When the weather is less than ideal outside, some resort to the pain and suffering of riding indoors, while others choose to brave the elements. With a range of fabrics that will keep the warm in, and the cold and wet out, perhaps it’s time to retire that classic sweat-inducing rain cape.
Here in Australia, the winters are milder than many others around the world, meaning winter tights and puffy jackets aren’t often needed. We have put together a list of essentials to keep you warm (and dry), and showcased a few the Australian BikeRadar team wouldn’t do without.
Arm, knee, and leg warmers are a staple in any cyclist's wardrobe. They enable you to keep wearing your existing shorts and jerseys while covering up your limbs and joints. The biggest advantage however, is they are portable. If it looks like the weather may change, you can take them off, stuff them into a pocket and continue on comfortably.
DeFeet Armskins – AU$45.00
With more choice than the common black, the DeFeet Armskins come in six different colours – including some in blinding fluoro. With a few merino wool versions on offer too, these sleeves are a staple of the wardrobe for when it’s chilly, but not freezing.
Pedla Knee Grazers – AU$65
In case you can’t tell, we’re a bit bored with plain black warmers. The Pedla Knee Grazers come in grey camouflage and are made from stretch fleeceback M.I.T.I Roubaix fabric. The extra long knee warmers also feature top and bottom grippers.
Santini SMS H2O Leg Warmers – AU$99.99
At first glance, these leg warmers appear similar to many others on the market – but when the rain begins to fall, they really strut their stuff. The thermofleece fabric is treated with what Santini calls Acquazero, which makes water bead and roll off rather than soaking in.
If your core gets cold then your arms, legs, hands, and feet will be soon to follow; therefore it is extremely important to keep your body warm. However, you generate a lot of heat while you ride, so it’s crucial to find the right balance between layers and breathability.
Castelli Gabba – AU$219 short sleeve, AU$259 long sleeve
When you see the pros riding in an unmarked black jersey when it’s wet and miserable, they are wearing the Castelli Gabba. The jersey is made from water resistant Windstopper fabric, which remains breathable. It’s no wonder why we see so many sponsored, and non-sponsored riders donning the Gabba.
Craft Active Extreme Windstopper – AU$99.99
With body mapped wind protection on the front and over the shoulders, the Craft Active Windstopper Base layer will keep a bone chilling breeze at bay. The Gore Windstopper fabric adds an extra layer of insulation while wicking moisture away from your skin.
With the advent of more breathable materials, just about gone are the days of needing a rain cape to protect you from the elements. While rain jackets may be nice initially, once you begin to sweat all the moisture becomes trapped inside – leaving you soaking wet and cold. Even if a jacket is made from best materials in the world, if the cut is wrong it will leave you uncomfortable and cold.
Vest (AKA gilet)
Rapha Gilet – AU$200
The Rapha Gilet is not cheap, but for the cut and quality materials it is worth every penny – we get plenty of use out of ours.
Giro Waterproof jacket – AU$278.99
A waterproof jacket is all well and good, but if it doesn’t breathe when you begin to sweat, it will quickly feel like you're sitting in a sauna. Giro's Waterproof Jacket – part of its winter/spring road clothing range – is made from Pertex, a performance fabric that feels like cotton but is waterproof, windproof, and extremely breathable.
Hands and feet
Happy fingers and toes will make for a happy ride, but unfortunately these are usually the first parts to get cold and often the hardest to keep warm. It's important to find the right balance between warmth and dexterity, because it’s pretty embarrassing when you have to ask your mate to reach in your pocket, grab a bar, and unwrap it for you because your gloves are too thick.
Pearl Izumi Cyclone Gel Glove – AU$59.95
These midweight softshell gloves provide both wind and water protection, while still allowing for the needed dexterity. The Cyclone Gel Gloves have a gel padded, synthetic leather palm, and silicon on the index and middle fingertips for added dexterity.
4Shaw Corporate Black Merino 6" – AU$35.00
Merino is a bit of a wonder material in the cycling world, it maintains its insulative properties even when wet. The Corporate socks will keep your feet toasty warm and, as with all 4Shaw socks, height is crucial.
Bontrager RXL Windshell Toe Cover – AU$29.95
Toe warmers are something a lot of people have never tried, but for the mild Australian winter they are perfect. These are made from Bontrager's lightweight Profila Wind Fabric – used in other clothing such as its jackets – which offers a form fitting, water-resistant, and windproof barrier to protect your toes. The extra wide cleat opening stretches to accommodate any pedal system, though we recommend you size up for mountain bike shoes.