The thought of staring at the washing machine in the basement while spinning away on the dreaded indoor trainer is enough to get us out on the bike when the mercury plummets, but comfort is key. Cold riding is fun as long as you’re warm and dry. After that, the basement pain cave starts to look good, and who wants that? No one.
Here are a few of our go-to garments, which have encouraged us to get out of the basement and on the pavement this winter.
Pactimo Alpine RFLX Thermal Jersey
There are more glamorous options, and there are certainly more expensive options. But time and time again, in chilly temps below 50 degrees, this is the jersey we reach for.
Perhaps that’s exactly why we wear it: the Alpine RFLX is subtle and affordable for a layer this thick and warm. Pactimo wisely cut this one slightly baggier so you can layer underneath it, but it never feels bulky, nor does it flap in the breeze.
Breathable Ardente fabric is comfortable and toasty. But it can get too toasty: leave this one at home if temperatures climb above 50 degrees.
It’s built with a Pixel fabric membrane, a fancy way of saying the fabric has reflective elements built right into the cloth. So when a car’s headlights hit it on your winter commute home, the jersey illuminates for plenty of visibility — minus the hi-viz colors we know and loathe. No fancy graphics or overly loud colors here, just a simple aesthetic for everyday rides.
Pactimo Cascade RFLX Jacket
Made for your cold morning rides and winter training, the Cascade RFLX jacket features the same illumination Pixel fabric as the RFLX Thermal Jersey, but in a heavier, windproof garment. We love it for cold days when shedding layers probably isn’t in the cards. Wear this jacket with a base layer and a thin jersey and you’ll likely be warm enough for freezing temperatures.
Climabloc front panels make this lightweight but burly jacket waterproof as well, which is all but a necessity when riding through winter slop and spray. Milano all-way stretch fleece adds a touch of comfort and heat regulation inside.
Wear it as an outer layer when the temperatures drop into the 40s and 30s and stay there, but if you expect the thermometer to climb halfway through the ride, it’s too bulky to stick in a jersey pocket, so think layers instead.
Endura MT500 Waterproof Jacket II
When the worst of the worst winter weather descends upon your rides, particularly off-road shreds in the muck, it’s time to break out the big guns. Endura’s MT500 jacket is certainly that, with plenty of versatility for off-road excursions and more. Endura even found a way to make hi-viz yellow look good. That alone is worth some kudos.
As the name implies, it’s designed with off-road riders in mind, but if you’re hearty enough to pedal to work through the winter, you’ll likely reach for this jacket often. Packable? Not really, but this jacket’s made for awful weather, so you’re likely to ride with it on the whole time.
Endura is headquartered in Scotland, so its engineers know a thing or two about sloppy weather. This jacket isn’t made to simply repel the rain; it’s made to keep out Scottish deluges. It uses a three-layer fabric to keep moisture out, and the jacket is fully seam-sealed. If moisture gets in, that means you’re swimming.
There are seam-sealed zippers everywhere. If you get too warm, two big zippers allow venting under each arm and stay out of the way of your backpack straps, and a front breast pocket is ideal for your phone or sunglasses. The hood is helmet-friendly and cinches down cleanly when the skies are clear. The Cordura shoulders are a nice touch for standing up to the rigors of hydration pack straps. Simply stated, if you’re looking for the ultimate cycling shell, this very well might be it.
Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WxB Glove
Keep your digits warm without the bulk. It functions as a shell over a liner glove, or equally well as a standalone glove. Pearl’s Outdry layered fabric keeps water away from your skin with a waterproof outer membrane, and keeps your hands toasty warm inside with a soft and comfortable layer of fleece.
It’s the details that set Pearl’s gloves apart, though, like the suede palms that virtually lock onto your grips even when they’re wet. Wide cuffs with a Velcro strap fit perfectly over a long-sleeve jersey and cinch down when you want to tuck them into a jacket sleeve.
They’re at their best when the snow is falling or the soupy thaw is flinging up at you from your tires.
Rapha Merino leg warmers
It seems odd that something so simple could be described as luxurious. Yet these twin tubes of Merino wool are undeniably just that. They’re soft and perfectly cut as we’ve come to expect from Rapha’s Merino products. They’re also far warmer than their thin material would imply. Rides near freezing (32 degrees) were comfortable, so long as the roads were dry.
The thin material is impressively versatile. In fact, the breathability of the Spandex/Merino mix expands their usable range to well above 60 degrees.
The sock-like construction, flatlock stitching, and relatively thin fabric eliminates bunching behind the knee. Grippy silicone keeps dreaded leg warmer droop at bay (and even allows for the Luca Paolini warmers-over-shorts look, should you be so inclined).
A Merino leg warmer certainly soaks up more water than its synthetic brethren, but much like wool socks, Rapha’s warmers do an admirable job of keeping you warm even when damp. Still, for those who frequently ride in bad conditions, something like Castelli’s water resistant Nanoflex leg warmers is a better option.
Durability is good but not excellent. Merino does not have anti-tear characteristics of top synthetic fabrics, and so use on a mountain bike, where trees slash at legs with unfortunate frequency, is a bad idea. Likewise, don’t expect these to survive a hard fall.
Sizing matches up well with Rapha’s bib shorts — if you’re a medium short, go with medium leg warmers.