Tips: Frosty cycling

The life of an all-season cyclist in Norway covers everything from fine warm summer days to bitingly cold winter says. Not extremely cold right now, only -10C when it could be -25C, but enough to make pretty frost on my spokes!


In case anyone is curious about what to wear when cycling in the cold, here is a quick guide to what I find useful:

If there is going to be snow and ice, get studded winter tyres. They make a huge difference and you get a good pair for around 100 pounds. You can get them cheaper, but there will be smaller and fewer studs. The first time you go skidding off you will regret your penny-pinching ways.

Down to 0C: Regular trousers are fine, as are shoes. A tweed jacket with a shirt under also works nicely. Keep hands warm with leather gloves, and change the woolly hat for one that blocks the wind and covers your ears. Use one of the thin wool head-overs as well, keeps the draught off. Scarf is optional for warmth, a must for style.


Down to -10C: Thicker, loser trousers, winter boots, good socks. Tweed jacket still good, but a medium weight jumper underneath. Again, same advice for hands and head. Don’t skimp on this, nothing makes you more bloody miserable than cold fingers and a freezing noggin. Consider going to a really warm hat at this point, wind-proof, insulated and fastening under your chinny chin chin. Head-over and scarf a must for warmth.

warm hat

Down to -15C: Get some long-Johns under the trousers, proper wool ones. Worth paying a little extra for proper wool. Winter boots and socks still the same. At this point you’ll want more of a jacket, something wind-proof. I use a wool pea coat, with room for a sweater. Fingers are getting cold at this point, so consider upgrade to proper mittens (fingers find comfort in sharing space), a really decent, warm hat that covers all of your head and sits well. If the hat doesn’t sit well, consider using an extra headover on your head, so your forehead has more protection. At this point you may also want to use a balaclava that covers most of your face. Make sure it has a hole to breathe through (hills become a real struggle if you can’t breathe easily), and none of the silly knitted stuff that wind blows right through.


Down to -25C: Not much more you can do to help your legs, though I find thick jeans are good, with the wool long-Johns underneath. Jacket-wise, I use a Fjällräven Expedition double layer down jacket, with a great hood and so much insulation nothing seems cold. Balaclava and hat, mittens, scarf, neck-warmers, the lot. At this point, actually cycling is becoming a problem, as shape wise I’m looking more like the Michelin man. An obvious advantage is that if I should fall off, and let’s not forget there is plenty of snow and ice, I’ll probably not be too damaged. The disadvantage of the huge jacket, for me at least, is that cycling home I have a long, hard hill to go up, and even in extreme cold I have to open the jacket wide to avoid meltdown! Of course, at this point we’ve long since passed out of the style-zone and into the practical place of trying to not freeze too badly.


One issue I have yet to resolve is whether to implement goggles into the getup. Cycling at speed down a long hill in extreme cold, my eyes tend to tear up something fearful. In the cold this means instant ice. Many a morning I’ll arrive at the end of the hill, unable to even blink my eyes, due to the build-up of ice. Try to imagine an army green Michelin man, perched on his bike, backpack, black balaclava and totally anime sparkly eyes? Stylin! 🙂

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