Winter clothing guide
Over the years we have seen too many young riders inadequately dressed for the cold wet weather. Correct clothing is an essential part of making cycling both safe and enjoyable.
It's not always easy to know what cycle clothing to buy for children, or where to buy it, so to help you make the right choices we've put together this seasonal guide to children's cycle clothing.
The nature of clothing ranges means that most items are only available for a season or so before being replaced by something new. The suggested items listed below may no longer be available, but should provide you with a starting point in searching for the right clothing solutions.
Where to buy
We've listed links to many suppliers and online retailers below, but please try to support our local bike shops first. Our local independent shops such as Panagua are now taking a serious interest in supplying children's clothing, and most are able to order products in from all of the major brands for customers to try before they buy.
Like many outdoor sports, cycle clothing works on the principle of using several thin layers. Air is trapped between each layer helping to keep you warm, while you can add and remove layers to regulate body temperature. It is always better to err on the side of caution and wear too many rather than too little. You can always take off a layer if you are too hot.
The main clothing elements are described below. We've not provided links to individual products because clothing ranges change so frequently that the links go out of date quickly.
A long sleeve base layer is preferable in winter, either in merino wool or a man-made fabric. A good base layer is warm, soft next to the skin, helps maintain body temperature, and wicks away moisture.
A 'mid layer’ is generally a long sleeve cycling jersey, or a heavyweight long sleeve t-shirt or possibly a lightweight fleece. It will not be windproof or waterproof but provided it is a snug fit it will act as the main heat retaining layer. In warmer winter weather the mid layer can also be used as the outer layer.
The best outer layer for the winter is a lightweight cycling jacket. This will be windproof and fairly warm but not waterproof. A fully waterproof jacket is not ideal unless it's a breathable material like Gore-Tex (and therefore expensive!) as otherwise it will tend to trap moisture inside.
A heavyweight, fully waterproof jacket can be useful if it is likely to be pouring with rain for the majority of the ride or coaching session.
A separate lightweight waterproof shell is useful. It can be packed down small and put on if it starts raining.
The best lower half clothing for winter cycling is a pair of fleece-lined tights. Often referred to as "Roubaix fleece" these are warm, windproof, and often shower resistant.
An alternative is to use normal cycling shorts as a 'base layer' with a pair of snug fitting tracksuit trousers or leggings on top.
Don't overdo the layers on the legs though - when you're cycling the legs are doing most of the work and don't need so many layers to keep warm.
At Bigfoot Youth CC we require your child to wear gloves at all times riding, all year round, for safety reasons. Quite simply if you fall, you automatically put your hands out to stop your fall and gloves will help protect your hands.
Good full-finger gloves are a winter essential. The colder it gets, the thicker your gloves need to be. If your fingers are cold and become numb it becomes far more difficult to do simple things like brake, change gear or even hold a bottle to have a drink.
A windproof glove provides more protection against winter temperatures, ideal for cold and dry days, and for riding in light rain as most will have an element of water resistance.
For riding in persistent rain a fully waterproof glove is recommended.
Look out for grip on the palm and fingertips, so you still have plenty of control over the brakes, and be aware that thicker gloves can compromise feel on the handlebars.
If your gloves are too tight this will cut off circulation, so make sure they fit properly.
Another cheap trick that can be used is to use disposable gloves on the inside of your usual ones. These are completely waterproof (although are not breathable) and provide protection from the wind.
Winter socks, particularly those made from merino wool, will help keep feet warm, but avoid the temptation of wearing more than one pair of socks as this will restrict circulation.
Trainers or cycling shoes should not have mesh uppers - these are only suitable for use in warmer weather.
A pair of neoprene or fleece lined thermal overshoes are a great investment which will keep feet warm and dry however cold and wet it is, although finding them in children's sizes can be a challenge - look for extra small sizes from adult ranges.
Head and neck
Consider a thermal skullcap which fits under the helmet and provides protection against the wind. As you lose a lot of body heat through the head this will keep you warmer for longer.
A peaked cotton cap also retains heat and helps keep rain out of your eyes - especially useful if your child wears glasses.
Clear cycling glasses won’t keep you warmer but will keep a biting cold wind out of your eyes and help keep you protected from the elements.
A neck warmer or buff is also very worthwhile and can be used to keep the bottom half of your face warm as well as your neck, and it also stops cold air disappearing down the top of your jacket or jersey.
Links to suppliers
There are loads of suppliers of children's cycle clothing and other suitable sports and outdoor clothing. Decathlon has lots of good quality but affordable kit, while established cycle clothing brands such as Polaris have good ranges for children. There are online specialists such as Wiggle, but of course don't forget your local bike shops.