A Vancouver guide to winter cycling fashion

spider bike
Photo by Tammy English

Vancouver is a winter cyclist’s dream compared to most Canadian cities east of Abbotsford. All it takes is a desire to hop on your bike and a few wardrobe modifications.

Layers are crucial for warmth

“What’s really important for cycling in winter is your base layer,” said Mark Costello of Mountain Equipment Co-op.

Karen McCarthy from On The Rivet Cyclewear says anything made of merino wool is a winner. “It’s so practical and it works so well. Nine times out of 10, [people who try it] love it and keep buying more.”

According to Costello, once you have that, “you can pretty much throw anything over top.”

Rain gear is essential for all-weather cycling

Ventilation is key to staying dry. McCarthy pointed out that a hardshell waterproof jacket without underarm vents can accumulate moisture inside. A more breathable – but not fully waterproof – option is to choose a windproof coat, which includes anything marked “Windstopper,” a fabric produced by W.L. Gore and Associates, the company that makes Gore-Tex.

For casual winter cyclists who avoid riding in a deluge, water-resistant pants are a fraction of the price of Gore-Tex and still “repel a significant amount of water,” according to Costello. Combining them with fenders, several models of which can be installed without tools and cost under $20, will prevent a wet bottom.

Protecting hands and feet is a must

To keep hands toasty, Costello and McCarthy agree the best option is a two-layer system: a thin wool liner and a windproof outer glove. Your outer-most layer should have sticky fingertips to ensure fingers don’t slip while shifting gears.

McCarthy says her best sellers are merino wool socks.

Vanessa Kroeker, an all-weather cyclist and employee at Raiment Cycling Clothing, considers Gore-Tex booties essential. Although typically designed to fit snugly over cycling shoes, Mountain Equipment Co-op carries waterproof shoe covers that work with street shoes.

Vanessa- vertical
Raiment Cycling Clothing employee Vanessa Kroeker
Photo by Tammy English

For fair-weather riders who want cycling clothes to be street clothes, merino wool jerseys from Rapha’s urban cycling line could pass for a sweater and companies such as Swrve make cycling-specific jeans with articulated knees, stretch denim and a seamless gusset (meaning there is no uncomfortable seam between you and the seat).

“It’s a big process, getting all your gear on, but you feel invincible, all warm and dry riding through the streets,” said Kroeker.

So whatever your winter cycling fashion challenge, there’s a solution.

Reported by Tammy English

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