Staying warm through the fall on a bike

Earlier this year, I moved in to a new house, which meant my commute went from being about 20 minutes by bike (~7 km) to a little over 40 minutes (~17 km). Fortunately, the area we ended up buying in has a nice, relatively calm ride in, most of the way on 60 km/h roads with a shoulder, or 50 km/h roads with a bike lane.

Through the summer, when biking is easiest, I’m mostly wearing shorts and an athletic shirt in the morning and evening, so nothing too specific or hard to find. As the temperature begins to fall, though, it gets to a point where you need to layer up, or you’re gonna have a bad time.

Over the last month or so, I’ve found a few nice cycling accessories that specifically lend themselves very well to biking in the colder weather, which I thought I’d share here. I bought all of these at Costco in Ottawa, but I’ll share as much detail as I can about them since they’ve all made it way easier (and warmer) as we march steadily towards winter.

Gloves

These gloves were under $20 at Costco, HEAD brand, and the fingers work with touch screens. They’re thick enough that I didn’t feel the need to double layer even at 0 degrees (Celcius), but not so thick and warm that my hands were all sweaty when I was done. The palms are also quite grippy so I wasn’t worried about losing control of the handlebars.

Shirt

This long-sleeved t-shirt is Rough Dress brand, and it was only $12 at Costco. I ended up buying two of these, and I consider them nice enough to wear as a regular shirt, but warm and cozy enough to use as a layer in cold weather or as my only layer in warmer fall weather. The shirt is 90% cotton, and 10% spandex, so it’s quite stretchy but not so much that it feels like it’s skin-tight or confining.

Balaclava

This is a piece of gear that I should’ve gotten a long time ago. I’d been using a combination of a neck warmer (used for skiing and very thick/itchy) and a hoodie hood under my helmet, and this is a huge improvement in so many ways. It was $12, BULA brand, and is incredibly versatile in varying weather. For example, you can wear it around your neck only, or independently control the hood portion and neck portion depending on conditions and your temperature.

This is a much less bulky option than my neck warmer/hoodie combination, and kept me just as warm, if not more so, while also letting me easily cover and uncover my mouth and nose as needed depending on temperature. It fits just fine under my helmet, barely requiring any loosening as compared to a hoodie hood, and it’s not so tight that you can’t fit headphones (mine are wireless, YMMV) under the helmet if you like a podcast or album while you ride. My hearing of the environment was not impacted at all by the balaclava either, and I could actually fit my glasses over the fabric, in stark contrast to my hoodie which is very baggy in comparison.

Conclusions

Biking in the winter isn’t for everyone. In addition to what I’ve picked up above, I’ve also ordered a pair of cycling glasses with different sets of lenses, including a clear pair for biking in the early morning when the sun is just coming up. It’s a real challenge trying to see through sun glasses at that time of day, but you still want to keep dust and bugs out of your eyes, and to protect the top part of your face from cold as much as possible.

I’ll share my thoughts about the glasses once they come, but if you’re considering biking in to the fall, I’d definitely check out Costco, as they seem to be specifically catering to this kind of thing in their options for fall/winter clothing. Safe travels, everyone!

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