I'd like to keep riding as the temperatures drop but below 55°F/13°C I'm just not comfortable in my synthetic shorts, t-shirt and sun sleeves. I really hate wearing anything more than that because when I add pants or a long sleeved shirt they just trap sweat in and I end up biking in a nasty swampy sauna. If that's the only way to bike in cold weather I'm just not going to do it.

Any suggestions on how to stay warm and dry at the same time?

What clothes would you wear to bike between 55°F/13°C and 35°F/2°C (usually mostly sunny with annoyingly high/changing wind gusts)?

  • 2
    Are you talking about recreational riding/commuting or road riding? Anyway, 35-55°F sound like you should get a functional light winter jacket (manufactures usually spec the temperature ranges they are designed for) plus something like a good baselayer tee. At 35°F, I'd probably ride with jacket, jersey and baselayer, on the other end of your spectrum without additional jersey. But a general tip is just having layers, mix and match. I often ride with long midseason jersey but additional gilet instead of jacket even in colder temperatures, takes a bit of experimenting.
    – DoNuT
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 15:51
  • 2
    This is for recreational riding, and that's a bit of where the problem lies. I grew up in warm places and have little tolerance for being cold. When it's cold out and the only options I see are shivering or biking in my own personal swamp, I simply stay home. But that means I quickly get bored, lazy and start gaining weight. :-(
    – user66598
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 15:29
  • 7
    That's not "cold weather". "Cool" maybe.
    – tripleee
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 6:45
  • 1
    Jerseys tend to have a full length front zipper and pockets. Baselayers are mainly designed to wick away sweat (hence why they usually have a snug fit) and some are also designed for insulation.
    – Michael
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 18:05
  • 3
    @user66598: There are some cycling specific ones. I think the main distinction is that they are longer at the back so your rear is not exposed in a road bike position and maybe a few other small details (e.g. longer in the arms). But I think you can wear any good base layer from other sports. In general you can wear running clothes or cross country skiing or alpine clothes on a bike to great success as long as you have a windproof layer at the front and enough length to cover your back.
    – Michael
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 5:18

12 Answers 12


Layers - not just for Ogres and Onions.

In winter our temps may be as low as -5 degrees C, and can be wet or dry(frosty)

When you're cold, your body heat tends to stay in your torso, leaving your extremities to get cold. The solution is to have wind-resistant gloves, arm covers, pants, and shoes/covers.

At the same time you can get away with a jacket that would leave you cold if you were standing still. Your exercising will generate heat to warm your central-core.

When starting out, you should have doubts in the first few minutes about whether you're wearing enough. After that, you should warm with the exercise until you hit equilibrium.

Then while riding, open a zip some to ventilate. On longer rides where the temperature will change, have a base layer under the jacket so that you could remove the jacket entirely if it warms up.


Riding in the rain is hard work. You have added friction/weight from wet cloth, but decreased friction in tyres and brakes. Water-soaked clothes are colder because they loose heat faster.

On the other hand, wearing rain-proof clothes means you're often trapping the sweat of riding, and end up drenched in your own fluids rather than clean rain or dirty road water. "Par-boiled" or "Sous Vide" would be apt descriptions.

I have no good solution here, other than have spare clothes at your destination and ideally a hot shower, and leave early enough to have time at the far end. I'll generally allow 25% longer commute time on a wet day unless its a tailwind.

Some people just ride in the rain like a dry day and accept they get wet. Others choose to cover up. Either way, mudguards/fenders cut the dirty road water down by 90% and are a good idea for rain rides.


This one is quite personal. Some people are uncomfortable covering up. My method is

  • Casket/cap with a visor (most of my commutes are into the sun, so I need the eye-shielding)
  • Wrap around cycling glasses. I have prescription lenses, so I have to wear some glasses. The wraparound ones stop cold air from whipping around the side and chilling my eyeballs making them water.
  • Neck-buff. A tube of light stretchy fabric that covers my mouth and ears downward. I breath through this, which helps warm the face. My nose is generally left exposed, otherwise the glasses fog up faster.
  • 2
    A spare buff is good to carry. It can serve as an ear warmer or keep your whole head warm in very cold weather. You can even tuck it inside your tights/shorts!
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 20:25
  • 1
    Stop-start conditions make things harder, whether that's riding in a group, or urban commuting with traffic lights (especially if those are before you have a chance to warm up)
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 20:27
  • 2
    Pay attention to brand that you are wearing. I discovered that more expensive brands quite often function incomparably better in terms of sweat removal and heat trapping---even though on paper, the clothing material is about the same. Not a 100% rule, of course, the absolute best neck warmer I own is from the cheapest of cheap local store brands. Also, one particular advantage of bike-specific clothing cuts is that they ensure that your lower back is properly covered. Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 21:04
  • @NikKharlamov concur- its highly variable. I bought some expensive Merino socks that were really nice, but lasted four weeks before wearing holes. But that's only anecdotal. I like to try the cheap versions first to see if they suit my need, and step up if the idea is sound.
    – Criggie
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 22:33
  • I like what you said about layers. I just hate stopping constantly to remove things. It seems to be a trade-off between how uncomfortable I'm willing to let myself get vs. how frequently I'm willing to stop. I've often wished there was a fabric that would be thick and impermeable when cold but thin and breathable when hot. That'd be like an automatic zipper with a thermostat but way better. Merino wool is great but it's expensive and one of the least durable fabrics. I think your experience accurately reflects it's properties: really nice but not durable.
    – user66598
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 15:37

You have struck on the basic challenge with dressing for cold-weather riding: you need to trap some heat, but not too much. How much is "too much" depends on your level of exertion, the temperature, and what you're comfortable with. You also need to let sweat evaporate.

Down to 65°F (18°C), I'm comfortable with summer-weight cycling gear. In the range of about 55–65°F, I trade my light jersey for a thermal jersey. 45–55°F (7–13°C), I wear cool-weather gloves, trade my shorts for thermal knicker-length tights, and probably wear a base layer under the jersey. Below 45°F (7°C), I trade the jersey for a cold-weather jacket. And so on.

All this cool- and cold-weather cycling apparel is designed to wick sweat and pass some body heat; often there are vents that you can zip or unzip as needed. This is not a product-recommendation site, and admittedly getting All The Gear for cold-weather riding can be kind of expensive, but it makes a big difference in comfort.

T-shirts and other street clothes made of cotton are not good for cycling in because they hold on to sweat. They get clammy and uncomfortable. Cotton also loses its insulating ability when it's wet.

  • 4
    +1 especially for that last paragraph. Trading cotton against some synthetic or merino wool clothing is just like two different worlds. Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 21:37
  • How'd they do it in the old days when they didn't have synthetics? some people will ask. Wool is one of the answers.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 20:22
  • 1
    Funny, I never had an issue with cotton (when I ride 10 km/6 miles to work through the city (40 minutes). I simply ride in "dad" Jeans, with long Johns below 5°C or so. I'm especially unhappy with most synthetic jackets which never, in spite of the lofty assertions, are able to transport the sweat out. Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 7:54
  • @Peter - ReinstateMonica, I think it come down to sweat. If you're able to keep your exertion low enough that you don't sweat on the commute, then any clothes are fine. At least that was my experience. As soon as I started doing long (hours) recreational rides I ditched everything cotton.
    – user66598
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 15:58
  • 1
    @user66598 for commuting, I switched from similar gym tops to cheap bike jerseys. Even my winter (ong sleeve jerseys are non-thermal. Instead I wear a base layer under them as necessary (it often comes home in the evening in my bag, when only the morning is cold enough to need it). In some conditions those same old gym tops serve as base layers, but generally a tighter wave is better for keeping the wind off.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 28, 2023 at 19:20

Between 5°C and 15°C I wear:

  • Headband
  • Castelli Gabba short sleeve windstopper jersey
  • Arm warmers (pretty warm ones, made by Craft)
  • Thin, windproof gloves
  • Summer cycling bib shorts
  • Leg warmers (same as the arm warmers)
  • Waterproof socks or overshoes or toe covers on my summer cycling shoes

The great thing about these clothes is the flexibility. You can roll down the arm warmers, put the leg warmers into the jersey pockets, unzip the jersey a bit and it’s fine up to 20°C. With everything worn on your body even a slight drizzle or cold wind at 5°C is okay, even when doing descents at 70km/h. The only “disadvantage” is that while the Castelli Gabba is amazing it has zero insulation and you quickly get cold if you have to stop for some reason. There are softshell jackets which have some insulation (at least a fleece inside) and allow you to wear some kind of insulating base layer shirt underneath.

  • 1
    For me, summer shorts get too cold close below 10 degrees. Warmers are nice and are often thicker than summer lycra. But the the thin layer around my waist and crotch can become very unpleasant even if the legs themselves are warm. Yesterday a finished an endurance race which all happened in the specified temperature range and I wore long thicker bib trousers throughout and wasn't too hot at any time. In the coldest moments I would have wished additional knee warmers. Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 10:25
  • @VladimirFГероямслава: There is a small window around ~7°C where I tend to use a thermo windstopper bib tight but still use the Castelli Gabba. But only if I know that it will stay cold and possibly rain.
    – Michael
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 16:50
  • thanks for sharing your list! If I dig thru my stuff I think I can find everything you mentioned except the jersey and bib shorts, and maybe the waterproof socks. I bike in a pair of worn out meshy tennis shoes in the summer and have a pair of thicker leather shoes (the kind waiters and cooks wear) that I use in the winter. Do you think the leather shoes with thicker socks would perform the same as what you wear or do I need a product intended for cycling?
    – user66598
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 16:48

I agree with Criggie that multiple layers are best. I personally ride in t-shirt down to below 10°C (50°F), but do almost always take a small backpack with me, so generally have some warmer clothes with me (and rain protection) just for when they're needed. But you may of course find this a bit of a hassle.

If you want to do it with only one set of clothes, then I'd go with fine merino wool. It's expensive and a bit overhyped, but it does actually work pretty amazing in colder temperatures: warms, but not too much, still lets lots of air through, and doesn't lose its warmth when wet.

  • Merino has the unfortunate tendancy to sag when wet, so you want it close fitting as a base layer, ideally under something to provide tension (like a riding top)
    – Criggie
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 5:39
  • 1
    @Criggie A lot of modern Merino gear has wool mixed with polyester. Of the merino mix stuff I have (minority of my collection), I don't think it sags?
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 10:12
  • I spent a ton of time shopping for the thinnest, warmest gloves I could find to help with a circulatory disorder I have. Merino wool was the winner by far, despite being so fragile and expensive. So I believe you're likely correct and if I convince myself it will be worth spending the money I'm likely to end up wearing mostly merino wool blends. IIRC every source I read said avoid pure merino wool because it will tear if you so much as look at it. Where do you look for knockoff brands that are a better value than the name brands?
    – user66598
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 16:30
  • @user66598 I so far haven't had any tears in my 100% merino clothes - but then, I am quite careful with them. When I know it'll get rough, I put on cotton (if the conditions are dry enough) or synthetic. But I avoid synthetics when possible (including blends), because they get much more smelly and shed microplastics. Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 17:07

In contrast to other given answers, I prefer a "reverse" type of dressing (adding more clothing):

Before switching to long sleeves or jackets, I add (1) hat or headband, (2) scarf, and (3) gloves. This ensures that sensitive areas (ears, throat, lungs, hands) which easily suffer from cold are kept warm, while preserving ventilation in areas where I sweat easily.

In my experience wearing a hat, scarf, and gloves significantly lowers the temperature at which I have to begin wearing long sleeves.

  • But these are the things one also wears in the summer. Just the fingers on my summer gloves are cut half. Or do you mean the scarf around the neck? I normally wear a scarf on my head, every time. Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 10:27
  • 1
    I don't know that this is "the answer" but I'm definitely going to try it. Thank you!
    – user66598
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 15:14

That's because 13°C is still warm weather. You are probably confusing a little bit of wind chill with cold.

You might try a shirt with long sleeves and very light fabric to stop the wind on the arms. Same with the trousers. You better ignore the fashion and avoid tight fitting suits, a small layer of air between the fabric and you skin is welcome, you just need to stop the wind.

The classic problem is when you have tracts exposed to the wind and tracts more protected, when the wind falls is usually the moment you start to sweat. If you don't want to dress and undress many times in the colder tracts stay with the shorts and push harder, you'll warm up with the effort.

  • 1
    I wear white sun sleeves in the summer so I don't have to put sunscreen on my arms. The only "real" cycling clothing I own are the arm/leg warmers from cyclingdeal (had to pick off the horrid logos so now they're just black). You suggest trying light long sleeves. Would you switch to that as a step between the t-shirt alone and t-shirt with arm warmers, or is that instead of the warmers? I grew up in Arizona where temps exceed 110 F regularly every summer and I only saw snow once in 18 years, so I have very little experience with weather under 50 F and need to rely on yours. (thanks btw!)
    – user66598
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 16:22

I have just finished an endurance race in this exact temperature range, maybe very slightly warmer. Most of the time I regretted bringing a thick winter jacket, a thin one would be more propper most of the time and I had to carry it stowed in the backpack.

During the day a thin long thermal long-sleeved baselayer with a normal summer jersey over was great. At night I either wore just the short jersey and the jacket or all three only in the coldest moments.

I used winter long bib trousers from the SuperRoubaix fabric all the time. They are not the thickest I have, but significantly thicker than summer lycra. At the coldest moments my knees would have liked a bit more and even in the day when I rolled up my top sleeves I was not too hot in the bibs.

I wore only thin long gloves with summer gloves over them. Then I had a neck warmer and a head scarf. Thicker gloves remained in my pockets as did a cross-country skiing thin skull cap.

My feet had summer shoes, thick overshoes and thicker wool socks.

For continuous rain more would have been necessary. I had a good rain jacket, but the rain was too strong and I chose to hide and wait under a roof and a tarp instead.

  • I had to look up what a thermal top is. It looks like it's just a long sleeved shirt made of the same material as long underwear. Is that what you meant? I used to have one of those but I can't find it in my closet so I guess I got rid of it and now I have to go shopping (ugh). It looks like most of the responses here are from people with a lot of cycling specific clothing and if buying a new set of clothes will give me an extra 6-8 weeks of cycling each autumn AND spring, that would easily be worth a couple hundred bucks to me.
    – user66598
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 19:17
  • 1
    @user66598 Yes, I mean long sleeved thermal underwear baselayer. A thin baselayer, nothing thick you would use as a second layer for camping or winter hiking. Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 4:43
  • 2
    @user66598 With many of these products you can buy from cheap brands. In some cases even from grocery stores like Lidl (for underwear, socks, gloves, scarfs, sometimes for a jacket if it looks good). But the budget sport chains are good enough. Many of the clothes will last for decades if used occasionally and for years if daily. Overshoes OTOH tend not to last too much due to the wear. Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 5:16

I wear an ear cover in any weather as it provides a sweatband and helmet padding, even if it is not needed for warmth. I first change to a short sleeve wool jersey from poly, having already donned a very light windbreaker jacket. My next change is to wear leg warmers, which is probably 18C. I then go to long sleeve light wool jersey, and then heavy poly jersey. Next is heavy full finger gloves and then a neoprene hat. Finally I put a short sleeve poly shell under the heavy poly long sleeve jersey. That gets me to 40F, 5C. I know some others who put more on top before going to leg warmers. Your preferred sequence may vary. It seems it might make sense to put on a heavier windbreaker along the way, but I haven't had the need.


For my 12km autumn commutes down to 2C in dry weather I used to wear a long arm base layer, my regular jersey, bib shorts, good gloves, and a thin headband under my helmet.

Plus, and that's important, a sheet of paper between jersey and base layer. The sheet kept me from freezing for the first 3 km. At that point I was warm enough too pull it out without having to slow down.

For humid, foggy, or rainy days I would also wear leg warmers, a second merino base layer, a cap, a gilet, and/or over shoes. I have a softshell jacket but only wore it during the worst weather, overheating was too much of an issue.

I went at high intensity throughout, since I couldn't avoid a few high intensity segments, for example, hills or weaving into traffic. Those still leave me drenched in sweat when dressing for a low intensity ride. Being wet at low intensity is worse than thin cloth at high intensity.

Important, when wearing very little, I bought a thin rain jacket in my pocket and an emergency blanket (aluminised mylar) on the bike to avoid hypothermia after incidents that stop me.


The following is my opinion about, and how I practice, winter cycling. If you disagree, please post an answer with your opinion.

====By degrees====

----No risk of frost----

Riding on a road bike with the usual tires

Down to 15°C~60°F

  • A (thin) long-sleeve jersey

Down to 10°C/50°F

  • A thin wind-breaking hat under the helmet
  • Full-finger, wind-sealing, gloves
  • A thermal long-sleeve jersey
  • Thin bib pants or thin cycling pants
  • Neoprene (or other) shoe covers

Down to 5°C~40°F

  • (1) Baselayer top (or thermal cycling jersey)
  • A light wind-breaking jacket, with a ventilated back
  • Cycling pants, bib pants, or fleeced bib pants
  • Winter gloves
  • Wool socks


  • At this point it will be all too easy to omit packing water. Don't!

Down to 2°C~35°F

  • A jacket, ideally with zippers to customize heat- and sweat-escape

----Risk of frost----

Riding on any bike that can take studded tires

Down to -2°C/28°F

  • Studded tires (on hybrid, gravel, moutain, or fat- bike) — a 5-meter stretch of black ice on a 30-km ~ 20-mile ride is enough to take you down.
  • (1) A baselayer top and bottom
  • (3) Winter cycling boots over regular cycling socks (attaching with SPD, not SPD-SL)
  • Skiing gloves

Down to -5°C~25°F

  1. A balaklava—both to protect the face and to warm the air before breathing it
  2. Glasses are even more critical, as they will protect the eyeballs from incoming wind
  3. Wool socks under winter cycling boots
  4. (2) Heated (chemical, electric) gloves

Down to -10°C~15°F

  • A skiing helmet handily solved a difficult problem I was having. The eyes get so cold from the draft incoming on the side of cycling/vision glasses, it becomes necessary to blink for increasingly longer durations, which is by itself dangerous. Skiing goggles, which fit by design a skiing helmet, solve this problem nicely. A skiing helmet does reduce side visibility, but just like one adapts while skiing by glancing occasionally left/right to make sure no crazy skier is flying down the slopes, one also adapts by glancing sideways while biking.
  • Heated (chemical, electric) gloves at a higher setting
  • A midlayer

Below -10°C~15°F

Switch to skiing and enjoy warming up frequently.


What is a baselayer?

Since you mention you grew up in warmer climate, it's worth stressing that a "baselayer" is not at all the same thing as "long johns" (or their equivalent top). Long johns are made from cotton. They accumulate sweat during a workout and make one shiver. A baselayer is made from a technical fabric that keeps one dry by pulling sweat away from the skin. A quality baselayer is expensive, but it will last a long time. For very cold weather you'll need one made from Merino wool. Otherwise synthetic fibers are enough.

What is a midlayer?

A midlayer is a generic term for a fleece sweater, or anything you wear between a baselayer and a jacket/windbreaker.

Above/below freezing

You didn't ask about riding in sub-freezing temperatures, but I went ahead and summarized those as well, partly as a note to myself because I still occasionally over-dress and return home from a winter ride with a soaked back.


Frostbite is a dangerous condition. If it's below freezing and you can no longer feel your fingers, take shelter and put your hands under cold or tepid (never hot) water.


Accumulating so many clothing items for cycling is expensive. I numbered the three most important items.

You can delay winter cycling boots by inserting aluminum foil underneath your soles. It will reflect heat back to your feet. (This is not a permanent solution; the foil disintegrates every one or two rides.)

You can avoid winter cycling boots if you buy MTB cycling shoes that are one size too large, wear lavishly thick wool socks, and wear wind covers over the shoes. This is basically how winter cycling shoes are constructed. Their main advantage is to make it possible to get ready more swiftly.


With so many different items of clothing, avoid the color black, or else you will only see a sea of black on your shelves, and it will be hard to discern one item from another without unfolding. The alternative is to use labeled organizer buckets. (Same problem with white, but cycling clothing is not commonly in this stain-prone color.)


Wind is a much bigger problem. As a rule of thumb, wind speed of 30-40 kph ~ 15-25 mph is the limit for a tolerable "wind chill" (the temperature as we feel it, taking into account the wind's cooling effect).

A thermometer

Glancing at the reading of a remote thermometer positioned in the shade just outside your dwelling is much more helpful than the forecasted temperature or that at the nearest airport.

You'll still need to refer to the weather report for the expected wind speed.

  • I do not think it is all necessary. I did loads of riding on the snow with normal summer shoes. Just use overshoes and wool socks. you may need to slightly loosen the tightening straps. Similarly, one can use cheaper synthetic baselayers even in freezing conditions. The main advantage of Merino is that it does not stick so much after the use. Many of the items can be bought quite cheaply if one uses cheaper sport stores instead of expensive brands. Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 12:42
  • Also I have never use studs, often it is enough just to look ahead and be careful, especially in dry periods when there is no snow, the trails are very hard and rough and frozen puddles are well visible. If there is loads of snow, go cross country skiing and do not destroy the tracks with your bike! Or use a fat bike, which is used without studs. Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 12:43
  • Well-designed cycling glasses (the ones that protect sides) with proper warm hat and regular cycling helmet are fine for riding in cold wind. All-out skiing helmet might be an overkill - skiing helmets are mostly all insulated and protected because the risk of face-in-the-snow/branches is higher than when riding a bike (unless we are talking extreme MTB in extreme winter). Studs are a must tho - but not necessary on fatbike unless, again, we are talking extreme extremes. Another excellent bike-specific item - split ("claw") mittens. Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 13:14

Recently discovered that there are some Nordic style sweaters that work well in a very wide range of temperature, somewhat from 15-18 °C till about 8 - 9 °C on E-bike (for ordinary bike, this would likely translate to colder temperatures). Most you need to change is to put gloves on or off, and have some cover for the rain if it lasts longer.

They are quite heavy and purpose designed to be worn outdoors where you would normally wear a jacket. They have wind-stopping membranes in the inner side so the the wind does not go through when picking up the speed.

  • 1
    "Nordic style sweater"? What you're describing doesn't seem to have much in common with the classic Scandinavian type of sweater (genser). Those are great clothes in many ways, but an odd choice for cycling. The thicker ones are just way too warm, and the thinner ones tend to be quite wind-permeable. Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 20:40
  • Wouldn't you want the wind-proof/resistance to be on the outside? That will retain pockets of still air inside the cloth to hold heat. Otherwise the wind simply blows the warmed air away ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 21:21
  • I bought it in Oslo, this is why I named it so, to experiment with. It is an interesting way to dress I agree but in its temperature range looks good.
    – nightrider
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 6:54

It seems a bit like you are trying to compensate wind chill with material thickness, even though you typically don't need as many layers as you would when you just walk in the park. Plus, cotton (as often used for casual clothing) might be a good pick for everyday clothing but not so much for sports wear - we all know the funny pictures of 80's joggers in soaked light-grey trainers.

If wind is the constant factor, you probably need a good wind-proof jacket to prevent cooling off from that, but since your temperature range is still in the single-digit degrees and in the sun, you don't need full-padded/insulated winter gear. Under the jacket, you could wear a light jersey and a base layer. You don't need a fancy 100$ piece from a major brand, my experience is that even stuff from the sports discounter does a decent enough job in heat and sweat management paired with layers of functional clothing over it.

After all, working out at certain intensity, your body core will heat up and it is more about keeping the heat to a degree and avoiding sweating too much. Functional clothing will do that, you might still sweat but it'll dissipate the heat and sweat better so that you don't overhead or are soaked in sweat. Your clothing is probably right when you are cold just standing around but don't feel uncomfortable while riding.

If shorts are too cold but pants too warm, 3/4 cycling pants might be a good compromise. In my case, legs are where I an tolerate cold the best, I sometimes ride in conditions <10°C with short bibs and that's fine for my as long as my hands/feet and body core are warm (enough).

Please note that initially, you'll always feel a bit cold and are tempted to think you are underdressed, I have that on every ride in autumn conditions, regardless if on my morning commute or a ride on my road bike. It takes a couple of minutes to get the body to heat up and the right amount of layers will keep that in balance.

My personal experience is that while the body can usually deal with being a bit cold, it is extremities like hands, feed and your head/neck are more sensitive to cold conditions, in 0-10°C there is nothing wrong about riding with medium-padded gloves, a scarf and a headband to cover your ears.

  • 1
    With regards to extremities: very important to keep body core (chest, back, to lesser extent belly) warm if riding in the cold. Insufficiently covered/wet extremities can tolerate a lot if the core is warm but if the core is freezing, even light cold will freeze fingers and toes (b/c circulation will naturally constrict to preserve warmth centrally). Assuming you can avoid long stops and can quickly change into dry clothes at the end of the ride, it might be better to ride with a bit too warm chest (and some extra sweat) than with frozen chest/back. Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 16:52
  • @NikKharlamov True, but cold fingers but might jkick in pretty fast and hurt because they are pretty exposed in the wind and used to operate brakes and shifters. At least for me, the wrong or missing gloves cause discomfort in cold conditions pretty quick while I'll get along if I'm not fully comfortable with overall temperature for shorter rides around 30 minutes - of course, on longer sessions, you will cool out and everything falls apart. I learned that from long runs in the winter...
    – DoNuT
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 17:09
  • 1
    You mention feeling underdressed initially. I hate shivering for the first 4 miles so I do jumping jacks before I leave. That lets me start a ride when it's still 55 F (i think that's about 16 C?), wearing my normal summer shorts, t-shirt and sleeves, and not be miserable at the start. Good suggestions tho. I'm already doing/will soon be doing most of that.
    – user66598
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 19:28
  • It seems like there are two basic options. The "vest" approach involves insulating your torso to keep core body temp up, which radiates heat to the unclothed extremities. The other approach is sleeves & gloves, keeping the extremities warm and leaving the torso more exposed. I have a medical issue that causes serious problems with my hands if they get too cold. Last year they were exposed to 10 degrees F and 20 mph wind for literally 20 or 30 seconds while I changed gloves, and they took 6 weeks to heal. You guys have a choice but I think I gotta go sleeves & gloves below 50 F. :-\
    – user66598
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 19:44
  • 1
    @user66598 In the end, it is also personal preference and there is no "one solution" but you will stack up lot of gear to cover all riding conditions. A rain jacket can't be substituted by cheap layers, same goes for "real" winter riding and an insulated jacket. Everything in between can be achieved by season-specific clothes (you then end up with 3 jackets) or layering. A summer jersey with sleeves and vest might be somewhat equal to a mid-season jacket but allows better modulation in changing conditions and temperature ranges of ~15°C over a day of riding.
    – DoNuT
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 6:17

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