Winter is officially here, there's snow on the ground and the ski fields are open, but that doesn't mean you can't still ride! Winter is a great time to get out riding - the trails are quieter, you don't get anywhere near as hot and sweaty, and it's perfect for honing your skills on slippery, technical trails. Yes it's cold and wet, but there's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, right? With this in mind, we put together this list of some of our favourite items of clothing that should keep you warm and dry throughout the cold, wet season. We hope it helps!
It’s possible to enjoy riding in the cold winter months, you just have to be prepared.
The first thing that I want to say is that for me, the most important thing is layering! Mountain biking differs from road cycling somewhat in that your input and effort can change by a significant amount in short periods of time, and this means that your temperature can also change pretty significantly in a similarly short period of time. It's important therefore to be able to quickly add or remove layers depending on your temperature. We're really into 7Mesh clothing here - for a relatively new entry into the cycle clothing market, they're absolutely nailing it, and so a lot of the clothing you'll see here is 7Mesh, because we believe in it. They're also based in Squamish, and we love supporting local brands.
The 7Mesh Northwoods windshell is perfect as a top layer on those drier days.
Cold and dry weather
Let's start with cold, dry weather. You don't need to worry about anything waterproof, staying warm is the name of the game. You'll want to start with some kind of base layer, probably long-sleeved, such as the 7Mesh Gryphon. Base layers help to wick sweat away and give a small amount of insulation. Next up is an insulation layer such as the Callaghan Hoody to help keep the heat in. Top it off with a windshell such as the Northwoods windshell - this helps to block the wind out. Some combination of these three things works well depending on how warm it is, how fast you're likely to be riding, etc. - for faster rides where you might be putting in a lot of kms and getting a lot of windchill, the windshell is especially important. You might not use it if you're doing a lot of climbing and slower more technical descents and it's not too cold out.
Get geared up for winter so you can ride at full throttle like Phil!
On the bottom half a slightly heavier short than you might use through summer works well, such as the 7Mesh Glidepath. If it's really chilly out, I will often use tights like the 7Mesh Seymour, or bib tights. They might look a little 'roadie' but I love them. Another option is a long pant like the 7Mesh Glidepath pants. They're warm enough but also quite breathable and stretchy.
The 7Mesh Eldorado makes a great base-layer or a sweet jersey for those milder days.
Keeping my extremities warm is usually the hardest thing, and I find that the money you spend on gloves and socks is totally worth it. Assos make some great stuff here rated for different times of year including shoulder seasons, such as their winter socks, and spring/fall gloves. With a reinforced insulated toe area, they really make a big difference in keeping the heat in.
A good mid-season to winter glove like the Assos Early Winter gloves should keep your hands toasty
Cold and wet
Cold and wet weather is when it gets really challenging, and simply layering up isn't going to cut it. Riding through summer it's easy to not worry about getting wet, but when the temperature is approaching zero, staying dry is a lot more important. This is where some quality wet-weather clothing can really make your life a lot more comfortable. Quality waterproof breathable membranes such as Goretex are super important because they help keep the water out but allow the fabric to breathe so that you don't just get covered in cold sweat.
When it’s really raining, nothing beats Goretex.
7Mesh again make a great range of waterproofs, with the Revelation Jacket and Revo short being their flagship models. They use the Goretex membrane and have a great cut for riding. They're tough yet light and will keep you dry all day long. Well worth the investment if you're serious about riding year-round. If you want to go full-leg, the 7Mesh Thunder Pant is a full Goretex waterproof pant for keeping the rain at bay on those nastiest of days.
The 7Mesh Guardian Goretex Jacket will help keep all but the nastiest weather at bay.
Once again, keeping the extremities warm and dry can be one of the biggest challenges. A good pair of winter gloves will go a long way to keeping you comfortable - Assos make some nice insulated winter gloves, pictured below. A few of us here at Steed are also a big fan of the 100% Brisker which comes in a waterproof and a non-waterproof version.
A heavier glove like the Assos Winter or 100% Brisker Hydromatic will be much more comfortable on wet rides.
Keeping your feet dry
To keep your feet warm and dry there are a few different options. The cheapest way would be to either get some waterproof socks. You could also get a bootie to over your shoes. Gore booties are good, however the elastic strap under the bottom of the shoe can get ruined, especially on flat pedals. The best option, though not the cheapest, would be to buy a dedicated winter shoe. We like the Shimano MW7 shoe - a fully waterproof and windproof shoe with an insulated Goretex upper and neoprene cuff around the ankle. Read our full review here.
The Shimano MW7 is the cream of the crop of waterproof riding shoes.