Ultimate winter apparel for freezing rides

Ideal head-to-toe gear for those brisk wintertime adventures

Apparel Winter Guide

Showers Pass Spring Classic Jacket

Showers Pass Spring Classic Jacket

Full disclosure, we only needed this jacket on a few of our freezing rides. But its packability and total waterproof fabric made it a nice piece of just-in-case insurance. And if you ride in a place where “wintry mix” is part of the local weather forecast lexicon even better. Hardshell fabric on the front and back creates a stout barrier between rider and the elements, while more stretchy side panels deliver a snug, non-flappy fit that’s made this piece especially popular among the skinny tire set. There are also two massive side vent zippers, and another smaller one at the back of the neck, which together help improve temperature regulation. All seams are taped, all zippers have easy-to-grasp tabs, and there’s a zipped storage pocket on the back so you don’t have to go fishing into your deeper layers just to grab a gel or your smartphone. Price: $289 | More info at www.showerspass.com

Bontrager Town Stormshell Pants

Bontrager Town Stormshell Pants

This is yet another item that I don’t always use, but these commuter pants are a great add-on on cold, windy days, or if you know your ride will include time near traffic. Think lightweight wind pants and you get the idea. The bonus is a pair of LED light strips on the back of the calf, which have a flashing and constant mode to make you more visible in lowlight situations. The fabric is light enough that you barley feel the extra layer, and these pants are waterproof and breathable. There are also dual Velcro straps on each ankle so you can keep the cuffs out of your drivetrain. I also really appreciated the zip pocket on the right hip. Price: $175 | More info at www.trekbikes.com

Pearl Izumi PRO AMFIB Super Glove

Pearl Izumi PRO AMFIB Super Glove

Colorado-based Pearl Izumi says this is the warmest glove they make, and we are inclined to believe them. Utilizing 170-gram Primaloft Gold insulation, these digit warmers have kept our hands toasty on some seriously cold rides, yet thanks to the half-lobster four finger configuration, you can still deftly manipulate shifters, brake levers and even a dropper post. The only thing we’ve tried that is warmer are pogie-style handlebar attachments, but thanks to these gloves we can save those for only the most artic rides. A draw cord on the wrist seals the glove opening, while a back of hand cinch helps dial in fit. Our only gripe are the somewhat flashy colors. Price: $120 | More info at www.pearlizumi.com

Wigwam Metro Dotz Midweight Socks

Wigwam Metro Dotz Midweight Socks

Combine the warmth of merino wool with the comfort of stretch nylon and spandex and you get a sock that keeps your feet comfy without adding too much bulk. The fun design and fact that Wigwam is a 110-year-old family owned business that makes its socks right here in the U.S. of A. are a bonus. Price: $18 | More info at www.wigwam.com

Specialized Defroster Trail Shoes

Specialized Defroster Trail Shoes

With a middle-of-the-scale stiffness index of six and a 543-gram per shoe weight (size 44), these trail boots will never be confused with an all-out XC racer. But when the goal is staying warm during frigid fat bike rides, they’ve more than delivered. The dual Velcro sealed collar with neoprene cuffs has kept snow out even after extended post holing sessions. The BOA dial allows for fine tuning of fit, which is roomy compared to other shoes we’ve tested, meaning you can wear thick socks without sizing up. Thinsulate 400-gram insulation is more than enough to keep feet warm in this 20 to 31-degree temperature range, and the waterproof, seam-sealed internal bootie adds an additional heat trapping barrier. Price: $200 | More info at www.specialized.com

Pactimo Neck Gaiter

Pactimo Neck Gaiter

It has to be truly frigid before we go full bandit mode, but this neck gaiter from Pactimo is a nice piece of insurance for your face and lungs. Transfer-C fabric does a reasonable job of staying dry without condensation build-up. And when not in use it works as a neck gaiter, helping keep heat from escaping. Price: $20 | More info at www.pactimo.com

Bontrager Thermal Cycling Cap

Bontrager Thermal Cycling Cap

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you have to keep your head warm. And after trying all manner of hats and beanies, our go-to has been this simple black cap from Bontrager. It’s thin enough to easily fit under a helmet, yet the Profila thermal fabric keeps heat in without turning into a sweat-soaked mess. Extended flaps cover the ears, and the short bill lends a hint of style without impeding vision. Price: $25 | More info at www.trekbikes.com


About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Olympics, Tour de France, MTB world champs, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and kids Cora and Tommy in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.


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  • Don says:

    Mother Of God… $1500 worth of clothing to ride a bike in the snow?!

    • Jason Sumner says:

      Don — No doubt there are some spendy pieces on this list. But nowhere does it say you need to buy it all to ride outside in the winter. This is simply a compilation of gear we have used with great success this year that one might consider when they’re outfitting for their next wintertime ride. It’s also worth pointing out that when well cared for, apparel such as this can last a very long time, and thus could be a worthwhile investment. Thanks for reading — Jason

    • Liam says:

      Nobody said you had to buy everything at once.

      Invest in one or two items and save for the others. Probably some deals going on soon.

      Cannot put a price on being comfortable and warm when most people wouldn’t venture out.

      My personal favorite is Endura. Very well thought out stuff.

      • Jason Sumner says:

        Exactly — Thanks for chiming in, Liam. And yes, Endura makes some great winter and summer kit. We’ve been testing a new jacket lately and love it.

  • paul says:

    The items may last, but you’re shape may not. And yes, you CAN put a price on keeping warm and comfortable…apparently it’s $1500.

    Over-and-above the normal summer kit, I’ve acquired the many pieces, on sale, for much less using the same layering strategy. I’ve ridden down to -25 for much cheaper comfortably. And to boot, I use many of these pieces in other outdoor adventures. If it’s about vanity, fine, but functionally, at best, these pieces may be marginally better than what I have used and for me, certainly don’t justify the x times increase in cost.

    Here’s what I use..
    1-REI Rainwall jacket: $75
    1- Next-to-skin layer from Costco (tops and bottoms) $20
    1- 200wt North Face Fleece Layer from the outlet stores $30
    1pr – Smartwool light ski socks. $13
    1pr – Goretex socks from Cabelas $13
    1pr- old mountainbike shoes that are 1 size too large $100 that’ll take years to wear out during winter riding.
    1-balaclava from costco $15
    1pr Swany gloves $75
    1 – old pair of bibs that no one’s going to see anyway under all that gear. $0
    1 – old long sleeve jersey that no one’s going to see anyway. $0

  • paul says:

    Woops, forgot the Novara windfront tights or, lest it ages me, the Bellweather windfront tights, from the early 90’s. $50

  • mort says:

    I used my Chili’s longjohns…Key Biscayne dipped into the 60’s today…the fight is real on VK trails!

  • brian tunney says:

    Getting great laughs from many comments. I see people out spending $3000 – $5500 on bikes and now go bonkers over some high tech outer-wear ! The ski industry has been thriving on higher end gear and name-dropper lables for decades !! 🙂
    No, I’m not going out buying it all up either but much of the information is a good guideline for any not experienced in outdoor recreation in sub 20 degrees or colder. I’m a bit more reserved so I either look for similar gear less pricey and take my chances or I look through the closets at home using or testing stuff already acquired. I’ve been thru the gamut-
    Michigan or Colorado; 30 years of biking / 40 – skiing so I have stuff that has proven effective may times over the years. Some of it was the high tech or high end “of the day” and some will eventually have to be replaced.

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