In South Africa we are fortunate to have relatively mild winters, and the days usually warm up enough to ride fairly comfortably with only one extra layer, or some arm warmers. We do get some seriously cold snaps though, which send us rummaging through the cycling kit drawer/shelf for the warmest gear and as many layers as we can find. Here’s a guide to tackling winter riding with some comfort.

By Joanne Badenhorst

Photo Credit: Bev McKenna


Firstly, our advice is, if you don’t absolutely have to ride in the cold, then don’t.  If you are riding for enjoyment and fun, when the temperatures are close to zero and don’t get above 14 deg C in the day, stay home, find an indoor activity to keep you busy, spend time with your family.

Secondly, if you must get out and ride, make sure you have the right gear and layer up.  Be prepared to not feel your fingers, toes and nose for most of your ride.  And be prepared to take layers off and put them back on at least once. I will touch on wet weather gear in a separate article.


Long-finger winter gloves, with possibly an inner. These don’t always keep your fingers toasty, but they tend to keep the frost bite away.  Don’t expect your fingers to be as dexterous as they are with summer gloves.


Depending on what your outer layers are, this could be a basic undershirt which wicks sweat away from your skin and keeps you dry, or a full-on thermal vest (long or short sleeve).

Long-sleeved Winter Jersey

For the very cold spells the fleece-lined jerseys are best, especially if you are not riding hard enough to build up a sweat.

Long-sleeve Winter Jacket/Windshell

These are great if there is a nasty cold wind. It always a good idea to make sure you always have a windproof jacket in your bag. They’re usually super lightweight so can fold up small and be stored in a pocket if you get too warm.

Full-length or ¾ winter cycling pants

Even though your legs are moving most the time, it’s a bonus to have them covered when it is below 6 deg C. The knees can get seriously cold on the downhills. Knee warmers are available to wear with your regular shorts, but trust me, they are not comfortable. Go with ¾ or full-length rather.

Photo Credit: Bev McKenna

Feet warmers

Some brands offer thicker cycling socks for winter. You could also try thermal socks. You’ll need to loosen your shoes a bit to accommodate the extra fabric, which doesn’t suit everyone. A great investment are ‘booties’ or shoe covers. If you can keep your feet warm, you are sure to have a more enjoyable ride.

Head warmers

There are lots of buffs/snoods type headwear available as well as cycling-specific beanies.  Make sure your ears are covered too. While keeping your head warm is important, this is where you might overheat, so make sure you can take something off if needed, all the while making sure your helmet still has a secure fit.

Arm warmers

Depending on how cold it is and what other layers you are wearing, we find arm warmers better for intermediate weather, also a must for your cycling wardrobe.


A chest warmer (they look like a baby’s bib) is a winner and definitely a must-buy for winter. You can remove it easily if you get too warm and it’s light enough to carry in a pocket.

Balaclava or buff for your neck and face. Currently being Level 3 of the Covid19 Lockdown, most of us have got our faces covered anyway.

Photo Credit: Bev McKenna

We all operate at different temperatures. Some love riding in the cold, while others thrive in the heat, and dressing for either of these conditions in 100% personal.  Layering up isn’t always going to give you your best look, but it will ensure you are warm and comfortable, both essential to ensure you enjoy your winter rides.