Warm and Cozy Winter Bike Commutes (or Any Time You Want to Stay Warm!)




About: I'm an organic farmer and greenhouse builder in Iowa.

For those of you out there who are truly hardcore, bicycling is not just a summer activity. This instructable is meant to help you keep you from freezing while pedaling through snow, ice and wind. Of course, this can also be used for other activities in which staying warm is preferred. Give it a try!


Step 1: Materials

Here are some things you might want for the grueling journey:

1. Long Underwear (a must!!!!)
2. Thick or windproof pants (rain pants work well for this)
3. Nice, thick, warm sweater
4. Newspaper
5. Gloves & Mittens
6. Scarf or Buff (buffwear.com)
7. Ski Goggles (also a life saver)
8. Hat (one that will fit under your helmet)
9. Warm socks

Step 2: Bottom Half

To insulate the bottom half of your body you will want to use four layers. First, you will have on your normal skivvies. Then comes the glorious long underwear. If you do not want to look like you are on an expedition all day, I would suggest wearing your daytime pants underneath the windproof pants. That way, you can shed one layer and be ready for the day.

Feet are always hard to keep warm. The best way to keep five toes on each foot is to first wrap them up in a nice thick (preferably wool) sock. Next you are going to want to take some newspaper, maybe four layers, and wrap or fold it around the front of your foot. Slide your foot into your shoe so that the newspapers stays in place. Position the newspaper so it is comfortable and warm. If you are concerned about getting wet feet, adding a bread bag to the mix before the shoe helps a ton!

Step 3: Top Half

Layering is key on the upper half of your body, as well. If you have any sort of polypro or baselayer shirt, that would be helpful. Otherwise, a regular t-shirt can suffice. Following that would be a nice thick (Christmasy) sweater. Top it off with an insulated jacket and you should be nice and toasty.

Step 4: Hands

Hands are also very tricky to keep warm. Here is a good way to solve that.

First, get some gloves are thick enough to offer insulation, but thin enough to fit into a burly mitten.
Second, wrap your hand in newspaper, just like you did for your feet.
Finally, shove it all into a big mitten and your hands will be ready for action.

Step 5: Head

Now, this step is crucial. The wind will try to bite at your face more than anywhere else and it is hard to see if your eyes are watery or shut.

The first thing you should do is position your scarf or buff so it covers the bottom half of your face and nose and your ears.
Next, put on your hat so that it, too covers your ears (double insulation, boo ya!)
Next comes the helmet. You will probably have to loosen it up so as not to strangle yourself with all the layers.
Finally, strap on your ski goggles, covering all the skin on your face. You may need to expose your nose if your goggles don't vent well, otherwise they may fog up.

There you go! This should keep you nice and warm for the winter. So bundle up and get outside!!!

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    47 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    With regard to the hat, if you have a warm helmet already, but freezing ears, ear muffs could work as well


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Aw, come on, everyone knows the true hard core biker doesn't even use a bike, this is so soft core. Course I am so soft core my bike has a 160hp engine and seats 4 very comfortably. Even comes with AC and heater. This is good for biking on a day long trek and survival, I like it! I am looking for one to support a 30 minute ride in rain and 34degF to work in an office and back. Wouldn't do to show up bundled in news papers and 4 layers there, they don't even like it when I don't wear a shirt with full row of buttons.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    The BMX helmets with a chinbar are plenty warm in winter. A relatively thin face cover is enough to ward off frostbite, and the extra protection makes plain glasses function well down to about 10*F.
    I did see one airsoft mask modified with a neck gaiter and top trimmed to fit helmet, YMMV.

    big d lester

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Winter biking is a good time. My preferred setup is a patagonia capaline pants/shirt over the skin. smartwool sox, eccw army issue cold weather goretex pant's/jacket for outer layer. Usually don't need much else to stay dry, warm, and comfortable besides the basic hat, gloves, and shades.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I get the link to this site from my mother who worries I'm going ot freeze to death on the trail. I wear a cotton t-shirt, a cotton long-sleeve dress shirt (sleeves rolled down), jeans, long underwear on the legs, latex gloves, ski gloves, ski mask, and goggles. I am considered woefully under-dressed by most I meet and any winter sports enthusiasts scream when they hear how much cotton I wear. I need two things from my outfit: keep the wind off of me and keep me cool. At the end of my ride my shirts are soaked with sweat where my backpack sits as are my hands in the gloves. In fact, I had to start wearing the latex gloves because otherwise I had to turn my ski gloves inside-out to dry. Basically, I generate lots of heat while riding so don't worry about layering. I worry about losing as much heat as possible to a point and breaking the wind on skin.


    9 years ago on Step 1

    Fazdraw, that's a great idea actually.  I ride year-round (in Wisconsin, so cold weather is part of my world) but I have asthma that makes it tough to bike in traffic.  A small gas mask under a balaclava or scarf may work great as long as it allows for elevated respiration rate and volume from exercise.  I'm going to give that a try.


    9 years ago on Step 5

     Dude, that is SO COOL!!!   I'm kinda like like your goggle!  :]

    Nice! Dudes!


    9 years ago on Step 5

    thanks for the tips:i have found that treating both my glasses and  the ski goggles with anti fog drops (used for swimming goggles) work just fine.


    9 years ago on Step 4

    They make a glove liner that is woven with metallic thread.  This helps to reflect your body heat back at your hands.  It can be gotten at some stores that sell skiing type equipment.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    To me, this is too much. The real enemy is the wind. If the wind can get through, you will be cold. What you really need is plastic and/or rubber. When I rode a motorcycle full time, I found a good way to keep warm was to wear a moderate of insulating clothing and a rain suit with rubber boots. The boots, especially, were great for keeping my feet warm. For your hands, wear regular gloves covered with rubber gloves or plastic baggies. Sometimes insulated rubber gloves alone are enough. A water resistant down jacket is also good for the upper half. Finally, instead of goggles, get a helmet with a full face shield. The other head gear is still needed, but it will work better for you. If this stuff will keep you warm on a motorcycle, it will certainly work on a bicycle.

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    There is, however, a big difference between riding a motorcycle and a bicycle - it is much more likely that you will break into a sweat riding a bicycle. That is why I hesitate to recommend the impermeable layer. If the moisture stays inside that layer, it will make you much colder. It would definitely help if you are not concerned about overheating, but if there is a chance you may perspire, the rubber or plastic should be avoided.

    From long experience...I agree. You've got to get the moisture off and out. Never, Never wear cotton next to the skin.


    9 years ago on Introduction

     I biked for 3 winters in Manitoba, Canada. It gets pretty cold here.
    You can't wear cotton. Synthetic fibre layers are a must, as is breathable outerwear. The wool sweater is a good idea- wool is as good or better than synthetics for warmth when it's wet..
    Don't dress too warmly when you start- you should start off feeling cool because you will soon warm up and sweat too much.
    Your outer layer should break the wind and breath. I used Gore-tex but there are new versions now.
    The newpaper sounds like a good idea as do the plastic bags on hands and feet. They are the hardest to keep warm.
    Goggles never worked for me- they always fogged. Good wind glasses were the best, either clear or sunglasses.
    Wear similar clothing to cross country skiers and you are on the right track.


    9 years ago on Step 3

    This sounds fine if you're going to just stand around or take a leisurely stroll down to the park, but if you're going to get out and really ride you're going to need  a slightly different approach. No matter how cold it is, if you're exerting energy you're going to sweat. A cotton t-shirt is going to hold that sweat and then you're going to be wet and freeze. You're going to want something that will allow that sweat to evaporate away. Cotton won't do that.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    try rubbing Dawn dishwashing soap on the inside of your goggles, and then buff like crazy to get the swirls and streaks off. The soap keeps the water vapor from attaching to the plastic. It works on the inside of cold car windshields too.