Uk autumn/winter based bicycle clothing suggestions please
September 14, 2013 12:47 AM   Subscribe

I have been cycling around 10 miles a day round trip to work and back and have managed quite well in shorts and tshirt all summer. I have just been on holiday and come to the realisation that it is going to be wet and wild in Britain from now on. I need some great clothing suggestions please! Waterproof, cold proof, breathable items are a must!
posted by aqueousdan to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have a pair of outlier daily riding pants which are warm, waterproof, windproof, and look great off the bike as well.

It's also worth remembering that cycling in winter means cycling in the dark - so if you're buying a jacket, make it bright and/or reflective.
posted by girlgenius at 1:11 AM on September 14, 2013

I do the same length of commute.
I find merino is unparalleled for warmth and lightness. It also dries quickly. It's expensive but lasts really well. Rapha make lovely merino bike tops but they are really expensive - however there are also a lot of sales on at the moment...I just got a nice merino top for £35 in Snow and Rock.

I find one thin merino layer plus a thin Goretex jacket to be plenty because you're moving. I've tried a few jackets but ended up paying a bit more for Goretex. I just find anything else is either not waterproof or doesn't breathe. Mavic make really nice ones - mine is five years old and still looks perfect.

- Make sure you have a good place to dry stuff at work - nothing nastier than your clothes being slightly damp when you put them back on!

- mudguards are a big help

- I prefer longer shorts in winter, fitted but not Lycra. The kind that are for cross country mountain biking are good. Soggy Lycra is no fun and waterproof trousers are more bother than they are worth, I find. If its really cold I wear thin merino leggings underneath them.

- I get very paranoid about lights in the winter, make sure your gear is bright or reflective.
- bring spare undies in case of a damp bum.
- if your bike isn't stored inside, get a saddle cover
- if it's really chucking down, I don't bother and get the train.
posted by tardigrade at 1:20 AM on September 14, 2013

I do the same as tardigrade ie. mountain biking baggies with leggings underneath - that's partly just because that's what I have, but works well for me. Or if I'm feeling snazzy, the leggings get replaced with long striped socks :)

You'll need good, waterproof gloves because your hands bear the brunt of the weather. I splashed out on a pair of Sealskins but I have been really disappointed - they make my hands sweaty and I can't get my hands out without the lining pulling out, which is hard to get back in. So that's one thing not to buy.

I have a thin merino buff, which is great because it's so versatile - I mostly wear it over my head (under my helmet) and it keeps my ears warm, but also good around the neck as a scarf.

And yes, a fluorescent and reflective jacket or bib.
posted by penguin pie at 1:36 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

The buff is a great idea!
I just use regular bike gloves but London rarely gets super cold, so ymmv, literally :)
Oh and also merino socks - Smartwool do a good size for biking in. I have some overshoes but don't use them for commuting - if it's that bad I don't use the bike - but merino socks will keep your feet warm and dry when the rain gets in your shoes.
posted by tardigrade at 1:51 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you have an Aldi nearby?

I got some decent winter biking gear from Aldi for super-cheap, but it's not always available (I think it's overstock from other retailers) so you'll have to keep popping in regularly to snap up the bargains when they arrive.
posted by the latin mouse at 2:54 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Merino base layer, lightweight waterproof jacket with a hood that fits over a helmet (mine's a Montane, very happy with it), Sealskinz waterproof socks.

(You already know this but: be really really careful in the evenings, if it's raining hard most drivers won't see you. I stopped cycle commuting in London in winter due to having too many very-near-misses.)
posted by dickasso at 4:47 AM on September 14, 2013

Consider a rain cape, such as this model from Carradice. Capes do act as sails in the wind, but since they leave your chest and legs free, they don't collect condensation on the inside the way that close-fitting raingear does. When I cycle with a rain cape, I find that my shins and feet still get wet due to the forward motion of the bike, but spats can help with that. Plus a high-viz yellow cape with reflective strips makes it very difficult for a driver to plausibly claim SMIDSY.*

Of course, for a cape to be effective you must have mudguards/fenders fitted.

*However, I do recommend bright lights when cycling in the rain.
posted by brianogilvie at 11:27 AM on September 14, 2013

I commuted in London for a lot of years and now I ride lots in the Pacific Northwest of the US, so have had plenty of time to experiment with damp, cold cycling.

Wool garments are almost always a good choice for two reasons: They retain their warmth when wet and they don't stink as much or as quickly as synthetics, so need washing less frequently, prolonging their life (it's frequent washing that wears out many delicate 'performance' fabrics). Good wool is expensive but durable, so a good investment.

Certainly consider merino base layers, because they're great for temperature regulation and don't get sticky and slimy like synthetics. What you put on top of that, depends on the weather.

If it's cool but not too cold, I'll generally wear a long-sleeve, shirt or cycle jersey (wool can be good here, too). I don't put a jacket on top of that unless it's properly raining. In a light shower I prefer to get a little damp and not boil over. For a short trip (< 10 miles) I don't bother with cycle shorts, just regular underwear with a pair of comfortable track pants or cycling pants on top. Good wool cycling tights are lovely, but expensive and hard to find well made ones these days. Alternatively, wool base- layer tights under shorts can work well.

If it's colder I'll wear the same, maybe a thicker wool base layer, maybe a fleece pullover as it gets colder, and add a windproof vest ('gilet' in cycle-speak). Vests are great because they keep out a lot of the cold but allow some cooling ventilation - the front zip opening affords useful temperature control.

Only if its raining heavily or very cold do I get out the waterproof shell jacket. The breathability of modern shells is better than it used to be, but still overhyped, and unless it's very wet or very cold it's easy to 'boil-in-the-bag'. Nevertheless, it's good to get a good one - another investment - because when you really do need it, you'll appreciate it. I generally find it fine to let my legs get wet and change clothes on arrival. Waterproof overtrousers are uncomfortable and hot.

The secret to warm hands is just like the rest of your body - layering. On cool days I wear bike mitts and a pair of thin wool glove liners over the top. On cold days I add a pair of thick wool gloves on top of those. Good down to around -6degC. Only below that do the ski gloves come out.

tl;dr - layers, plenty of wool.
posted by normy at 10:59 AM on September 24, 2013

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