Layers for Winter Riding: Part One

Shrek: Ogres are like onions.

Donkey: They stink?

Shrek: Yes. No.

Donkey: Oh, they make you cry.

Shrek: No.

Donkey: Oh, you leave em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs.

Shrek: No. Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.

Donkey: Oh, you both have layers. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions.

If you are planning to get out this winter on the bike you should plan on having lots of layers at your fingertips. Riding in bad weather has become almost an art, but here are a few essentials to get you started in the right direction. Bad weather riding is where I have started to spend a little more money, as the garments take the worst beating. Here are some ideas to help you stay warm and spend wisely from head to toe.


Helmet- A helmet with the least amount of holes is a good option. It will help to keep warmth in and keep rain and wet snow out. Several manufacturers like Suomy and Lazer also make covers that snap onto their existing helmets. These are great in the winter. I use my Giro Air Attack Shield as I explained in a recent post, but I also have had a Lazer Blade with a cover (see pic) that would have been perfect had it fit my head a little better. It's not unusual to see ski helmets and goggles, but that is up to you.


Glasses- I always head out with a pair of sunglasses or clear safety glasses. They keep the cold air from hitting your eyes, and keep the sleet and snow out effectively. Make sure to bring something to clean them off with, possibly a dry rag in a Ziploc bag.


Caps- Cycling caps are a must for foul weather. I prefer a nice wool cap like those made by Pace. The smart wool keeps the cold from being unbearable and it breathes nicely to keep you from being overheated. The smart wool also keeps the funk away.

Skull caps or balaclavas- It is amazing how a light skull cap or balaclava can make you feel fine on a cold day. I recommend buying one from a breathable material, and you will like how it covers the head and keeps the tips of your ears warm. If you go too heavy a material, you will get too stuffy and sweat, and this could make you quite uncomfortable on longer days in the cold or if you stop for a tire repair, etc….



Neck garters- If you do not use a balaclava that will serve both as a head and neck cover, make sure you have a neck garter on when the temperature drops. I really cannot think of a better piece of gear for making the cold more tolerable. When I wear a neck garter, I immediately feel warmer. Newer merino and smart wool and breathable synthetics really handle the job nicely. Make sure to have one even if you keep it tucked away in the jacket.