless gloves, Cycling cap
Finally, the most popular time of the year to get out on the bike. The days are longer, the sun is shining, and the temperature is warm. Fortunately, in the UK, we do not have ridiculously warm summers, so you should be able to cycle throughout without overheating. Even so, do not forget to wear sun cream on any exposed areas of skin, especially your neck, arms and legs.
Torso and Arms
Now the sun is out, you can start just wearing a short sleeve jersey or top along with cycling shorts. Do bear in mind, somewhat counterintuitively good baselayers also help you to keep cool during the summer. They wick away moisture from your body, which helps regulate your core temperature, so you can still wear one under your jersey.
If it is raining you will need your waterproof jacket, hopefully, you got one with zipped vents, so that you can let some airflow through to keep you cool. You could also buy a lightweight waterproof jacket that packs away neatly making them easy to carry.
Fingerless gloves are still comfortable to wear even when it is hot. They help to improve grip on the bars, dampen the vibrations of the road and provide some protection if you come off your bike and inevitably soften the blow by putting your hand down.
Legs and Feet
Finally, you can start going out with just your cycling shorts and not have to worry about any leggings.
Cycling shoes are designed to let some air through to help cool your feet. Accompany them with thin socks, and you should be able to avoid your feet getting too hot and sweaty on your ride.
A well-ventilated helmet will be all you need to protect your head. You could wear a cycling cap. They help to absorb sweat, preventing it from running down your face and the small-cap works great as a sun visor.
Staying cool while cycling in the summer
You can pack away a lot of the cycling clothing you had to wear over winter. However, a base layer does also work with your body to keep you cool. A packable lightweight waterproof is perfect for the summer months if your regular jacket is a little too warm to wear during summer showers.
Cycling in autumn
Average temperature: 10°C – 20°C
Weather conditions to be prepared for: Sunshine, Wind, Rain, Mist, Fog
Ideal cycling kit for Autumn: Thermal Baselayer, Long sleeve windproof cycling jersey. Waterproof cycling jacket, arm warmers, Neck warmer, Cycling gloves, Overshoes, Cycling cap or Headband
Stay dry while cycling in Autumn
As the days grow shorter once again, the conditions begin to resemble that which you experience in spring, but in reverse. The same principles apply. Protect yourself from the wind and the rain, but at the start of Autumn do not wrap up too warm, as you will soon find yourself overheating. Generally, there is more rainfall in Autumn here in the UK, so be prepared to need your jacket, waterproof gloves and overshoes more often.
In short, there is little excuse for you not to cycle throughout the year. A lot of the clothing that you will need to buy can be worn throughout the seasons. By using the layering technique, you only need to get a few staple items and depending on what the temperature and conditions are like, you get to decide what combination or how many layers you wear on that ride.
We all must utilise the health benefits of cycling for our mind and body, especially during the cold and miserable winter months. Remember when it is wet and grey, staying visible is just as important as keeping yourself dry. Make sure your lights are charged up, and you have some form of reflective gear on.
Finally, prepare yourself mentally before you go out on the bike. The night before a ride check what the weather forecast is in your local area. Get all the cycling clothing you need out of the wardrobe in preparation. So that come rain or shine you are ready and prepared to enjoy a safe bike ride.