Bike Winter gear


I try to ride year-round. The guidelines below describe what I’ve had good success with to -12F.

The info below is for riding 50F or colder.

The short list of economical, must-have things to get is:

  • Mid- to heavier-weight snowboard / snowmobile mittens
  • Water-proof boots at least ankle-high
  • Balaclava
  • Gator Fleece-lined face protector – made to fit under a bike helmet, heavier than a balaclava
  • Mid-weight jacket long enough to cover your back
  • Reflective vest if your outer jacket is not high-vis
  • Winter chain lube – I use Boeshield for all weather conditions

More detail below

Key equipment


Sorted from least to most warm.

  • Mitten or heavy-glove / lobster-mitten (Mittens are much more effective than gloves or lobster gloves) – I currently use snowboard mittens, have used snowmobile mittens in the past
  • Moose Mitts (MI-made) / Bar Mitts / other vendors – with gloved hand inside. I use the Moose Mitts, black with lime trim


Sorted from least to most warm.

This is one of the most critical areas, because there’s not much you can do while riding if your feet get too cold. Waterproofness is essential below freezing.


  • Regular running shoe
  • Running shoe with rubber overshoe – be sure rubber is at least 0.5mm thick. I got mine at Farm & Fleet  20171112_090751
  • Running shoe with rubber boot – be sure rubber is at least 1mm thick. I got mine at Farm & Fleet 20171112_090848
  • Socks – most of the time a thin sock is fine – it’s more important that footwear not be too tight than that the sock is thick. I sometimes wear Patagonia wool socks.
  • Foot warmers – you can get the disposable chemical-reaction ones, like Grabbers – I made rechargeable electric ones pictured here from nichrome wire etc.: 20171112_093913


  • Cleated shoe – I ride my road bike down to about 20F, using a good quality winter cleated shoe, like Lake, and / or bike shoe neoprene covers 20171112_090654

Face, Head, Ears

Sorted from least to most warm.

Each of the below fit under the helmet

  • Sweatvac Ventilator
  • Balaclava
  • Sweatvac Winter Beanie + Gator Fleece-lined face protector
  • For blizzard / freezing-rain / hail conditions, add ski goggles – clear work best for night. Be careful selecting ones that will fit under the helmet, without an overly large border area. However, ski goggles dramatically reduce peripheral vision, I slide them off when riding through a lot of downtown or other busy intersections.

For ear warmers you want windproof ones, I use and recommend these which are down-filled and have a water-resistant shell: 180s down ear-warmers


Sorted from least to most warm.

I generally wear tights of some kind over bike shorts, with layers over the tights as needed.


  • Long-sleeve base layer, wicking material to stay dry
  • Above + wind-breaker jacket
  • Above + fleece long sleeve under wind-breaker
  • Heavier jacket (but not a winter coat, that’s too warm), should be long enough to not expose your back, in place of wind-breaker


If you deal with a lot of ice, particularly sharing the road with cars studded tires are the way to go (the Marathon Supreme mentioned below is available in a studded version). I’ve never used studded in Chicago, since the routes I use are so heavily salted I rarely encounter sizable patches of ice. The tires I like year-round on my commuting bike are Schwalbe Marathon Supreme, for their grippy rubber compound that helps a lot in rain and on ice to some degree. The Marathon Supreme are not quite as puncture resistant as their Marathon Plus, so I supplement the Marathon Supreme with a Tuffy tire liner .


Half Past Done: Feet and Winter Cycling

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