When prime riding season gets overtaken by darkness, cold, and holiday festivities, many cyclists hang up their bikes and hibernate. But where’s the fun in that? With the right kit, anyone can conquer winter weather. And if you’re searching for the perfect holiday cycling gift, you can’t go wrong with high-quality cold-weather riding gear. Here’s what every cyclist needs to stay warm and keep the pedals turning all winter long.
Thermal cycling kit
POC Essential Mid Jersey - $149.99
POC Essential Thermal Tights - $199.99
POC Thermal Cap - $49.99
POC Thermal Sleeves - $39.99
POC Thermal Legs - $49.99
POC Thermal Sock - $29.99
POC Thermal Bootie - $69.99
POC Thermal Glove - $89.99
Let’s start with the obvious. If you’re riding through frigid winter conditions, you need quality thermal kit. The Swedish kit experts, POC, have every thermal piece you need to wrap yourself from head to toe. The extra insulation keeps you warm without feeling bulky or restrictive. Water- and windproof panels fend off precipitation and wind chill while moisture-wicking fibers and well-placed vents keep you comfortable when you start sweating. The full thermal jersey and tights are ideal for below-50 days, while thermal arm and leg warmers let you use your summer kit on milder days. With a good selection of thermals in your closet, you can mix and match pieces to suit the weather.
Winter cycling jackets
The key to surviving winter’s lowest lows is layering. Heavier jackets like the POC Pro Thermal and Fox Ranger Tech Fleece will keep you toasty on the coldest days. Layer them over a thermal base layer or thermal jersey, and you have the perfect armor against freezing temperatures. Lightweight jackets like the Fox Ranger Wind and Mavic Scirocco provide an extra barrier against moisture and wind but can be packed down to fit into a jersey pocket. Stash it away when you get hot on a climb and toss it back on before a cold descent.
When the days are short, it’s easy to get caught out by an early sunset. A pair of small lights, like the NiteRider Swift and Sabre will keep you visible and safe if you have to ride home in the dark. If you’re planning on actual night riding, a brighter headlight like the Light and Motion 700 Tundra will illuminate the road or trail ahead so you can ride as fast as you would in daylight. If you want the ultimate taillight, I’ve gone on record with my argument in favor of the Garmin Varia radar tail light. The radar gives you extra awareness of approaching cars, which is invaluable when the shoulder or bike lane is packed with snow.
If night riding is going to be your jam this winter, check out our guide to MTB night riding lights.
No one likes riding with a wet bum, so pick up a fender to keep your backside dry. The simple Mucky Nutz Butt fender is easy to leave on your saddle all winter. It’s sleek, weighs nearly nothing, but it’s enough to shield you from puddles, damp roads, and light rain showers. For mountain bikers, the Mucky Nuts Face fender attaches to your fork arch and catches the spray so you can attack all those sloppy winter trails. For more rear coverage on really wet days, add a simple clip-on fender from SKS. It’s easy to mount before a ride and remove later when things dry out.
Okay, okay, sometimes winter gets the best of us. If the weather just won’t allow for outdoor riding (sorry, Canada), an indoor smart trainer is the best way to stay fit and sane. Combined with virtual riding apps, smart trainers have turned riding inside into a pleasure rather than a chore. The wheel-on Saris M2 gives Zwift-curious riders a solid entry-level option. Dedicated indoor riders who care about performance and realistic “road feel” will prefer direct-drive trainers like the Tacx Flux 2 or Saris H3.
If you’re looking to build the perfect trainer dungeon this winter, check out our guide to essential indoor cycling gear.
Hopefully, with some of the winter riding gear we’ve picked, you or the cyclist in your life can outride Old Man Winter and burn off some holiday calories. If your winter riding gear is already dialed, check out our guide to the best mountain bike gifts or upgrade your home workshop with our bike tool gift guide. And stay tuned for more gift guides!