Ultimate Guide to Cold Weather Mountain Biking Gear

As the temperatures drop and the trails get covered in snow and ice, some mountain bikers hang up their bikes until spring. But for others, cold weather only adds to the thrill of hitting the trails. If you're one of those riders, you know that proper gear is essential for staying warm, dry, and comfortable on the trails. In this ultimate guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about cold weather mountain biking gear.

Jordi Bago AMS rider winter riding

I. Introduction

Cold weather mountain biking is a unique and exhilarating experience that some riders prefer to warmer weather, but proper gear is crucial to stay warm and comfortable during cold weather mountain biking.

This article will cover the essential gear needed for cold weather mountain biking, including base layers, mid layers, outer layers, accessories, and maintenance and care.

II. Base Layers

Base layers are the foundation of any cold weather riding outfit. Their main purpose is to wick sweat away from your skin to keep you dry and comfortable, while also providing insulation to keep you warm. Without a good base layer, your other layers won't work as effectively.

There are several types of base layers available, each with their own unique benefits. Synthetic materials like polyester and nylon are great for wicking moisture away from your skin and drying quickly. Merino wool is a popular option as it provides excellent insulation while still being breathable and moisture-wicking. Silk base layers are also an option, as they are lightweight and have a soft feel against the skin.

There are several high quality options available on the market. Here are some recommendations:

  1. Smartwool Merino 150 Base Layer: Made from merino wool, this base layer provides excellent insulation while still being breathable and moisture-wicking. It also has flatlock seams to reduce chafing.
  2. Under Armour ColdGear Base Layer: This synthetic base layer is designed to keep you warm and dry in cold weather conditions. It has a brushed interior for added warmth and a moisture-wicking exterior.
  3. Rapha Merino Mesh Base Layer. Made from a blend of merino wool and nylon, this base layer provides excellent insulation while also wicking away moisture to keep you dry and comfortable during your ride. The mesh construction also allows for increased breathability, preventing overheating on high-intensity rides. 

Overall, the right base layer can make all the difference in staying warm and comfortable during cold weather mountain biking. It's important to choose a base layer that fits well, is comfortable against your skin, and provides the right amount of insulation for your needs. With the right gear and preparation, you can enjoy cold weather mountain biking to its fullest.

II. Mid Layers

Mid layers are designed to be worn between your base layer and outer layer, and their primary function is to provide additional warmth and insulation. The right mid layer can help to trap body heat and keep you comfortable in cold temperatures.

There are several types of mid layers, each with their own unique benefits. Fleece is a popular choice for mid layers because it's lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying. Synthetic insulated jackets are another good option, as they offer excellent warmth-to-weight ratio and are resistant to moisture. Down jackets are incredibly warm and lightweight, but they can be less breathable and take longer to dry than synthetic alternatives.

There are a few options worth considering:

  1. Patagonia R1 TechFace Jacket: This versatile mid layer is made with Polartec Power Grid fabric, which provides excellent warmth, breathability, and moisture-wicking capabilities. It's also abrasion-resistant, making it a great choice for technical rides.
  2. The North Face Summit L3 Down Hoodie: If you're looking for serious warmth in a lightweight package, this down jacket is a great option. It features 800-fill goose down insulation and a durable water-repellent finish to keep you warm and dry.

Winter and snowy mountain biking

III. Outer Layers

Your outer layer is your first line of defense against the elements, so it's important to choose a jacket that can block wind and precipitation. Look for jackets made with waterproof or water-resistant fabrics, and pay attention to features like adjustable hoods, cuffs, and hemlines that can help to keep out the cold.

There are several types of outer layers to choose from, including jackets, vests, and softshell pants. Jackets are the most common option, and they come in a range of styles and materials to suit different needs. Vests are a good choice for riders who want to keep their core warm without overheating, while softshell pants can provide additional warmth and protection for your legs.

Here are a few options to consider for your cold weather outer layer:

  1. Outdoor Research Interstellar Jacket: This lightweight and breathable jacket is made with a waterproof and windproof Gore-Tex fabric. It features adjustable cuffs, hemline, and hood for a customizable fit.
  2. Gore Wear C3 Gore-Tex Active Pants: These pants are made with a breathable and waterproof Gore-Tex membrane to keep you dry and comfortable on wet rides. They also feature adjustable waistbands and cuffs for a comfortable fit.
  3. Rapha Explore Hooded Gore-Tex Pullover: This unique pullover is made with a waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex fabric, making it ideal for wet rides. It also features a large front zip for easy on and off, as well as a hood and kangaroo pocket for added protection and storage.

IV. Accessories

When it comes to accessories for cold weather riding, there are a few key items that can make a big difference in your comfort and enjoyment on the trail. Here are some recommendations for high-quality accessories for mountain biking:

  1. Neck gaiter: A good neck gaiter can keep the wind off your neck and face, and can also be pulled up to cover your mouth and nose in extreme cold. The Black Diamond Equipment Midweight Fleece Neck Gaiter is a great option for its warmth, breathability, and softness.
  2. Toe warmers: Cold toes can be a real problem on winter rides, but a good set of toe warmers can keep your feet toasty even in freezing temperatures. The HotHands Toe Warmers are an affordable and effective option that provide up to 6 hours of warmth. I use them a lot during winter. A contrarian suggestion if you suffer from cold toes is to avoid using too thick or double socks as you’d add pressure on the feet, reduce blood circulation and end up with colder feet. 
  3. Bar mitts: For extreme cold or wet conditions, bar mitts can be a game-changer. These insulated covers attach to your handlebars and allow you to ride with bare hands inside, keeping them warm and dry. The Bar Mitts Extreme Cold Weather Mountain/Commuter Bike Neoprene Handlebar Mittens are a highly-rated option for their durability and insulation.
  4. Balaclava: Similar to a neck gaiter but with added coverage for the head and face, a balaclava can be a lifesaver on really cold days. The Pearl iZUMi Barrier Balaclava provides wind and water resistance, as well as a brushed interior for warmth and comfort.
  5. Insulated water bottle: Keeping your water from freezing is important on cold rides, and an insulated water bottle can help. The CamelBak Podium Chill Insulated Water Bottle keeps water cold for hours and features a self-sealing valve to prevent leaks.

These accessories can help make your cold weather rides more comfortable and enjoyable. While they may not be available at AMS.bike, they can be found at many outdoor retailers or online shops.

Mountain biking during winter can be great

V. Maintenance and Care

While investing in high-quality cold weather gear is important, it's also crucial to take good care of it to ensure it lasts as long as possible. Proper maintenance and care can also help preserve the effectiveness of the gear, which is essential for staying warm and comfortable on the trails.

To keep your cold weather gear in good condition, it's important to follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer. This may include washing in a specific detergent, avoiding fabric softeners, and air-drying rather than using a dryer. It's also a good idea to store gear in a dry, cool place, and avoid folding or cramming items into a tight space.

Even with proper care, cold weather gear will eventually wear out or become damaged. It's important to inspect your gear regularly and replace any items that show signs of excessive wear or damage, such as holes, tears, or worn-out insulation.

Take into account that most premium brands now offer the possibility of repairing your damaged gear instead of just replacing it which is something to applaud.

VI. Conclusion

In conclusion, having the right gear is essential for enjoying cold weather mountain biking to the fullest. Base layers, mid layers, outer layers, and accessories all play important roles in keeping you warm, dry, and comfortable on the trails. By investing in high-quality gear and taking good care of it, you can enjoy cold weather riding year after year. Don't let the weather keep you off the trails – with the right gear, you can tackle any conditions and have a blast doing it!


Carles Carrera

Co-Founder, Product&Marketing

Carles' passion for Enduro MTB ignited the creation of AMS. Nowadays, you're more likely to find him speeding along scenic gravel paths, enjoying the thrill of his gravel bike.