Living in Vermont, the weather can change a lot over the course of a week. From 55 and sunny, to 25 and snowing, and all the mess in between. If you have a similar experience with weather, or have trouble regulating your temperature on any day, developing strategies to stay warm and comfortable is essential, especially for your legs, since they’re doing most of the work. While you can put athletic pants over your cycling gear to stay warm, there are a few cycling-specific strategies that might make you a bit more comfortable on your bike.
If you’re new to cycling you may hear bike shorts and think that they always end mid thigh, but many companies make bib tights that extend all the way down to your socks. These are great for keeping your quads, knees and calves warm on a cooler ride. They’re a great solution for shoulder season weekend riding, or even wearing beneath more casual pants on a commuting ride on those very coldest days.
Many brands even offer varying degrees of wind and weather proofing with the expectation that you’ll be wearing them when the road gets a little sloppy, and in a varying range of temperatures so you can get them best suited for what you’ll be riding in. Many will have extra protection on the knees as well, as they often point directly into the wind, and there are few things worse than a wet chilled knee that you have to convince to keep pedaling.
But you don’t have to worry about completely putting these bibs away when the weather does warm up. Depending on where you live and how warm the fabric is, you can still get use out of them, even in the summer. Many companies make these bibs with advanced tech fabrics and soft fleeces that are designed to wick moisture away and breathe while you ride. So while you might not want to wear them on the very hottest days, they are still great options for cooler morning or evening rides. We love options from Castelli, like the Entrata Wind Bib Tight.
If you already have bib shorts, and don’t want to wear them beneath pants on your ride, there are other options for staying warm that don’t involve going out and buying brand new bibs, certainly one of the more expensive pieces of cycling apparel. For upgrading the comfort and warmth of your bibs, consider leg warmers.
Leg warmers are form-fitting pant legs of thermal fabric cut to reach from your mid-quad to your ankle and tuck in beneath the hem of your bib shorts. They’re a great way to make a summer riding kit last longer into the shoulder seasons, or for adjusting with the changing temperatures of the day. Wear them on the way to work and take them off for the ride home after a long day!
The other benefit of leg warmers is that they allow you to change your kit depending on your own internal temperature. If you’re someone who hates being cold, and despises the first few minutes of a ride where you are chilled before your legs warm up, leg warmers are a great option to keep a consistent temperature throughout your ride. You can put them on at the start, and pull them off later to keep from overheating. Many companies even have long ankle zippers so that the cuff can open wide enough to pull over your cycling shoes. Companies like Rapha and Garneau, with its Zip-Leg Warmers, offer great options
If you’re wearing pants over your bib shorts and making it work, then keep doing what works! But if you hate being cold, and want to keep your clothing fitted and well suited to cycling, you have options.