Break out the winter riding gear – your guide to the essentials

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We asked Jesse Bulkeley from Cycle City in Fyshwick to give us his tips for essential winter riding clothes.

Autumn is arguably the most beautiful time of year in Canberra – bright crisp mornings, trees bursting with colour and stunning clear sunsets. It is an amazing time to be out on the bike.

However, as we get closer to winter and the days get shorter and shorter, temperatures can fluctuate wildly from day to day and even hour to hour. It’s vital to know what to wear in different conditions to ensure you can beat the winter chill and can ride your bike in comfort right through to spring.

There are tonnes of cold weather clothing items on the market so it can be confusing when shopping for your new winter kit. The key is to keep it as simple as possible.

Obviously everyone is different but there are a few basic rules we should all follow. You can jig up your own combination depending on ride distance, time of day and how much you want to spend.

Just two different cold weather outfits should see you through until September when things start to warm up again.

COLD WEATHER KIT – For morning and evening commutes, those crazy people riding before work FOR FUN and those coldest of days when the mercury seems to be frozen near the bottom of the gauge!

That first ten minutes aboard a bicycle on a frosty below-zero morning can be very unpleasant! It’s important that you are able to warm up soon after or you’ll stay uncomfortably cold for the duration of your ride and even afterward.  Worse still, at the other end of the day, you won’t want to ride home. The answer? Get your cold weather kit on.

  • Head warmer (ear strip, skull cap, balaclava) because frosty ears are no fun!
  • Base layer thermal worn directly on the skin to provide amazing warmth and wick sweat away.
  • Windproof/water resistant collared soft shell jacket is an absolute must-have. Don’t skimp on a good jacket!
  • Heavy-weight gloves similar to ski gloves but designed to not hinder dexterity for bike handling. Often have gel palm pads. $60-120
  • Fleecy lined knicks (longs, 3/4s or leg warmers) to keep the engine room warm!
  • Wool socks minimum 42% wool blend because no-one likes to have cold toes
  • Toe covers or full shoe covers. Windproof fleecy lined covers are the most effective and, if you wear road shoes, put a piece of tape over the air hole in the sole.

Expect to pay around $370-800 for the full kit but remember the clothes will last many seasons.

NOT-AS-COLD WEATHER KIT – For riding during the day or on a beautiful sunny winter Canberra afternoon (you know the ones I mean – collective sigh!)

  • Regular short sleeve cycle jersey or maybe even a plain old short or long sleeve t-shirt.
  • Wind vest lightweight and windproof ideally with mesh at the back for air flow.
  • Arm warmers can be handy because you can take them off if you get too warm.
  • Lightweight windproof gloves because fingers can still get cold, even on warm days.
  • Regular nicks or shorts don’t have to be lycra and don’t have to be fitting. Try a pair of mountain bike shorts or wear some normal shorts with leggings underneath.

Expect to pay around $370-800 for the full kit but you can substitute some items with everyday clothes.

You probably already have some of the gear in each of the kits and there are certainly some standard every-day clothing items that may work as well as cycling-specific ones. The benefit of buying clothing and gear from a good cycling shop (apart from the expert advice and friendly service) is that most items will have reflective points to keep you visible in low light and bad weather.

Plus I guarantee the technology in cycling gear will keep you more comfortable for longer and that can be a wonderful motivator. Once you’ve been out cycling for a few cold days in a row, you’ll have worked out the best combinations and you’ll realise just how beautiful Canberra is in winter and how wonderful it is to ride your bike in the cold. I promise!

Keep warm and happy riding!


Jesse BulkeleyJesse Bulkeley is co-owner of Cycle City in Fyshwick, Canberra’s oldest cycle shop and the city’s biggest and best cycle clothing retailer. He loves everything about the cycling industry, especially the front-line contact with customers and the fact that he gets to build and work on bikes every day. He commutes daily from Gunghalin to Fyshwick, a round trip of 40kms – “Far enough to get into a good rhythm but not so far that it makes me tired.” Jesse says it’s also a sneaky way to rack up 200kms a week on Strava! Cycle City stocks a wide range of bike brands including Merida, Kona, GT, Norco, Lapierre, Look and Malvern Star. They offer all Pedal Power members a 10% store-wide discount. Just present your membership card.

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