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Snow Problem

Cold Weather Wardrobe Tips for Winter Bike Commuters

Bike commuting in the snow.

When Transportation Alternatives asked New York City cyclists how they coped with the cold, the denizens of #BikeNYC shared decades of collective cold-weather wardrobe wisdom.

Combining their advice with practical tips from Transportation Alternatives' team of all-weather commuting vets, BikeNYC.org created — and updated — this practical ride guide to keep you warm from head-to-toe and meet cold-weather commuting challenges in stride, regardless of your budget. 

How do you dress for winter bike commutes? Share your advice in the comments section below and join the conversation. 

[Above image via HappyStan.com]


Core Philosophy

  • Sonya D.: Leggings under jeans (or two layers of leggings)...
  • Lizbon G. (@lizbon): When it gets really cold, wear thin liners under every part of body.

Under Armour Women's Coldgear Cozy.

Editor's advice: wool and fleece are excellent layering materials to keep you warm to the core — both wick moisture to keep chill-inducing sweat in check, while retaining warmth when wet.

For leggings, consider investing in a pair of Smartwool microweight bottoms. They provide an added layer of warmth, but are light enough to keep you from overheating. To keep your core comfortable, throw on a wool sweater or fleece midlayer (Merino wool provides all the benefits of traditional lambswool without the itch factor).

For an affordable and form-flattering insulating layer, try Under Armour's Women's Coldgear Cozy 1/2 zip (pictured above). 


Stopping Head Winds

  • Shira B.: I wear my snowboarding helmet, it has built in ear warmers and overall insulation, super warm!
  • @loisidanest: "Yep. I #bikenyc all winter. I keep warm with my super long wool cowl — free knitting pattern.
  • Bancha S. (@BS96): Survived a sub-32ºF commute (with a) balaclava...

Loisidianest's cycle savvy DIY wool cowl.

Embrace your inner ninja with Under Armour's Cold Gear Hood.

Editor's advice: as Bancha suggests, a balaclava will keep your head and face warm while staying slim enough to fit under your helmetUnder Armour's Cold Gear Hood is a solid and affordable choice to keep heat in and wind out.

Not into the ninja assassin look? Try a wool chullo hat for  greater coverage and insulation than a traditional wool cap, with less bulk. Or if you'd rather DIY, knit your own headband for a perfect under-the-helmet fit.

Combine head protection with a thick scarf or a neck gaiter to keep your neck warm and circulate upper body heat. Carhartt's fleece neck gaiter and Smartwool's neck gaiter are both good options for versatile face and neck coverage. 


Shielding Your Extremities from the Extremes

North Star Fur Deerskin Sherpa Lined Mitt

Show winter who's boss with wool socks from Surly.

Editor's advice: hands and feet are often the first to go numb on icy, wind-whipped rides. To keep your toes toasty, invest in a few pairs of wool socks, and for really cold days, double up with a pair of sock liners.  

Down to the freezing point, Wells Lamont Cold Weather Gloves are an affordable way to stop frigid fingers; you can extend that range further by wearing pair of thin glove liners underneath. 

For bicyclists on a budget, try this savvy DIY approach adapted from working cyclists around town: cut the bottoms off some generic sheepskin-style boots — available at most of New York's finer dollar stores — and tack them over your brake levers for an insulating bike sleeve. Add some DIY galoshes (read: plastic bags) over your hands and feet, and you've got a weather-proof solution on the cheap.


Seal the Deal

  • Liz P. (@bikepeacenyc): 365/24/7 #BikeNYC, for the REALLY cold days to come: nothing beats my fur coat for warmth.
  • Carter G.: Gearing up: UniQlo windproof/breathable jeans are superb! Only $50.
  • Gil L.: I plan on riding a lot more this winter. I'll be employing an insulated pair of coveralls...

HEATTECH Jeans for winter bike commuting.

HEATTECH Jeans by UniQlo

Editor's advice: when you're active, overdressing can cause sweating, and sweating equals chills when the wind gets in. So counterintuitively, riding with a big, bulky coat can actually make you cold.

The heat you work up on your ride will go a long way towards keeping you warm and with smart layering, you'll likely just need a mid-weight shell jacket to stop wind and repel rain. For extra cold days, add a down jacket to the mix and you'll be ready for all but the most punishing of polar vortexes.

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