If pedaling through winter sounds daunting, that’s because it can be. There’s salt and slush on the roads, numb fingers to worry about and a good chance that the sun is already retreating when your ride begins. But you don’t have to let your bicycle gather dust when the temperatures drop—with the right gear, riding in snow, sleet and everything in between can be safe, comfortable and downright fun. Whether it’s a daily city commute to catch the sunrise or a fat-tire adventure ride through a snow-draped forest, stay on the saddle all winter long with these gear picks to pedal with confidence.
Keeping your head warm is crucial when outside in the winter, and bike helmets—which are generally uninsulated and designed to promote airflow—do little to stave off the cold. Protect your lid with this wool cap from 45NRTH, which marries classic cycling cap style with all-season protection. Merino wool is a top choice for its ability to keep you warm even when it’s wet, and damp days are a guarantee when it comes to winter riding. The brim and ear flaps add extra protection, but it’s still small enough to shove into a pocket once you get to where you’re going. Flatlock stitching and a 3-panel design ensure that it fits snugly underneath most helmets. $45
The extra layers and gear you’ll need for comfortable winter riding create an additional need on the bike: somewhere to put them when it warms up. The simplest choice is a handlebar bag. Access can’t be beat, since there’s no need to remove a backpack, fit a gloved hand into small jersey pockets, or dismount to reach into a saddlebag or pannier. Constructed of ripstop nylon with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish, REI Co-op’s six-liter Link Handlebar bag can transport all your essentials while keeping the winter elements at bay. It’s designed for easy installation with a hook-and-loop strapping system and can fit on drop bars and flat bars alike, making it easy to swap onto different bikes. Two external stretch-mesh pockets provide access to snacks or gear mid-ride. $79.95
It’s fair to say that ice is the bane of a winter bike commuter’s existence—hitting a patch of the stuff with only two wheels for balance is a recipe for a bad time. But studded tires like 45NRTH’s commuter-centric Gravdal are your best protection against slips and falls. With 252 steel-carbide studs across 38mm tires, they provide all the traction control you need, while still keeping a narrow profile that will fit most gravel and commuter bike frames. One added bonus is the 5mm high-vis strip for night riding. 45NRTH also offers studded models for true narrow-tire road bikes as well as 29er mountain bikes. $70
Maximizing water resistance and breathability sometimes seem like a futile task; increasing one of these characteristics usually comes at the expense of the other. With the Naughtvid jacket, 45NRTH has adopted a new ventilation system, namely a zipped back-vent, which boosts airflow without sacrificing wind and water resistance up front, where you’re most vulnerable when riding into a chilly winter headwind. An added perk is an asymmetric front zipper, which keeps the toggle from rubbing your chin when fully zipped. $295
Any experienced winter cyclist will tell you that your hands will be the first thing to quit on you in cold weather. That means quality gloves are a must-have, but finding the right balance that offers enough insulation without sacrificing dexterity can be tricky. These REI Co-op mittens offer a glove-like fit to the thumbs and first two fingers, which have shifting and braking duties but combine the ring fingers and pinkies together in a heat-retaining package. A GORE-TEX shell and cinchable gauntlet cuffs complete the package, keeping you warm and dry. $69.95
If a brutal testing ground plays a part in developing a good piece of gear, 45NRTH can thank the epic winters of their Minneapolis headquarters for this cycling boot. The Ragnarok’s waterproof membrane and neoprene ankle protection repel rain and snow, while a 2-bolt cleat system provides fuss-free operation in grimy conditions. A BOA closure system and beefy lugs on the outsole ensure a tight fit and proper traction. If your winter conditions aren’t as dire as Minnesota’s, though, consider overshoes instead—an inexpensive way to add weather protection and insulation to any pair of cycling shoes. $195
A pair of cycling tights isn’t the most exciting piece of gear, but it’s a vital layer in cold conditions that regulates your body temperature by wicking sweat away from your skin before it can cool you down. REI designed these tights to be worn over a pair of padded bike shorts, under a pair of rain pants, or both, for maximum on-the-bike protection. It’s this versatility that makes these tights a great choice for a range of temperatures and activity levels. They provide more insulation than leg warmers, and more shoulder-season utility than dedicated winter bibs. Ankle zippers provide easy-on access, for over-the-shoe outfit changes, and stretch pockets on the thigh provide another space for gels, a credit card or a phone. $69.95
Extend your ride in comfort with this essential base layer from women-specific brand Terry, which combines all-season insulation with their popular flat-seam construction that reduces chafing. In changing conditions or on a ride where your exertion levels might fluctuate (think steep climbs or long descents), moisture wicking is a crucial part of staying warm. With these tights, the 8-panel design and microfiber fabric ensure that process is happening as efficiently as possible. $134.95
Sometimes, no matter what gear is in your closet, the weather just won’t allow for an outdoor ride. On those days, attach your bike to a smart trainer like the Tacx NEO 2T Smart Trainer and ride in your living room. There’s a lot more on offer here than a simple exercise bike—the NEO 2T can simulate road feel and has an extra-quiet motor, letting you concentrate on what’s coming through your headphones instead. The best part? It’s compatible out of the box with Zwift, an indoor training app that lets you ride with and race with other cyclists. $1,400
Interested in more staff picks and kits? Find more collections here.