What To Wear Cycling: An All-Seasons Guide

Seasoned cycling pro Robbie Ferri walks you through what to wear while riding all year round

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reviewed by Rory McAllister

When I first started cycling, I was told, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing!”

With a decade of experience under my belt as an ultra-endurance racer and Shimano ambassador, I couldn’t agree with that advice more, and find myself passing it on to beginner cyclists all the time.

If you want to get the most out of your cycling experience you need to know what to wear cycling. Having the right clothing is important and will help you tackle all weather conditions. 

Knowing what to wear and take with you on a ride goes a long way, but with lots of different cycling clothing and accessories available, it can get confusing. It took me a long time to get the perfect layer combinations. Now I can ride in any weather.

In this article, I will be telling you everything you need to know when it comes to getting the perfect combination for each season. We’ll be covering:

Robbie Ferri demonstrates what to wear cycling in summer.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

5 Key Factors In Choosing What To Wear Cycling

When choosing what to wear biking, there’s a lot to consider. Before we start looking at specific cycling garments, it’s important to consider the factors that need to be taken into account.

1. Temperature

The first place to start is temperature. The warmer it is, the less you will need to wear. The colder, the more you will need to wear. It’s worth remembering that because you are traveling at speed, it will always feel colder than walking.

2. Weather

If it’s sunny, the sun’s rays will warm the body. If it’s raining, wet clothes and skin will make it feel much chillier. It’s good to consider this before leaving for a ride because if it rains, the body temperature heavily drops.

3. Wind 

Then we have the wind. The wind is such a big factor when it comes to picking the right clothing for a bike ride. Strong winds in the heat can help keep you cool, but in the cold, they can make you much much colder.

4. Humidity 

Then we have humidity. The more humid it is outside, the warmer it will feel, and the less our bodies will be able to sweat. The less humidity, the dryer and cooler it will feel when you’re out riding. 

5. Altitude

The altitude greatly affects the temperature you will be riding in. The higher you are, the cooler the temperatures. The difference between the bottom of an alpine pass and the top is very noticeable.

The Main Types of Cycling Clothing Available

When I first started cycling, I never realized how much clothing was available and I didn’t know what to wear biking.

Let’s take a quick look at each so that you know exactly what everything is when we discuss what to wear cycling across different seasons.

Item of Cycling ClothingPurpose
Bib ShortsSummer riding shorts
Three Quarter BibsSpring/autumn riding shorts
Bib TightsWinter riding trousers
Short Sleeve Base LayerFor regulating body temperature
Long Sleeve Base LayerStaying warm in very cold conditions
Short Sleeve JerseyRiding top for summer
Long Sleeve JerseyRiding yop for riding in cold conditions
Winter Jersey For riding in very cold conditions
Cycling ShoesSummer/winter options available
Cycling BootsHeavy duty waterproof cycling shoes
Lightweight SocksBreathable for warm weather cycling
Thick SocksCold weather cycling
GiletSleeveless jacket for cold weather cycling
Windproof JacketLight jacket for wind chill
Waterproof JacketFor wet conditions
Arm/Leg WarmersFor very cold conditions
Light Gloves For cold conditions
Thick GlovesFor very cold conditions
OvershoesWaterproof shoe covers
Cycling CapFits under helmet for sunny conditions
Skull CapFits under helmet for cold conditions
Down Gilet Or JacketWarm jacket for very cold conditions
A cyclist putting a jacket in his bike bag.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Layering Is Key For Cycling Clothing

When it comes to getting the right clothing for each season, it comes down to layering. A common mistake many cyclists make is thinking that single-piece thick clothing will be best when the key is layering and having multiple pieces. 

Layered clothing not only generates more heat and holds it in well, but it also has many other advantages, such as being much more functional and allowing you to add and remove layers as the temperature changes.

In the cold of winter, you might find yourself with up to five layers on top of your body to keep you warm while riding. Although it might sound extreme, these layers can keep you much warmer than two simple thick layers, such as a jersey and a thick jacket. 

When I discuss clothing with friends and my clients as a cycling coach, I always recommend layering outwards from the core. If you can keep a warm core, the rest of the body will be much easier to keep warm.

Clothing For The Seasons

Now for the exciting part. Let’s start by telling you what to wear cycling, depending on the season you’re entering. There will be differences depending on where you live and how you handle the cold.

Here’s what I recommend:

Summer Cycling Clothing

A cyclist in summer clothing.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Let’s start with summer. Your clothing needs to be light and breathable, and it should also have options if the weather changes and it gets colder. Here’s what you need to know.

Suggested Summer Cycling Clothing
Bib Shorts
Short Sleeve Base Layer
Short Sleeve Jersey
Lightweight Socks
Cycling Shoes
Light Gloves 
Windproof Jacket or Gilet
Cycling Cap

As you can see above, everything is light, breathable, and designed to keep you cool. I always recommend taking a windproof jacket, in case the weather turns, and gloves because typically, the first place you get cold, even with a jacket on, is your hands. 

Autumn Cycling Clothing

A cyclist in autumn clothing.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Next, we have autumn, and for me personally, this is my favorite season for cycling. It’s warm enough for some long rides, but you also get lovely cold mornings, amazing sunrises, and sunsets. However, you have to be a little more prepared compared to summer. 

When it comes to autumn, you must be more creative and look at the weather before you leave, as some days it might be too cold for some clothing and too warm for others. Here are my recommendations.

Suggested Autumn Cycling Clothing
Bib Shorts, Quarters, or Tights
Short or Long Sleeve Jersey
Short Sleeve Base Layer
Lightweight Socks
Cycling Shoes
Over Shoes
Light Gloves 
Arm and Leg Warmers
Cycling Cap

As you can see, you have many options here. If you are wearing a short-sleeve jersey and bib shorts, I highly recommend a set of arm and leg warmers to ensure you have something if it does get cold. 

Winter Cycling Clothing

A cyclist in winter clothing.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Then we have winter, when cycling can get freezing. You must wear a lot of clothing here to stay warm and remain functional. It might seem like a lot of clothes to have, but it will make a huge difference to the ride you will have.

Being out in winter makes the riding much tougher, and getting home can be challenging if you get a little too cold or wet. I have often made the mistake of going out, getting too far from home, and freezing all the way back.

Suggested Winter Cycling Clothing
Bib Tights
Long Sleeve or Winter Jersey
Long Sleeve Base Layer
Thick Socks
Cycling Shoes or Boots
Over Shoes
Thick Gloves 
Windproof or Waterproof Jacket
Skull Cap
Down Jacket or Gilet (optional)

With this kit here, I feel good riding down to about 0°C (32°F) and can cope with some rain or sleet. If I am out for a very long ride or it might get colder, I will take a small down gilet or jacket in case I start to feel uncomfortable. 

Spring Cycling Clothing

A cyclist in spring clothing.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Spring is my second favorite season for cycling. Like autumn, it offers a wide range of temperatures. However, coming just out of winter, you are much more used to the cold temperatures.

In spring, you can get away with much less than you might think, but again, you still need to be wary that it can get cold and there’s a lot more rain that can come along unexpectedly. Here’s what I recommend taking. 

Suggested Spring Cycling Clothing
Bib Shorts or Quarters
Short or Long Sleeve Jersey
Short Sleeve Base Layer
Lightweight Socks
Cycling Shoes
Light Gloves 
Arm and Leg Warmers
Cycling Cap

This should be enough to keep you feeling comfortable in spring. Again, it’s always worth checking the weather before a ride, and if it is going to get colder, then you might want to dress warmer. 

Staying Visible

A high vis cycling glove.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

When discussing clothing, I feel it’s very important to discuss the importance of staying visible on the roads. Unfortunately, many cycling brands pick darker, stealthier colors when that’s not always what you want.

After many years of riding in many different places around the world, I have found that high-visibility clothing goes a very long way. It’s great to help other road users see you, and it’s a great way to ensure you stay safe. I also recommend daytime lights.

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

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