Today, I'm sharing my insights on how to stay warm and comfortable while riding in various winter temperatures. After years of indoor training, I've found a clothing balance that won't break the bank. I have to admit, I have grown tired of sitting on the trainer in my basement. Not to say the trainer is bad, just that many years of indoor trainer rides on Zwift, TrainerRoad and The Sufferfest, I struggle to ride inside anymore. Or, maybe it is my lack of racing and goals? I don't know, but let me walk everyone through the basic needs for winter cycling clothing and how you might be able to save money.
How Much Does This Cost?
To be honest, I have probably spent near $5,000 on winter cycling clothing over the last 10 years. Most of it was unnecessary for my winter cycling needs. Let's talk about our own personal needs for a second and the training cycle. Even if you find yourself training outsides over the winter, most of this training should be sitting in the comfortable zone 2 area. Some of us may need to do some sprinting and anaerobic work, but the majority of our winter cycling should be relaxed cycling with friends or to coffee stops. If you train over the Spring, Summer, Fall, and then do a lot of interval over the winter... Well, that's just a recipe for burnout.
With all of that said, let's dive into the wardrobe essentials for different temperature ranges. (No links or pictures are affiliate, this is just for your own reference. We are not advertising for any of these brands. Chose the brands that are affordable for you.)
Temperature Range: 65-55°F
For milder days, where the temperature hovers between 65 and 55 degrees, I keep it simple. An undershirt, arm warmers, regular bib shorts, knee warmers, and a windbreaker are all I need. This setup allows easy adjustment as the ride progresses. As you can see, there are options on Amazon.com that keep costs down.
Temperature Range: 55-45°F
As the temperature drops to 55-45 degrees, I add gloves and toe covers for extra warmth. A lightweight jacket becomes a staple, providing comfort without compromising flexibility. For a casual ride, a thicker jacket can replace the windbreaker, offering more insulation. The only thing I am adding in the pictures below are gloves and a long sleeve cycling jersey. Let's see what Amazon has.
Now we have increased our costs by roughly $77 and have more flexibility down to 45°F. The total we have now spent is $178 to keep riding over the winter. I know cycling bib shorts that are more expensive than that. Also, check to see if you already have gloves or a lightweight fall jacket. All of these could lower your entry cost for cycling during the winter. Heading down to our next range is going to cost us extra money. You may find this extra expense worth it and the extra expense provides you true warmth even if you do need to stop to change that flat tire in very cold temperatures.
Total Cost: $178
Temperature Range: 45-38°F
In the 45-38 degree range, I introduce a head cover, neck cover, thermal cycling pants, and Marino Wool Socks. Here it is important to buy a good pair of cycling pants. These additions, along with a thermal jacket, ensure warmth while riding. Don't forget glasses to shield your eyes from the cold wind. Let's look at the costs now that we want to ride in really cold temperatures.
Now things are getting a bit more expensive. You may already own a pair of ski socks. If you notice in my image I selected ski socks because they are cheaper than the labeled "Cycling Socks". Shop around different outdoor activities because you may find better deals in other sporting areas like skiing, hiking, or running.
The cycling pants I would spend money on. $178 is the low end I would spend on these pants. Having a bad pair of winter cycling pants is not fun when riding and no fun when you get wet. The last thing we would dadd is a neck and head cover. But, we are still riding outside and enjoying nature is some rally cold temperatures.
Before we only spent $178 on our winter kit, but this package will add another $232 to our total price. It is expensive, but worth it if you desperately need to be outside in the fresh air and off the basement trainer.
Total cost: $410
Temperature Below 38°F
Venturing below 38 degrees requires extra layers. A full-faced ski mask or hooded cover, thermal underwear, a winter jacket, and snow gloves are essential. High-quality cycling pants, wool socks, and waterproof boots keep your lower half warm and dry. Adding at this point may not cost you any extra money besides a nice pair of cycling boots. I use my winter ski jacket and winter ski gloves. There is no need to buy anything specific to cycling once you get below 38 degrees. I only recommend Lake Cycling Boots because they are the best on the market. I have tried many others, and Lake makes a good boot for the price.
The MXZ120 work fantastic down to 10°F. This is about as far down as I would go riding my bicycle anyways. There will be other problems once we go too far down below 32°F. For instance, our water bottles will freeze, our chain lube will start to get gunky unless we are using winter chain lube. Don't forget, when you head down below freezing, we need to lube our chain with winter chain lube. Also, if you have mechanical shifters, those may freeze up and our electronic shifting may lose battery life quicker in these super cold temperatures. Just be careful when you go too far below 32°F.
These boots add another $290 to our costs but we are comfortable down to below freezing temperatures. We are using ski jackets and ski gloves so we don't need to spend the extra money.
Total Cost: $700
Yes, total cost is that of a decent trainer inside. The decision is really up to you on what you want to do. Want to train in the basement, well you can get a Wahoo Trainer for just below $700. Want to go outside and ride while staying comfortable, that also is near $700. The choice is really yours, but I am personally choosing to go outside. I need to be outdoors and breathing in that fresh air, not that stank from my body while I ride in the basement.
Cycling in winter doesn't have to break the bank. By strategically choosing essential items, you can ride comfortably in various temperatures without spending a fortune. Stay tuned for more cycling tips and updates on our upcoming cycling showroom! 👍 Don't forget to like, share, and subscribe for more cycling insights!